45 pages 1 hour read

Arthur Miller

All My Sons

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1947

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Greed and Self-Interest

Joe Keller made his money building military aircraft engines during World War II, enriching himself at the cost of other people’s lives. He values his family’s wealth above all else, willingly sending his friend to prison and other men to their deaths to preserve his business. His idealistic son Chris believes in the American Dream and undergoes a crisis of faith when he begins to realize that the ideals he has sacrificed and fought for might be illusory, but his father has always had a more self-interested and practical view of life during war time. According to Joe, the entire country was profiting from the war. Since everyone was so greedy, he insists, he cannot be held accountable for the profits he made by fueling the military-industrial complex.

Joe repeats to himself and others that his greed was not motivated entirely by self-interest. He insists that he did what he did to help his family, positioning his war profiteering as the altruistic behavior of a family man. When he claims, early in Act III, that if there were anything more important than family, he would “put a bullet in [his] head,” he is inadvertently giving the game away: Family is the only plausible justification for his amoral behavior, without which he would be forced to recognize himself for the murderer he is.