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all my sons

Character Profiles

character profiles

Joe Keller

60 years old. he owns a business. He is uneducated. He is heavily built. He is married to Kate. They had two children: Chris and Larry. Both sons served in the war (WWII). Larry was pronounced MIA - missing in action. He is very practical and adheres to tradition. He started his life in poverty. He mentioned he was put out to work at the age of 10. He realized the American dream: from machine shop worker he became the boss and the owner of a successful and prosperous plant. He is an uneducated man who relies on common sense when he needs to make decisions. We can see that he lacks education from the way he speaks – he makes many mistakes. He doesn’t see any value in old books and dictionaries. He also makes fun of the modern professions and regards highly traditional professions like a lawyer, a doctor and a businessman. He works very hard to make his business successful. He is a good loving father and husband. He believes that taking care of his family, providing for it are the most important ideals in the world. His family is well off financially. They live comfortably and they can afford a maid. Joe is a likable man. He is liked by his neighbors and children (for example Bert). Joe prefers to avoid confrontation and tries to protect his wife from the bitter reality. For this reason, he never contradicts Kate when she speaks of Larry's soon return from the war. Joe would like Chris to inherit the family business. In order to protect his life's accomplishments, his family and his business, Joe commits a crime: during the war he orders the shipment of defective cylinder heads to the Air force because he is afraid that his contract with the army will be cancelled and his business will be destroyed. The defective parts were installed in the airplanes causing the planes to crush and leading to the death of 21 American pilots. In court, Joe denies giving this order over the phone. He betrays his friend and a business partner, Steve Deever, who is the only one to take the responsibility for this horrible crime. Joe's world view is very narrow and he doesn’t understand the responsibility to those pilots or the society in general. He claims that he didn’t act any differently than other businessmen who made money during the war. Only after reading Larry's letter, he understands that Larry committed suicide because of his crime, he realizes the severity of his crime and shoots himself.

Mother (Kate Keller)

Joe's wife. The mother to Chris and Larry. She is first and foremost a loving mother and a loyal wife. She wants to protect her family integrity at all costs. She seems to be an emotional and irrational woman who looks for meaning in everything. For example, Larry's horoscope and his favorable day, the dream that she had about Larry, the baseball glove she stumbled over in the basement. However, Kate is also cunning and manipulative. For example, she tries to humiliate Ann in Chris' eyes, hoping that he would change his mind about marrying her. She manipulates Chris in order to maintain her illusion that Larry might come home one day. She is an emotionally intelligent woman with sharp instincts. She has lied to protect her husband for years. As a result, Kate is disturbed by this constant need to lie until she accidently reveals the truth in her conversation with George when she mentions that Joe hasn’t been sick for years. She continues to try and support her husband until the very end when she attempts to convince Chris not to take Joe to jail. But, Kate is also a loving and caring mother. After Joe's suicide, she tells Chris that he shouldn’t feel responsible for his father's suicide and he should move on with his life and leave.

Chris Keller

32 years old. He is Joe and Kate's son, Larry's brother. He was drafted and served in south-east Asia during WWII. He was in command of a company of 200 men, almost all of whom were killed in action. He was a good and caring commanding officer. When he comes home from war, he felt ashamed to use his father's money because he thought that the money was stained with blood of the soldiers that were killed. He felt that the only good thing that came out of their death was social responsibility when one man was willing to sacrifice his life to save another man's life. He hoped that after war, people would learn to be more responsible for one another. He felt that he didn't deserve his father's money and Ann's love because he joined the "rat race" for money by working for his father and getting a good salary. Chris is a good son. He respects and loves his parents. He hid his feelings to Ann from his mother in order not to hurt her. He joined his father's business although he didn't really enjoy it. He admired his father's courage to face the neighbors after his release from prison. He truly believed in his father's innocence. Other characters in the play, Jim Bayliss and Ann looked up to Chris. He inspired them to become better people. For example, Chris encouraged Jim to take up medical research instead of treating the elderly patients. Chris wasn't willing to compromise on his beliefs and ideals. He believed Annie's father deserved the punishment he got and he shouldn't be forgiven for causing the death of 21 American pilots. However, Chris' neighbor, Sue accuses Chris of phony idealism: he may not want his name on the family business, but he takes money from it even though this money was made in war. When he discovers Joe's crime, he prefers not to turn him in because it will only hurt him but he wouldn’t be able to "raise the dead." Only after reading

Larry's letter, he is ready to bring his father to justice, but he feels regret and remorse for forcing his father to make this decision when Joe kills himself.

Frank Lubey

32 years old. He is married to Lydia. They have three children. he believes in horoscopes. He gets angry easily. He wasn’t drafted to war. He is eager to please the Kellers, especially Kate. He is a successful businessman. He owns a house next to Kellers’.

Lydia Lubey

She is Frank's wife. They have three children. She is in her late twenties. She is not very bright. She has trouble with electrical appliances. She is robust, not very refine.They have a warm and loving relationship. For example, Frank doesn't get mad at her when she can't figure out how a toaster works. She was supposed to marry George, but after he was drafted, she chose to marry Frank.

Dr. Jim Bayliss

Nearly 40 years old. He is a doctor. He is somewhat sad. He is married to Sue. They have one son. He makes a living by treating elderly patients in their homes. He tries to escape being at home, spending time with his wife, because he is annoyed by his wife's race for money. He spends most of his time at Keller's place. In fact he says that he would like to play golf with Chris or go on a trip around the world with him. Jim's real passion is medical research, but he cannot do it because there isn't a lot of money in it. Instead he needs to provide for his family. Their relationship is cold and distant, it lacks understanding and both seem to be unhappy in their marriage. They live in the house that belonged to the Deevers in the past. He used to have ideals, but he was forced to compromise.

Sue Bayliss

She is around 40. She is married to Jim. She used to be a nurse but now she is a housewife. Jim and Sue have one child (Tommy). He is 8-9 years old. He likes to play with his father's thermometer. She is overweight. She is jealous. She is sarcastic – she insults her husband even though she knows it is one of his patients on the phone. Money is very important to Sue. She pushes her husband to visit more patients and make money to provide for the family. She is very practical and realistic; she is concerned with Jim's making money to provide for the family. She gained power over her husband because she supported him through medical school and he felt he owed it to her. She asked Ann to move away after her marriage to Chris because she was afraid that Chris might influence her husband to go back to medical research.

Ann Deever

She is Steve's daughter. She was Larry's fiancée. She is good-looking. She is in her late twenties. She is single. She came to visit because Chris invited her in his letters. She intended to marry Chris. Her father was Joe's business partner. After her father's trial and conviction, her family moved away to New York, in order to avoid all the rumors insults. She is 26 years old. She is gentle but adamant about what she believes in. from her conversation with Kate, we understand she believes that Larry, her fiancée is dead, and she is ready to move on and marry Chris. After her father was accused of murder, Ann didn't keep in touch with him. She never visited him in jail or had any contact with him. She has known that Larry was dead for a long time because he wrote her a letter in which he told her he was going to commit suicide. Ann didn’t reveal this information to Kellers because she didn’t want to cause them pain. After Joe's crime was revealed, Ann wanted to make a deal with Kate: she was willing to keep quiet about Joe's involvement in the case if Kate told Chris that she knew that Larry was dead, making it possible for Chris to marry Ann. However, the mother refused and Ann showed Larry's letter to Chris as well.

George Deever

He is Ann's brother and Steve's son. He grew up together with Chris larry and Lydia. He was supposed to marry Lydia, but he was drafted and Lydia chose to marry Frank. George moved away after his father was convicted. When he returned from war, he studied law at college. He Looks up to Chris and believes in the same moral principles. At first, he turned his back on his father when he was convicted, but after his visit to jail, George is convinced that Keller was responsible for shipping faulty airplane engines to the army. He is very angry And wishes to stop Ann and Chris' marriage. He respected the Keller family that's why he didn't want to bring up the subject of the case in front of the mother, but he confronted Chris and Joe and accused Joe of setting up his father.

Literary Devices

literary devices


A literary technique that uses clues or hints to suggest how the plot will develop. One example of foreshadowing is Joe's game with Bert. Joe appointed Bert and Tommy to be local policemen who patrol the block and report suspicious things to Joe. He told Bert there was a jail in the basement of his house and showed him his "arresting gun". In return, Bert reported disturbances to Joe and he promised to promote Bert to a detective. All the elements of this game: the jail, the gun, and the issue of guilt will come up in the further development of the plot.

Symbol is a concrete object that represents an abstract idea. Unlike the metaphor, no comparison is used.

The apple tree
It was planted two years ago after Larry's death to honor his memory. The significance of the tree is to show that Larry is dead. However, Kate claims that the tree shouldn't have been planted in the first place because Larry may still return home.

Mother's dream
Kate tells about her dream of Larry. She sees him flying past her house just like he did during the training. She sees that his plain is in distress, he cries out to her but she cannot reach him, she doesn’t save him.
The significance of the dream:
Kate's dream shows that she can't let past go. She clings to irrational hope that Larry is coming back someday. She doesn’t wish to face the truth and nobody in the family dares to contradict her.

George's hat

Concrete object: George arrives at Keller's home wearing his father's hat. 

Abstract idea: It represent Steve's point of view on the case. Wearing the hat" George will voice's version of events prior to his conviction.

"But if Chris wants People to put on the hair shirt let him take off his broadcloth" P.61 Sue to Ann.


A shirt made of house hair, usually worn by monk to torture their bodies in order to focus on spiritual causes significant discomfort and pain to the person who wears it. Sometimes it leaves scars on the body and causes bleeding.

Figurative meaning

Chris adheres to high moral principles. He learns in war that taking social responsibility is one of the most important values. Chris feels uncomfortable to enjoy the material benefits. He expects and encourages others (especially Dr. Jim Bayliss) to follow their dreams and live according to their principles.


A garment (usually shirt) made of soft and light fabric. It is pleasant to wear. It causes no discomfort. 

Figurative meaning

Sue means that despite Chris' principles, he enjoys the salary that he gets working for his father. He doesn’t live according to his principles.

Main Themes & Conflicts

main themes & conflicts

Idealism (moral principles) Vs Materialism (money making/business)

One of the central conflicts in the play is idealism vs materialism. The characters that represent best the idealistic point of view are Chris, Larry, George and Ann. Each one of them believes that people should live according to high moral principles, take responsibility for each other and be honest with themselves. Jim used to belong to this group when he did important medical research, but he was forced to compromise and now he makes a living by treating wealthy patients who don’t really need medical attention. Each one of the characters makes a certain compromise except for Larry. Chris compromises in two instances: first he works in his family business and takes the money that was made in war. Second, when he finds out about his father's crime, he doesn't want to bring him to justice since it won't help the dead anyway. George compromises when he visits his father in jail, but does nothing to reveal Joe's part in the crime. Likewise, Ann is prepared to make a deal with the mother – she will not disclose Joe's secret if Kate tells Chris that Larry is dead thus making it possible for Chris to marry Ann. Larry is the only character who refuses to compromise and he prefers to commit suicide rather than ignore his father's crime.
The materialistic point of view is represented by Joe Keller, Kate, Sue and Frank and Lydia. All the characters attach great importance to money and material comforts that come with it. Frank started a successful harbedersharing business, married Lydia, bought a house and paid off his mortgage and had three kids. While other young men sacrificed their lives at war, Frank got married and improved  his business. Joe was prepared to ship out cracked cylinder heads in order to make a profit on the contracts with the army and caused the death of 21 American pilots as a result of his actions. Sue pushes her husband to give up on medical research and treat patients by making house calls just to make more money. Kate enjoys the comforts that come with the money – she can afford a maid who cleans the house and cooks. In the end, the conflict is resolved when Larry's letter is revealed and Joe realizes that taking care of his business  and making money don’t justify the crime he committed. 

Family Vs Social responsibility
From Joe and Kate's point of view family is above all. Joe expects his family to support him despite the crime he committed. He would like Chris to forgive him for his crime and not to take him to the police station just because Chris is his son. Kate is forced to lie for many years in order to protect her husband and prevent him from returning to jail. Joe assumes that George and Ann should forgive their father for his crime just because Steve is their father. In contrast, Ann, George, Chris and Larry believe that social responsibility to all the people is more important than looking out for your own family. Thus, George and Ann cut off all contacts with their father when he is sent to jail. Chris doesn’t wish to forgive Steve for the crime he committed – he says that Steve deserves to be in jail. Larry couldn’t forgive his father for his crime either. Chris is the only character that compromises on his beliefs when he refuses to send his father to jail, but after the reveal of Larry's letter, he finds strength to take his father to the police station.

Love and understanding Vs strained commitment

There are several married couples in the play. Some couples have warm and loving relationships while other relationships are more strained and tense. Frank and Lydia, Joe and Kate, Chris and Ann are all couples that have understanding and loving relationships based on mutual trust, support and love. Frank doesn't get angry with Lydia for not being able to plugin a toaster. Kate has supported Joe in his lie for many years, and Joe turns a blind eye on his wife's false hope that Larry may come back home from war one day. They truly care for each other – when Joe sees the stump of the apple tree, the first thing that worries him is Kate's reaction. Kate tries to convince Chris to forgive Joe for his crime and not to turn him in to the authorities. The only couple whose relationship is strained is Jim and Sue. Jim feels he owes it to Sue for supporting him through medical school, that's why he can't refuse when his wife makes him make money by treating patients and making house calls. They don’t share any common interests – therefore, Kate suggests Sue learn how to play the guitar. Jim feels strangled in his marriage and he prefers to spend most of his time at Kellers' house. When Jim meets Ann, he tells her not to count her husband's money because this is not a good foundation for their future marriage.
The conflict is not resolved in the play.

truth Vs lie

All the characters in the play tell lies and these lies have a devastating effect on their lives. To begin with, Kate lies to herself and her family when she tries to find signs that show Larry is coming back from war. This lie ruins Kate's life and has a distressing effect on Chris' life, who is unable to marry a woman he loves because of it. Joe lies about his involvement in the case with defective airplane parts. He denies giving a direct order to make the shipment to the army and he lies about being sick the day this shipment is made. Ultimately, this lie leads to Larry's suicide and Joe's death when the true cause of Larry's death is revealed. Ann withholds the truth about Larry's letter. Although she does it for good reasons, her lie leads to Joe's suicide and eventually ruins any chance of her and Chris' marriage. Chris lies to Ann when he tells her that the neighbors forgot about her father being in jail. Chris tells this lie in order to make Ann feel welcome in his house. Moreover, he withholds the truth from the police when he doesn’t wish to turn in his father. We can also say that Chris lies to himself when he takes money from his father's business and betrays his ideals. Chris' lies lead to his father's suicide and make the marriage to Ann impossible. Larry is the only character who doesn’t lie, but he commits suicide in order to stay true to himself. The setting of the play and the detailed description of Kellers' yard echoes this conflict of the truth and the lies in the play. Closely planted poplars suggest that Keller family has got a secret they wouldn’t like the whole world to know. The apple tree blown down in the storm suggests that more light /truth will come into the yard and the secret will be finally revealed. The conflict is not resolved in the play since both truth and lies have a devastating effect on the Keller family.

The Court Case
Joe and his partner were accused of shipping cracked cylinder heads to the U.S.A air force during W.W.II. These cylinder
heads caused twenty one planes to crash in Australia. Twenty one pilots were killed. So, Joe and Steve were sent to jail for this crime.
The conflict:
Joe was forced to choose between making money and keeping his business and human life. Joe chose to make money over the lives of the pilots.
With George's arrival, more details are revealed about the case. Steve claims that although Joe didn't come to work in the morning when faulty part were shipped, he knew about it and gave a direct order over the phone to precede with the shipment. He also ordered Steve to cover up the cracks on the cylinder heads. Later, in court, when Joe appealed, he denied that the conversation took place, thus implicating Steve as the only person responsible for the crime.

Steve's involvement in the case

From Joe's point of view, Steve is the only person responsible for the shipment of the faulty parts to the army since Joe himself was sick  that day and didn't come to work. After visiting his father in jail, George was convinced that Joe should have taken the responsibility for the sheepment of the faulty air plane parts because Joe gave a direct order to cover up the cracks and sheep out the damage parts to the army. Steve was too weak to make this decision all by himself, so Joe also had to go to jail for this crime. However, after talking to Joe and Kate, George changed his opinion of his father's involvement in the case. Joe mentioned that Steve never took responsibility for his actions. For example, in 1937 Steve left a boiler on without water thus causing a fire in the plant. Joe was forced to cover for Steve, he fired one of the workers and blamed the accident of him. Moreover, Kate brought back the memories of George's childhood and made him feel at home by serving the grape juice that he liked when he was a boy. Joe also offered George and Steve to move back. He promised to give Steve a job in his plant and talk to the layers to find a job for George. Both Joe and Kate managed to disarm George with their kindness childhood memories and tempting job offers for the future. 

Top Quotes

top quotes

P. 19 lines 13-18

P. 31 line 27

P. 36 lines 21-22

P. 37 lines 25-27
P. 65 lines 25-30

P. 70 lines 22-24

P. 85 line 8

P. 99 lines 19-20

P. 100 line 8

P. 100 lines 14-15

P. 100 lines 19-21

P. 102 lines 4-5

P. 107 lines 10-11

P. 107 lines 21-24

P. 108 line 13

P. 109 lines 18-21

P. 111 lines 12-13

P. 111 lines 30-31

P. 19 lines 13-18
"We've made a terrible mistake with Mother...Being dishonest with her"

Chris to Joe. He meant that the whole family let Mother believe that Larry was coming back from war. Although both Joe and Chris understood that Larry was killed in his mission, they never contradicted Mother when she spoke of Larry's soon return. It was brought up when Chris spoke to his father about his intention to propose to Ann, Larry's fiancée.

P. 31 line 27

"Never count your husband's money"

Jim to Ann. Jim is torn between his ideals and his wife. It causes a great deal of tension in their relationship. Jim's wife sue would like her husband to make a lot of money to provide for the family. That's why she always calls him when patients are on the phone demanding his advice. However, Jim himself is more interested in less paying job of medical research. Therefore, Jim offers Ann a piece of advice in which he suggests that Chris and Ann base their relationship on love and trust rather money.

P. 36 lines 21-22

"Nobody talks about him anymore"

Chris to Ann. Although he claims that he acts according to High moral principles, and is always honest with everybody, he lies to Ann when he says that all the neighbors forgot about the case. He lies in order to make Ann feel more comfortable and welcome in his house. Chris assures Ann that his father is innocent and he doesn't believe the rumors that Joe pulled a fast one to be released from jail. 

P. 37 lines 25-27

"All the one who yelled murder taking my money now"

Joe to Ann. He emphasizes the fact that though he and Ann's father were accused of murder, the neighbors forgot about the case and played poker with him and took his money. It shows the hypocrisy of the people who are we willing to forget Joe's crime and take his money, and pretend like nothing happened. Joe was exonerated and released but Ann's father is still in jail, so Kate claims everyone still remembers his involvement in this case.

P. 65 lines 25-30

"a daughter is a daughter and a father is a father"

Joe to Ann. This quote shows that Joe values family loyalty above all. He is convinced that Ann and George will forgive their father as soon as he is released from jail. Ann, on the other hand, assures Joe that she isn't going to forgive her father for crime he committed. For Ann, her high moral principles are more important than her father/her family.

P. 70 lines 22-24

"when you make suckers out of people once, you shouldn't do it twice"

George to Chris.
The two times that George refers to are:

  1. George's father took all the responsibility for the shipment of the faulty parts to US Air Force.

  2. Ann is going to Marry Chris - a member of the Keller family that destroyed Ann's family. She cannot enjoy the bloody money that was made by the Kellers in war.

P. 85 line 8

"He hasn't been laid up in fifteen years"

Mother to George. She mentions that Joe hasn't been sick in years. it directly contradicts Joe's alibi because he claimed that he was sick on the day the faulty parts were shipped to the army. The mother's words reveal that Joe indeed knew about the problem in the production process and he authorized the shipment of the faulty parts. Following Kate's slip of the tongue Kate accuses Joe of murdering Larry and Joe confesses his crime to Chris.

P. 99 lines 19-20

“Money-Money-Money. You say it long enough It doesn't mean anything”

Jim to Kate. He emphasizes the fact that his wife is obsessed with money making and forces him to treat elderly wealthy patients who don’t really need medical care. Jim would like to do medical research and help people cure diseases but instead he makes money to support his family.

P. 100 line 8

"I've always known"

Jim to Kate. He guessed that Joe was guilty of sending faulty parts to the army.

P. 100 lines 14-15

"Chris would never know how to live with a thing like that. It takes a certain talent – for lying"

Jim to Kate. He points out that Chris wouldn’t live with a lie. He lives according to high principles and he couldn’t cover for Joe's crime-he would have turned him into the authorities and make him pay for the crime.

P. 100 lines 19-21

"The compromise is always made"

Jim to Kate. He claims that Chris will compromise on his beliefs. He will not tell on his father and send him to jail. "The star of one's honesty" he means if you make a compromise once, you will not be able to live according to high moral principles, you betray your ideals. Chris will sacrifice his ideals of honesty and social responsibility, because he loves his father and doesn’t want to hurt him.

P. 102 lines 4-5

"What am I, a stranger? I thought I had a family here"

Joe to Kate. He expects his family to support him in the time of crisis. He asks his wife for advise-how he should behave in this situation. From his point of view, his family must support and forgive him no matter what crime he committed. Kate advises Joe to tell Chris he is willing to go to jail to pay for his crime. Kate hopes it will make it easier for Chris to forgive Joe.

P. 107 lines 10-11

"I am yellow. I was made yellow in this house"

Chris to Mother. He is forced to compromise on his ideals. Instead of making his father pay for the crime he committed, he pities him and he isn’t going to report him to the authorities.

P. 107 lines 21-24

"the cats in the alley are practical, the bums who ran away when we were fighting were practical. Only the dead ones weren't practical. But now I am practical and I spit on myself"

Chris to Mother. He ought to give up on everything he believed was the right and moral thing to do. He despises himself for acting in this way and not being able to bring his father to justice.

P. 108 line 13

"this is a zoo, a zoo"

Chris to Ann. He means that people around him live according to practical considerations. They do not value the human life and honor like Chris learned to do it in the war. People just look out for their private, narrow interests and they don’t care if they hurt others, or even cause the death of American pilots.

P. 109 lines 18-21

"Its dollars and cents, nickels and dimes; war and peace, it's nickels and dimes, what's clean? Half the Goddam country is gotta go if I go"

Keller to Chris. He means that everybody, small businesses and big corporations made profit in this war. They were all paid to deliver tanks, airplanes, weapon and equipment to the army. For this reason, Joe claims that what he did wasn’t wrong or immoral – it was a common practice and he shouldn’t be punished for it.

P. 111 lines 12-13

"but I think to him there were all my sons"

Keller to Mother. The quote explains the meaning of the title of the play. After reading Larry's letter, Joe finally grasps the gravity of his crime and takes the social responsibility for the death of the 21 pilots that crashed because of his mistake.

P. 111 lines 30-31

"you can be better! Once and for all you can know there's a universe of people outside and you're responsible to it"

Chris to his parents. This quote essentially sums up Chris' and Larry's view of the world. According to this view, you need to take the responsibility for other people's lives, not just for yourself and your family. Nobody has a right to risk the lives of other people in order to protect their personal interests. Larry took this view to the extreme – he sacrificed his life because he was ashamed of his father's crime.

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