Off-Stage but Ever-Present: Larry in All My Sons

August 8, 2022 by Essay Writer

In Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, Larry is the youngest member of the Keller family who passed away in World War II. Although he does not appear on stage for the duration of the play, he is still considered to be one of the most important roles. His disappearance haunts his family through his mother’s superstitious belief in his return, as well as through his brother’s sudden claim on his childhood sweetheart. Larry is presented in the play, through the symbol of the tree, which highlights the way his presence permeates the surroundings. The destruction of the memorial provides the family with a talking point, and reignites his presence to the family and community around him.

Built as a means of commemorating Larry, who did not survive World War II, the tree ties in significantly to Larry’s character. Additionally, the fallen tree sits in the middle of the backyard, as a symbol of the presence of Larry in the middle of the play. Kate is relieved when lightning strikes it down, thinking that this is a sign that Larry is coming back home. The tree foreshadows the destruction of Larry’s life, which we start to understand towards the end of the play. The tree just so happens to fall down on Larry’s birthday month, causing Kate to become even more desperate to find clues about Larry’s return. “It was too soon to plant a tree for him,” Kate mentions when talking to Chris. The hope and faith that Larry might still be alive remains close to her heart as her superstitions get the best of her. The destruction of the tree impacted Chris and Joe Keller in a similar way to Kate. They would have to face the disturbance in Kate’s life as she deals the the pain of losing her son yet again.

Larry considerably impacts the members of his family and the community, despite the fact he is never on stage. He is constantly compared to Chris throughout the play, allegedly for the purpose of better defining Chris’ character, but in the end, however, we learn that Larry on his own has a bigger effect on the story overall. Chris, who is described as “A man capable of immense affection and loyalty” has fallen in love with Larry’s former fiancée, Ann Deever, and has invited her to his family home in order to propose marriage to her. Unlike his mother Kate, Chris accepts the fact that Larry is no longer alive, and therefore feels comfortable marrying his brothers former partner. Chris is portrayed as a very idealistic character in the play; however, Larry turns out to have been much more idealistic than Chris. When Larry found out about his father’s crime, he was unable to live with the knowledge that his father could do such a thing, and committed suicide. Chris, on the other hand, was able to live with his suspicion about Joe’s crime, as he reveals in Act Three. According to Joe, Larry was the brother with a “head for business”, who therefore took after Joe. However, towards the end of the story, Larry’s death can be blamed by his father’s moral crime. Symbolically, this represents Larry as a sacrifice of the “American dream” symbolized in his father’s financial success. Larry has the greatest impact on his mother, Kate Keller. Her life is dominated by her denial to admit that her son is really dead. Kate has nightmares about Larry and is nervous and suspicious of the people around her. She believes that Chris and Ann are morally wrong to plan a marriage as she still sees Ann as Larry’s fiancée. Kate’s grief drives much of the action throughout the play, especially when Frank Lubey feeds Kate Keller’s delusion that Larry is alive, by creating an astrological chart to show his favourable day.

Ann Deever, Larry’s old girl, is stuck in the past, although not waiting for Larry’s return. Rather, she has been waiting for his brother Chris to step-forward and take a place in her heart. Ann had kept a secret hidden away from Chris, as well as Joe and Kate Keller, about Larry’s death, which he revealed to her in a letter. Larry had committed suicide after hearing about the crime that his father had committed, sacrificing himself for the greater good. Once Ann realized that Kate would not accept a marriage between herself and Chris, she felt the only way to solve the problem would be to finally present the truth about Larry that she had kept away for so long. When Ann revealed the letter to Kate, sadness came over her, but she finally realized why the hope had died away for everyone else. For Joe, his sons and the business were everything. After committing his crimes, he wouldn’t accept the blame, and forced it on to his coworker, and hid the truth from the rest of the world. For years, nothing had crossed his mind, how to resolve the situation. When Larry’s letter had finally been revealed, the solution was obvious. He asks, “Then what is this if it isn’t telling me? Sure, he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons. And I guess they were, I guess they were.” The pain of the letter was unbearable for Joe, and he believed his only solution was to kill himself, so he did.

Arthur Miller creates a powerful ending, with the suicide of Joe Keller. This is ironic, because Joe was the cause of Larry’s suicide, and now the tables have turned. Larry doesn’t once appear on stage, but is still one of the most significant characters from the entire play. The tree, the letter and Joe’s suicide all closely relate to Larry’s absence, and how his death has impacted the characters considerably throughout the duration of the play.

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