Miller’s Chief Criticism Of American Society
By: Richard Younge
A shot was heard throughout the Keller home as Joe ended his guilty, worthless life. Miller criticizes that American society has become corrupt- a place of selfishness, where people care too much about themselves, and that which benefits them, and will go to any lengths to achieve that goal; even if the repercussions of their actions will bring harm to other people. He stresses that money seems to be the key factor that drives society to this level of corruption.
Miller emphasizes this point in several ways. The first example is that Keller knowingly ships out cracked cylinder heads, that will crash an airplane if used, to prevent his business from going bankrupt, claiming that he did it for his family. The second example is that Sue would rather Jim make allot of money, and not do medical research- which is what he really wanted to do. The third example is Jim’s abdication of his pursuit of medical research do to the lack of profit involved.
In his play “All My Sons,” Miller makes it apparent that society in general values money and profit more than human life. He shows this by his portrayal of Keller. Keller ships out cracked cylinder heads, aware that in flight they will cause planes to crash, to save his business from being shut down. Furthermore, he goes on to allow the blame to fall on Steve, in order to save himself from going to jail, even though Steve was not the only one guilty. Keller tries to rationalize his actions by saying that he committed this heinous act for the benefit of his family- so that they will have money and everything else they need and can live happily. “Chris… Chris I did it for you. It was a chance and I took it for you.” This portrays the human characteristic of creating a false sense of innocence in spite of ones guilty actions- and conscience.
Honesty only comes out of ones guilty conscience when it benefits them. Sue would rather have Jim make money than do what he wants to do- medical research. Apparently she values profit over allowing an individual to do what he wants to do- what he enjoys doing. “Research pays twenty-five dollars a week minus laundering the hair shirt. You’ve got to give up your life to go into it.” Sue is willing to deny Jim his real desire, in order to make more profit.
Miller stresses that society has become so corrupt, that people would rather do something they do not enjoy doing, just for the profit. Due to greediness, money has made people give up their dreams and goals in search of more profit. What Jim really wants to do with his life is research medicine, but remains a doctor only for the profit involved. Sue’s greediness seems to have rubbed off on him, and he gives up research for more money. “I would love to help humanity on a Warner Brothers salary.” By saying this, Jim shows that profit means more to him than pursuing his dreams and “helping humanity.”
Miller makes it clear that money, dishonesty, and selfishness take precedence over friendship and human life in our corrupt society. The selfishness that influences one mans relationship to another has destroyed the truth and honesty that used to preside over American society. He suggests that all these factors put together are quickly destroying the basic human values of goodwill and honesty. Evil is prevailing over good, and if society continues down the same path it is on now- a catastrophic collision course with humanity- evil will eventually succeed in destroying honesty and righteousness. Maybe the world would be a much better place to live in if only people considered the needs of others, besides their own needs.