‘I never felt at home anywhere but here.’ (Act Two)
Comment on the significance of the past in All My Sons.
Concern-trigger – ‘the past’
George speaking to Mother in Act Two, apparently having caved into her ‘seduction’ via nostalgia
Possible concerns / ideas:
- The past: both Ann and George Deever long for the ‘innocence’ and ‘harmony’ of the past.
- The past: the stasis that engulfs the Keller household, symbolised by Larry’s ‘presence’
- Truth / denial: Mother’s belief that Larry is still alive is a point of tension between Chris’s desire to move on; the letter overturns Mother’s belief.
- Denial and guilt: Keller and Mother’s revision of the past* – the various narratives that indict Steve as guilty, Joe as innocent.
- Denial and guilt: George arrives at the Kellers to uncover the truth behind the past*, to prove that Joe is in fact guilty.*Note that these last two ideas are less relevant than the first three, given the prompt quotation.
- The apple tree + Ann’s references to Larry’s room
- The letter, and its revelation of the past.
- Chris’s tone of frustration + railroad station metaphor (stasis)
- George and Ann’s nostalgic tone + references to lack of change
- Joe Keller’s various recounts (p32, 34, 70) that mark his own innocence
- George as a symbol of ‘the past entering the present’ + his interrogatives / questions
The past infiltrates the present in the world of All My Sons, acting as a source of comfort and stability for the Kellers and both Ann and George Deever. In some ways, the past is reinvented to suit the needs of the present.
Yet, the interrogation of the past by George and later Chris in Act Two sets into motion the play’s tragic denouement. Upon learning the truth of Keller’s guilt and of Larry’s death in Act Three, the Keller family is undone.