I first shall begin this essay by giving a translation to the following statement “Sooner or later the chickens come home to roost”. The Encarta dictionary says for this statement “to result in undesirable or negative effects, usually after a fairly long period of time”. If you relate this to chickens, chickens always return to the same place to roost. Throughout All my sons there are many actions which have been talked about and the consequences of the actions come back to the people who commit them. This theme of deceit and consequences is dramatised by Miller by relating it to the main characters, Joe, Kate and Chris Keller. I will now write the consequences of actions which relate to these main characters.
The play is set three years after Keller, the father of the Keller family, taped the cylinder heads of aeroplanes which killed many soldiers. The guilt within him always seemed minimal, but as the play progresses the guilt builds up and surfaces even more until the truth comes out. Keller has been living with this guilt for some time and it is son, Chris who demands the truth out of Keller. Keller cannot take deceiving his own son and faces the consequences of his actions which he thought he forgot about.
Keller deceives the audience and the other main characters in the play very well, he covers up the lie about the cylinder heads and blames other people for it. In the beginning of the play the audience feel that Keller is an honest trustworthy business man, but we now know that isn’t true. Keller blames another of his work colleagues for the incident of the cylinder head and shifts the responsibility to another person. He openly lies about this incident and mentions that if he could stop the use of the cylinder heads, he would, see page 30 “If I could have gone in that day I’d a told him – junk’em…’ – we know now that this isn’t true at all.
Keller tries to uphold his innocence and tries to convey this innocence to the rest of the characters, this can be seen with the paper which exonerates him from the case about the cylinder heads, he uses this incident to show how he wasn’t guilty, but we know now that it was a lucky escape for him from jail. Keller has to be very convincing to show to others that he is innocent, another incident is that he offers a job to Steve when he comes out of jail to Anne, this is show on page 47. We all now that it is Keller himself who should be in jail and not Steve, so is Keller offering a job to Steve as sort of a compensation for sending him to jail?, as you can see the guilt is building up in Keller.
A consequence for Keller’s action is the destruction of his relationship between him and his son. Chris always trusted Keller as a father, and always loved him as a father, so he believed the lie which Keller told him about the cylinder heads. When Chris finally learns the truth about the incident and finds that his father is responsible for 21 deaths, the emotions which he feels is unbearable. That is why he hits his father in his face, Chris doesn’t know now who to trust.
Another relationship disaster would be between Anne and the Kellers. If she finds out the truth and that it was Keller who put her father in jail I would doubt that she is likely to marry into the Keller family. The relationship between her and Chris would be destroyed since his father is a murderer. The relationship between Anne and her father would also be ruined since she never visited her father in jail because she couldn’t accept the atrocities which he committed. If she learns the fact that her father didn’t actually commit them then how could she cope with the guilt of not seeing her father when he was in jail?
The biggest consequence which Keller has to face up to due to his lies is the suicide of his son, Larry. The revelation of this suicide comes from a note and is what emotionally forces Keller to open up and to admit that the cylinder head incident was his fault. Keller had a strong relationship with his son Larry, one closer than with his other son Chris. Keller felt that Larry had the same view that a person only has the responsibility of there family and nothing else, this can be seen by the use of a metaphor relating to this view on page 73 ‘To him the world had a forty-foot front, it ended at the building line.’ , with the forty-foot front being his house, and the great responsibility he had for it, with this responsibility ending at the end of his front lawn.
The suicide not revealed to Keller that actually his son, Larry, didn’t have the same selfish outlook which he did, and therefore since Keller now knows that it his him who led to the suicide of his son, he then decides to kill himself by a shot in the head. This death is ironic as it links to the quotation which Keller said earlier on ”I’m his father and he’s my son, and if there’s something bigger than that I’ll put a bullet in my head.
Miller creates a lot of deceit within mother, the mother deceives herself by not believing anyone else. When Keller tells her that Larry is dead, she cannot accept it, she still feels that he is alive and well and will come home. Chris also tries to convince his mother that Larry is dead, but again she doesn’t accept Chris view either. She is so desperate for hope that she refers to astrology with Frank’s help. She finds out that Larry supposedly died on his favourable day and learns that there is one in a million chance of a person dieing on there favourable day. As a result she sticks to the belief that her son is alive and well.
She is mentally distressed and rejects any rational thinking which both Chris and Keller say, it has been 3 years since any word from Larry so it would make sense that he is never coming back but still she refuses to believe this. Her thoughts are shown clearly on page 65 when she hears about Chris’ plans to marry Anne, ‘You have nothing to say. Now I say. He’s coming back, and everybody has to wait’ and Chris with his rational thinking replies ‘How long? How long?’ and again Mother very forceful, ‘Till he comes; forever and ever till he comes! As you can see is she is very distressed as she is willing to wait for the rest of her life for her son to come back home.
She has deceived herself and his living in her own little world. Mother’s rational thinking starts appearing when she learns the fact that Larry actually committed suicide due to her husband’s actions. She decides not to show the letter to Keller rather than confronting him with it as she knows what it would do to Keller mentally if he finds out that he is responsible for his son’s death. More rational thinking is seen by mother when she says to Chris ‘Don’t dear. Don’t take it on yourself. Forget now. Live.’ She is telling Chris not to deceive himself like she did, so it is now revealed that in actual fact she did deceive herself.