How is mother essential to the development of the plot in All My Sons by Arthur Miller? Essay
How is mother essential to the development of the plot in All My Sons by Arthur Miller?
Mother is essential to the development of the plot because her role in the family and her interests make up the key elements of the story. The fact that she is the only obstacle between the family and forgetting about Larry’s death is one of the main catalysts leading up to the ending.
She refuses to give up on Larry, which shows her desperation and love for her son. Miller does not address her by her real name, but instead as “mother”, giving her an undeniable mother figure. This suggests that Kate is the link in the family that cannot be broken. If she falls apart, so does the family. During the play’s first few minutes, Keller says “I’m just waiting for her to see it” which shows that he is already anticipating the outcome. His short and confident words show his certainty about the outcome. On the other hand, it could also be said that Keller has been desensitised to Kate’s reactions to things related to Larry.
Mother also interrupts long tensions between characters and changes the subject abruptly in order to avoid a conflict. For example, when the subject of Larry’s tree casually comes up in conversation, Mother instantly ‘presses her hand to top of her head’ and says “I’ve got such a funny pain on the top of the head”, which diverts all attention to her and her head. Chris replies with “Can I get you an aspirin?” which shows Mother’s importance in the family, and how she must not fall as all other family members will also fall.
This is also apparent at the end of the play, when the realisation first hits Mother and then has a knock-on effect on Joe Keller. When Mother reads the letter, “Anne goes quickly to Mother, takes the letter from her hand and starts for Chris. Mother instantly rushes to intercept her.” These stage directions show Mother’s desperation to keep order. This emphasises the nuclear family idea which was apparent during World War II in America, where the father was to pay take care of the physical aspects of family (house, money and family business) and the mother was to take care of the emotional aspect (relationships, problems and keeping things ‘clean’ and ‘tidy’) . It could also be said that Mother causes all these problems herself rather than being an innocent bystander, because she often takes the lead by telling other members of her family what to do.
Mother can also be seen to live in her imagination. At one point, she ‘raises her arm over the audience’ and says, “Remember the way he used to fly low past the house when he was in training?” Her body language emphasises the emotion that she feels while she speaks. Larry is said to “fly low past the house” which shows the comfort that she feels when Larry is close to her. It could also be said that Mother feels overprotective of Larry and cannot deal with his loss.
In conclusion, Mother is crucial in the development of the plot because of her placement in the family and her evasive nature. She wants to keep her family together, which is why she cannot deal with any disruption of this norm.