How does miller present Joe as a tragic hero

May 8, 2018 Music

Joe Keller is a man who loves and values his family very much and has sacrificed everything, including his honour, in his struggle to make his family prosperous. In the 1940s the American dream was one that everyone possessed. The American dream promised wealth, happiness and anything a citizen could ever want. This concept of perfect life was one that Joe tried his very hardest to live by so that he could provide for his family, most importantly his children. When Keller says “what the hell did I work for?

That’s only for you Chris, the whole shootin’ match is for you,” this shows the reader very clearly that he feels it his duty to provide for his son. All my sons is a very tragic play. It shows how a man can sacrifice his morals, responsibility and the truth to provide for his family so that they can live a perfectly plentiful life. This struggle for wealth and material goods involves Keller committing an awful crime because he wants his business to be successful.

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This is the cause of Keller’s downfall. Miller examines the morality of a man who places his narrow responsibility to his immediate family above his wider responsibility to the men who rely on the integrity of his work. The reader sees how Keller places his family in front of society. At the end of All my sons Keller disappears offstage and shoots himself. This is a very tragic thing to happen as all he wanted was a happy family.

When he learns that Larry committed suicide due to his conviction and that Chris could never truly forgive him, he feels that his life is not worth living as he doesn’t have the full love of his family, which is his biggest priority. He tried to convince Chris that his actions were for the betterment of his business and his family. He says “For you, a business for you! ” This tells the reader that Keller was a very hard worker and all he did was for the family. After this line, Keller doesn’t sound like a murderer or a killer at all.

Keller isn’t evil, he just has a tragic lack of vision. He comes across as a very loving and devoted father and husband who may have done something very wrong but did so entirely out of love for the family. At this point you could call Keller a hero. Keller again proves that he loves his son when he tells Kate “There’s nothin’ he could do that I wouldn’t forgive. Because he’s my son… 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! ”

Although this shows Keller’s irresponsibility towards society, it also shows Keller’s devotion to his family and that it is the most important thing in the world. This quote is quite ironic in the fact that Keller actually does put a bullet in his head when he finds out that there is something bigger than the immediate family, the universal one. As the play unfolds Keller begins to realise that Chris doesn’t agree with his belief about family being the more important than society. Keller doesn’t approve with Chris’ beliefs and he proves this when he says “If Larry was alive he wouldn’t act like this.

He understood the way the world is made. ” Here Keller is saying that Larry was sensible and had the same perspective as Keller. He thinks he has made a failure out of Chris so he wants the comfort of believing that Larry would’ve become a success if he survived the war and would have been totally focused on his family. Keller’s tragedy if founded in his misplaced family devotion. The main reason that Keller is a tragic hero is because he did something unforgiveable but with good intention.

If he hadn’t shipped those cracked cylinder heads then he could have avoided this horrible situation. Keller never actually faces up to the fact that it was his fault that twenty one pilots died. Even at the end where the reader thinks that he is facing the consequences because he says “ I can’t sleep here. I’ll feel better if I go,” he actually goes inside to shoot himself. By doing this he avoids taking responsibility of his actions and is rather like his former partner Steve Deever, who tried to push the blame without accepting any of it himself.

Although Keller never properly faced the music, I still believe he was a tragic hero as he believed he had done nothing wrong as he was trying to look after his family. This is shown when he says, “You wanted money, so I made money. Why must I be forgiven? ” We know Keller is wealthy because in the introduction we are told that the house would have cost fifteen thousand dollars and that was a lot of money in those days, so we can be sure that Keller’s highpoint was achieving the American dream.

Miller’s description of Joe being a “man among men”, adds an almost heroic illusion to him. He is looked up to in the neighbourhood, people come and play cards and have friendly chats with him. He is a respected figure in society. This could be seen as one of the typical aspects of a tragic hero. He is admired due to the fact that he has worked hard to earn his respectability as a businessman and the way he manages to wriggle out of a prison sentence.

This shows a very corrupt society and I think that this is what Miller wanted to point out, that there is another tragedy in the play besides Keller’s tragedy. It is that the society in which we live in is one where we do not look out for others and devote ourselves as much as Keller to family. It is all about ‘survival of the fittest’ and that is what Chris has been trying to stand up against. Keller’s tragedy is that he works very hard to provide for his family and in the end shoots himself due to his guilt. By doing this he has given up everything which he has worked so hard for.


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