Literature Guide: Arthur Miller and His True-Life Story “All My Sons” Inspired by World War II

Arthur Miller lived his youth during World War II despite not participating due to a knee injury but yearned to share the traumatizing experiences. He would do this through an American family owing to his inspiration from his brother, Kermit, who was an Army infantry captain.  

His job as a roving reporter at the time lead him to unravel the story of a patriotic American girl. Her sense of social responsibility surpassed that of family ties. It was the genesis of Miller’s story.

Sources of inspiration

People have different goals to achieve when doing business. The booming war market of 1939-1945 was no different. A father in Ohio saw this as an opportunity to make a profit by selling faulty machinery to the army. To his disappointment, his daughter reported him prompting his escape from home.

Miller picked up this story and transformed it into a series of events written down in his book. He saw that it was right to change the gender of the girl in his book to a boy since he lacked enough knowledge of females back then.

His work rotates around the Truman Committee’s goal to unravel corrupt businesses. Mainly those that manufactured faulty materials for warships, aircraft, and tanks. It is after multiple plane crash, the sinking of Pearl Harbor occurred.

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The great sin

Hell broke loose when Joe Keller intentionally authorized the shipment of defective parts to the army air force. The cracked cylinder heads proved to be detrimental when it caused the death of 21 pilots amid the war. 

He framed his partner Steve Deever for it that lead to his jailing for committing this heinous act. But everyone in the block felt it right that Joe receives the same punishment as his partner. He authorized the shipment but let his partner deal with it and promised to account for it on the day of arrest.

Joe was so self-centered that he never lived up to his promise. He put his financial obligations to his family first over that of other individuals. But he later owned up to his mistakes, took responsibility for the crime, and wanted to turn himself in. 

An innocent son

Chris suffers from the sin of his father of achieving the American Dream at the expense of being human. George Deever, the brother to his fiancée, rejects him because of being the son of the man who leads to the wrongful imprisonment of his father.

It comes as extra baggage to bear when he lives to experience a survivor’s guilt after losing his company men to the war. The letter written by his brother Larry awakens him. It leads him to demand justice. His father is reluctant and makes excuses that lead him to leave home.

In the end, the poor man could not bear the burden of marrying Ann because of his father’s choices. He felt equally guilty and could not allow Ann to see his father through him.

The devastating letter

The Keller family wished to have Larry back from the war. Some of them presumed him to be dead. They planted a tree to honor his memory either way as they await to find hope from a horoscope. Kate believes his son Larry is alive. She receives back up when Frank interprets the horoscope.

“I know you are no worse than other men, but I thought you were better. I never saw you as a man… I saw you as my father.” The letter made Joe feel guilty for the lies and deceit he made in an attempt to achieve stable financial status at the expense of the lives of 21 pilots.  

All the blame was on him. He could not evade this with excuses because Larry planned to commit suicide because of it. He shot himself for the murder of what he terms as all his sons.

Quotes from All My Sons

Arthur Miller tried to relay the effects of prioritizing wealth over integrity. He used some of the characters in the book to pass messages to the public using the following quotes.

  • “Chris: I don’t know why it is, but every time I reach out for something I want, I have to pull back because other people will suffer.”
  • “You don’t realize how people can hate, they can hate so much they’ll tear the world to pieces.”
  • “There are certain men in the world who rather see everybody hung before they’ll take the blame.”


World War II declared poverty, uncertainty, and mental breakdown to Miller and his family. He wrote his book inspired by his experiences and that of others. His brother’s participation in the war and that of an Ohio newspaper report helped him have a story to write. In the book, he uses a father who suffered from The Great Depression and decides to make profits out of it. But it leads to his fall.

Author’s Bio:

Vendy Adams is an experienced writer working with a local news outlet as a journalist and editor. As a side job, she also works for an online thesis and dissertation writing service. In her free time, she likes to go for a walk in the park, play with her pet dogs and read fashion and lifestyle magazines.

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