Oppressions Faced By Women From The Society In All My Sons And Death of a Salesman
All My Sons, written by Arthur Miller in 1947, the novel deals with sensitive themes such as self interests, social responsibilities, and conflict between different ideologies of the people. The play shows conflict between the conflict between the characters – Joe, Chris, and now-dead Larry. My research question is “How are women treated by the society in Miller’s All My Sons”. The main objective of this research is to explore (1) the difficulties faced by the women as portrayed by the narrative and relationships; and (2) how this behavior towards women led to isolation and challenges for some characters. In order to enhance my research, I have conducted a preliminary research to understand the perspective and cultural context of this narrative. Through a close analysis of the culture prevalent in Ohio State in the 1950s. I found that women were not given any importance and they were emotionally insecure. Through further research, I hope that I will enhance this research by bringing in all the possible perspective to the topic of hardships and pressure faced by the women in the society.
Arthur Miller took almost two years to write his novel ‘All My Sons’, which was released in 1947, and was the longest novel written by Miller. This work is impressive, as the author has put in all the efforts to bring the past into the present and give a realistic feel to his work. The inspiration to write this play arose from a wartime story that Miller heard about a woman, who deserted her father for delivering defective equipment to the U.S. Military. A play was written on this story, not about war, but about a topic he knew much better: money. The settings and context are based on a true story. Arthur Miller happened to strike in his mind through a normal conversation. He said, “During an idle chat in my living room, a pious lady from the Middle West told of a family in the neighborhood which had been destroyed when the daughter turned the father into the authorities on discovering that he had been selling faulty machinery to the Army. The war was then in full blast. By the time she had finished the tale I had transferred the daughter into a son…”. The drawback of All My Sons was not that it was too realistic but it was that little space that he left for wordless darkness that underlies all verbal truth.
The play is focused on Kate, the mother. Her guilty knowledge is to be interpreted as her wish to not accept her son’s death, or to take her revenge from her husband driving to his knees, and ultimately to suicide. The protagonist in this play always searches for his identity, and a woman helps him to get it. She protects him from the truth that might damage him, but at the same time, she helps him to see it. The play revolves around the refusal of Kate to accept Larry’s death. The story of every woman in the play is that of the one trapped by the values and pressure of the society. She is marginal figure. In this play, Kate seems to sum up different traditions of the American culture. Kate and Linda’s role in society is limited. They are impressive figures, supporting her husband and being an ideal wife.
Kate Keller is expressed as, “Mother appears on porch, she is in her early fifties, a woman of uncontrolled inspiration and an overwhelming capacity of love”. She is a disturbed mother, who is always waiting for his son, Larry to return from war. Kate, throughout the play, protects Joe and others from finding out the truth. The truth she is hiding from him was that the father was responsible for his son’s death. As she asserts to Chris, “Your brother’s alive, darling, because if he’s dead your father killed him. Do you understand me now? As long as you live, that boy is alive. God does not let a son be killed by his father. Now you see don’t you? Now you see”. Kate suffers no great shocks at Ann’s letter unlike Martha in Edward Albee’s who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, who learns about the death of her son. What mattered was that no one said it aloud. In Martha, what truly died was not the son but the mother’s self-deception. For Kate the guilt of her husband is the source of her anxieties and headaches throughout the play.
In the whole play, his mother is the only person who thinks that Larry will return from war and is constantly dreaming of his return. She even asks Chris to prevent he talking to his father. She appeals Chris at the start of Act II, “We are dumb – Chris and Dad are stupid people. We don’t know anything. You’ve got to protect us.” While Kate is pleading Chris, Joe sleeps soundly. Keller’s integrity is occasionally questioned after the revelation of the letter of Larry, which was written by him just before his death. At last, Joe realizes that Larry’s letter made him a stranger in his own house.
What character we get to see of Kate throughout the play is that of a concerned wife and a concerned mother. She shows extensive qualities of love, devotion, and sacrifice. However, in the end, Kate ultimately loses both her son and daughter. The woman suffered the most throughout the drama. “Miller has presented Kate as twice a victim-victim of war because it claimed her son and victim of her husband’s manipulation in the service of his dreams of success in which she has no part and of which she doesn’t approve”.
One of the other characters that play a very vital role in the drama is Ann. She was a girl next door, where she grew up with Joe. She is the daughter of Steve. The text does not provide enough details about Ann’s background, traits, and social attitude. Most of the characters were described in a way to increase fluency in the drama and some characters were not described deeply at all. Ann found Larry’s letter that Larry wrote just before his demise and forces his mother, Kate to read it. She wanted Kate to know about Joe’s guilt, and how that led to such a great accident.
The role of Ann in the drama is not a major one and her relation with Chris seems to fade as the emphasis of the play shifts to Chris and Joe. Chris’s intention of marrying Ann is a clear indication that there is a world beyond the business world. He does not mind to “grab the money” (15) but must have a purpose. “…If I have to grab the money all day long at least at evening I want it beautiful. I want a family. I want some kids. I want to build something I can give myself to. Ann is in the middle of it. Now…where do I find it‟?” (Act-1, 15) For Chris, beyond the business and professional life, there is also another life, which is intimate and private, the source of inspiration for his work. Chris finally declares his love for Ann, which is reciprocated. Ann has been waiting for this day for a long time. Chris: Ann, I love you. I love you a great deal, I love you. I have no imagination…that’s all I know to tell you. [Ann is waiting, ready] I’m embarrassing you. I didn’t want to tell it to you here. I wanted some place we’d never been; a place where we’d be brand new to each other. You feel it’s wrong here, don’t you? This yard, this chair? I want you to be ready for me. I don’t want to win you away from anything.
Chris: (looks towards house, then at her, trembling) Give me a kiss, Ann, Give me a (They kiss). God I kissed you Annie. I kissed Annie. How long I’ve been waiting to kiss you! Ann: I’ll never forgive you. Why did you wait all these years? All I’ve done to sit and wonder if I was crazy thinking of you”. Towards the end of Act 3, Ann asks Kate to accept the truth about Larry’s death so that Chris would be free to marry Ann and not feel guilty about it. You made Chris feel guilty with me. Whether you wanted
It or not, you’ve crippled him in front of me.” However, Chris escapes out of the situation declaring his intention of going away forever, without her. “ I’ve been so lonely Kate… I can’t leave here alone again. Where do I go? I have nowhere to go,” says Ann towards the end of the play. Ann’s conversation with Sue seems to be superficial in the play. She finds unusual of Ann to marry Chris. Sue seems to be a very practical woman. She hates Chris’s idealism. Sue along with other neighbors believe in Joe’s guilt and cannot tolerate his freedom at the expense of Steve Deever. Sue, Dr. Jim’s wife, feels unusual of Ann being tied to Chris, It’s romanticist very unusual to me, marrying the brother of your sweetheart.” To which Ann replies. I don’t know, I think its mostly that wue Bayliss is an utterly cynical woman. Her ambitions are material wealth and social acceptance. She is not aware of the moral values that her husband shares with Chris.
Sue is quite right in her own way because modern life is full of compromises where you have to put on a mask to adjust to the particular situation. From her conversation with Ann, it is quite clear that Sue does not want Chris to encourage her husband with his “phoney idealism.” Lydia was George’s love interest before the war; after he went away, she married Frank and they quickly had three children. She is a model of peaceful domesticity and lends a much-needed cheerful air to several moments of the play. When Lydia emerges, her past relationship with George is then revealed. Lydia has had three children and shows George the life on which he missed out while he was serving in World War II. The dominant theme in All My Sons is hypocrisy. Firstly, Jim Bayliss‟s wife, Sue, believes that Chris is a hypocrite as he talks about higher values, while at the same time supports Joe (his father) who is guilty. Secondly, Kate knows the reality about Larry and his death, yet behaves like a schizophrenic so that Joe does not go to jail. Then Chris, by trying to get Ann, hurts his mother by trying to break her illusion that Larry is alive. The family in the play is presented to us as something difficult, treacherous, and full of emotional stress. The relationship between everyone is strained and even the deep bonds of the family members are broken by the realization of the wrong doings.
At one point, Kate couldn’t get a grip on her life to the son falling in love Kate’s denial of Larry’s death makes her a trademark of Miller’s work, and annoying female character. She is overbearing and at times a nag. She is even the creator of the conflict between Chris and Ann; Kate is the real protagonist of the play. She plays a very important role, although she is not noticed so much in the play. Right from Act I, the significance of the broken tree is shown. Losing a son in the war was not uncommon in that era, but this shows Kate’s inner strength. She is portrayed as weak and fragile but is hindsight she is a solid character. She has lived with the knowledge of her husband’s crime and the thought that if her son is dead, it is ultimately her husband’s doing. Her final word “Don’t fear. Don’t take it on yourself. Forget now. Live,” lies Kate Keller’s both strength and weakness. Mainly for Chris’s sake, she remains strong. It is Joe not Kate, who goes for a suicide. Ultimately, she stays. Whenever I need somebody to tell me the truth I’ve always thought of Chris. When he tells you something, you know it’s so. He relaxes me”.
Portrayal of married women in All My Sons and Death of a Salesman:
Under the long tradition of male rule in society, women usually are voiceless and men have the right to silence women’s voices. Though fully cognizant of Keller’s crime, Kate Keller as a married woman cannot disclose the truth. Instead she is forced to obey the patriarchal norms and keep mum about Keller’s crime in order to protect him. In Death of a Salesman Miller presented Linda Lowman as a married woman and as mother. Linda unlike all the men in the play offers no philosophy, no opinion on how life ought to be lived. Willy Lowman is a travelling salesman always interrupting her voiceless. In the patriarchal society, men’s efforts to achieve their goals often come with the sacrifice of women, and even the distortion of women’s life. Joe Keller’s crime creates; his wife is in an unknown anxiety and unexplained illness, which constantly needs aspirin to relieve pain. Her husband “s moral failing disturbs her quite and happy life. Linda is always there to support Willy, to participate vicariously in his dreams without being a subject in her own right, without having a vision that is distinct from his false one. Women are marginalized and live on the periphery of male society. In the Miller’s early plays, married women are confined to single domestic places, while male characters are almost given freedom and mobility. It is evident that we know nothing about Kate’s background and her own dialogue also fails to reveal anything at all about her. One can also see nothing about Chris‟ attachment with his mother but witnesses a lot about her son has attachment to his father Joe Keller. One also knows about Linda, especially about what she is lacking. She does not talk about herself, only about the men in her life. When Linda Loman replied to her sons, “Attention must be paid,” (DS 60) it reveals her character, which cares always her family men. Therefore, “it becomes clear that the flawed America is a male world, a locker room where women are voiceless, marginalized, or perplexed “(Balakian, 116). Miller also reveals this fact: “My women characters are of necessity auxiliaries to the action, which is carried by male characters, but they both receive benefits of male mistakes and protect his mistakes in crazy ways. They are forced to do that. So, the females are victims as well.
This shows that Keller considers his family as the most important unit of the society. Therefore Kate as a wife and mother is unable to go against her husband wish. Though she understands moral responsibility as a married woman, she has to belong to her husband for her living in the society. Kate is a traditional mother. She cannot bear the idea of her husband as a criminal, nor can she see her sons in distress. She is not prepared to believe that her elder son Larry is dead. Such a way she experiences hallucinations of her son being alive. Nobody can convince her of the reality that Larry is no more. She says even to Anne that Anne has to wait for his death. For this reason, she opposes the marriage between Chris and Anne. This shows that Kate Keller has real sense of motherhood and she cannot let her husband die in his guilty. Thus marriage between Chris and Anne would require her to believe that Larry was dead, and if Larry was dead, it means his father Keller killed him like other pilots. So his father kill Kate feels that God does not allow a son. A famous critic Orm Overland says, “Joe Keller emerges as a criminal. He has sold defective cylinder heads to the Air Force during the war and was thus directly responsible for the deaths of twenty-one Pilots”. Thus the theme of the play is woven skillfully, “this is a zoo, a zoo!” This expression indicates that there is an absence of human feeling and moral values in the world. During the early twentieth century in America, married women have to adjust with the male dominated society. The same idea gets reflected in All My Sons. Kate Keller also adjusts herself emotionally to the criminal action of her husband. Dennis Welland also comments: The play is a social drama, not as an attack on the capitalist business ethic, but as a study of the bewildered common men grouping in a world where moral values have become a shifting quicksand. Moral responsibility to others – is the hardest to learn. Kate Keller is a strong woman, stiff and insistent nature. Joe Keller had supplied knowingly defective engines to be shipped to the United States army and this is essential to the story of the play. As Joe Keller‟s wife, Kate Keller is fully aware that Joe‟s culpability in the crime from the very start; but she never speaks openly, because Kate as a married woman, all her property and rights everything belong to her husband. Hence she cannot go against her husband‟s choice.
Thus Miller exposes clearly the fact that married women are exploited and enslaved in the male dominant society. They are the victims of the patriarchal system. Hence All My Sons deals with large social issues revealing interaction of various family relationships. Both married women like Kate and Linda have suffered a lot. It shows their suffering and frustration under the oppression of male superiority and dominance. Simultaneously, Miller shows his capability to transform the times by presenting married women with strength and courage.