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Miller: All My Sons

3. Act 1 – "Hey, what happened to your tree?" (pp. 5-8)

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About this Lecture


In this module, we read from the start of the play to the point that Frank mentions the exact day that Larry went missing ("Larry was reported missing on November 25th, right?"). In particular, we focus on: (i) the idea of the Second World War as a just war, morally distinct from later wars, e.g. Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq; (ii) the play's setting: the extent to which the back yard of the Kellers' house evokes respectable, middle-class American life; (iii) the figure of Frank Lubey, the Kellers' next door neighbour ("thirty-two but balding"); (iv) the conjunction of past, present and future, especially in Joe's repeated use of the phrase "in my day" and Frank's interest in astrology, which he uses both to predict the future and to clarify the past; and (v) the small details about Larry's life ("Larry was born in August") and death ("Larry was reported missing on November 25th, right?").


In this fifteen-part course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Arthur Miller's All My Sons. In the first two modules, we think about the historical, cultural and literary context for the play, as well as exploring the themes of capitalism, greed and guilt. In the thirteen modules that follow, we go through the play page-by-page, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes, motifs, language and symbolism – as well as certain issues to think about when staging the play, e.g. haptics, proxemics.

Note: Page numbers are based on the Penguin Modern Classics version of the play (2000, ed. Christopher Bigsby). Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in both text and page numbers.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2022, January 12). Miller: All My Sons - Act 1 – "Hey, what happened to your tree?" (pp. 5-8) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, John. "Miller: All My Sons – Act 1 – "Hey, what happened to your tree?" (pp. 5-8)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Jan 2022,

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