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Miller: All My Sons

5. Act 1 – "On this I would" (pp. 12-18)

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In this module, we read from the point that Bert enters to the point that Joe's wife, Kate, enters, focusing in particular on: (i) the mention of the gun ("I showed you my gun, didn’t I?") and the concept of Ibsen's (or Chekhov's) Gun; (ii) the themes of crime, responsibility and punishment; (iii) the relationship between innocence, represented by Bert, and experience (or guilt?), represented by Keller; (iv) the detail that Joe's wife, Kate, was outside when the tree snapped it two, and the tension between Joe and Chris; (v) the idea of the Kellers' house as a prison as well as a safe haven; (vi) the arrival of Kate, a woman with "an overwhelming capacity for love".


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 – "On this I would" (pp. 12-18) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, John. "Miller: All My Sons – Act 1 – "On this I would" (pp. 12-18)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Jan 2022,

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