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7. Act 1 – "That's why there's a God" (pp. 23-36)
About this Lecture
In this module, we read from the point that Ann enters to Chris's long speech about responsibility and survivors' guilt, focusing in particular on: (i) the extent to which Ann is the main catalyst of the drama that will unfold for the rest of the play; (ii) the nature of the relationship between Ann and Chris – does he love her for who she is or because of her relationship with his brother? (iii) the importance of 'off-stage' as a space within the drama; (iv) Kate's attempt to make small talk with Ann ("For so long I've been aching for a nice conversation with you, Annie. Tell me something"); (v) the reason that Kate thinks Larry is still alive – "Because certain things have to be, and certain things can never be. Like the sun has to rise, it has to be. That's why there's God."; (vi) further revelations: Chris also served in the war, Keller served some time in jail; (vii) Keller's equation of legal guilt with moral guilt ("Kid, walkin' down the street that day I was guilty as hell. Except I wasn't, and there as a court paper in my pocket to prove I wasn't"); (viii) the criticism of Keller's former business partner ("He murdered twenty one pilots"); (ix) Chris' proposal to Ann and the awkwardness of the subsequent embrace and conversation ("He kisses her, but without their bodies touching"); and (x) Chris' discussion of his time in the army, the concepts of responsibility ("A kind of... responsibility. Man for man"), survivors' guilt, and the American Dream.
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
McRae, J. (2022, January 12). Miller: All My Sons - Act 1 – "That's why there's a God" (pp. 23-36) [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://massolit.io/courses/miller-all-my-sons/act-1-that-s-why-there-s-a-god-pp-23-36
McRae, John. "Miller: All My Sons – Act 1 – "That's why there's a God" (pp. 23-36)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Jan 2022, https://massolit.io/courses/miller-all-my-sons/act-1-that-s-why-there-s-a-god-pp-23-36