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Miller: All My Sons

8. Act 1 – "The boy is coming" (pp. 26-40)

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In this module, we read from Chris's speech about responsibility and survivor's guilt to the end of Act 1, focusing in particular: (i) the nature of Chris and Ann's relationship; (ii) the awkwardness when Keller bursts in, including an odd reference to George Bernard Shaw ("George Bernard Shaw as an elephant"); (iii) the themes of dishonesty and hypocrisy; (iv) the extent to which George represents truth and justice; (v) the physicality of the following scene as Keller attempts to keep control of the situation ("He grips CHRIS by the neck"); (vi) the comings and goings to the house at this point in the play: Ann has arrived and then left with Chris, George is on his way, neighbours have come and gone; and (vii) the final stage tableau as the curtain comes down: Kate sitting in her chair "stiffly, staring, seeing".


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 – "The boy is coming" (pp. 26-40) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, John. "Miller: All My Sons – Act 1 – "The boy is coming" (pp. 26-40)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Jan 2022,

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