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Miller: All My Sons

4. Act 1 – "You're too . . . realistic." (pp. 8-12)

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In this module, we read from the point that Frank mentions the exact day that Larry went missing ("Larry was reported missing on November 25th, right?") to the first entrance of the eight-year old Bert. In particular, we focus on: (i) the character of Kate, Joe's wife; (ii) the character of Jim, his lack of satisfaction with his career, and his relationship with his wife, Sue; (iii) the proxemics on the characters on stage at this point in the play, especially the way Jim moves in relation to his wife; (iv) the difference between how men talk to other men in this play, and how they talk to women ("In the whole neighbourhood there's not a damned thing to look at [Enter SUE, JIM'S wife] . . . Except my wife, of course"); (v) Joe's comment to Sue that she is "too . . . realistic", and the conflict between reality and pretending throughout the play; (vi) the character of Annie; (vii) Joe's reflection on the war ("Well, that's what a war does. I had two sons, now I got one"); and (viii) the character of Chris and his relationship with Joe.


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 – "You're too . . . realistic." (pp. 8-12) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, John. "Miller: All My Sons – Act 1 – "You're too . . . realistic." (pp. 8-12)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Jan 2022,

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