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Miller: All My Sons

10. Act 2 – "A father is a father" (pp. 47-50)

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In this module, we read from the moment that Keller enters following his sleep ("Every time I come out here it looks like Playland!") to the moment George comes in, focusing in particular on: (i) Keller's recognition that society is changing around him; (ii) Keller's feeling of claustrophobia ("Don't surround me!") as things start closing in on him, cf. the song 'Don't Fence Me In' by Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter; (iii) Keller's attempt to take control of the situation, his hesitation compared with Ann's firmness ("Joe, you owe him nothing."); (iv) Keller's nervousness at Ann's willingness to abandon her father ("A father is a father!"); (v) the arrival of Jim and the importance of the doctor-figure in the tragedies of both Henrik Ibsen and Arthur Miller; (vi) the idea of George as an Avenging Fury (cf. Aeschylus' Oresteia) and the threat that such a figure represents not just to Keller himself, but to the whole Keller household; (vii) Jim's use of language – "You can't explode this in front of her" – and the sense of foreboding as George approaches.


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 2 – "A father is a father" (pp. 47-50) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, John. "Miller: All My Sons – Act 2 – "A father is a father" (pp. 47-50)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Jan 2022,

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