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Miller: All My Sons

9. Act 2 – "Dad and I are stupid people" (pp. 40-47)

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About this Lecture


In this module, we read from the beginning of Act 2 to the moment that Keller enters following his sleep. In particular, we focus on: (i) the elements of the play that evoke Greek tragedy, e.g. the house in the background, certain actions taking place off-stage, etc.; (ii) the amount of time that has elapsed since the beginning of Act 1; (iii) the symbolism of the tree; (iv) the reversal of roles between parents and children, especially the idea of the role of the parent as 'protector' of their children ("You've got to protect us"); (v) the extent to which Kate knows the truth of what has happened; (vi) the character of Sue, and her request to Ann; (vii) the themes of realism and idealism, and the extent to which they are represented by Jim and Chris, respectively; (viii) Sue's sudden change of face when Chris enters, and the concept of dramatic irony; and (ix) the extent to which Ann attempts to temper Chris's idealism.


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 – "Dad and I are stupid people" (pp. 40-47) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, John. "Miller: All My Sons – Act 2 – "Dad and I are stupid people" (pp. 40-47)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Jan 2022,

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