top of page

by Arthur Miller

Plot Sumary:

Act I

The play starts in August 1946, Joe Keller, a self-made businessman, and his wife Kate are visited by a neighbor, Frank. At Kate's request, Frank is trying to figure out the horoscope of the Kellers' missing (and presumed by most to be dead) son Larry, who disappeared three years earlier while serving in the military during World War II. The night before there was a storm and the tree planted in Larry's honor was blown down. While Kate still believes Larry is coming back, the Kellers' other son, Chris, believes differently. Furthermore, Chris wishes to propose to Ann Deever, who was Larry's girlfriend at the time he went missing and who has been corresponding with Chris for two years and who late the night before arrived for a visit. While waiting for Ann to wake up, a young neighbor, Bert, stops by to let Joe know who has been "bad" among the local kids and who should go to their pretend "jail". This is part of a game that Bert plays frequently with Joe, but Kate react sharply at the use of the word "jail." When Ann comes downstairs, it is revealed that her father, Steve Deever, is in prison for selling cracked cylinder heads to the Air Force, causing the deaths of twenty-one pilots. Joe and Steve were partners, but Joe was exonerated of the crime. Ann admits that neither she nor her brother keeps in touch with their father anymore and wonders aloud whether a faulty engine was responsible for Larry's death. After a heated argument, Chris breaks in and later proposes to Ann, who accepts. Chris also reveals that during the war, the company of men he led had were all killed and he is experiencing survivor's guilt. Meanwhile, Joe receives a phone call from George, Ann's brother, who is traveling there to settle something.

Act II

Although Chris and Ann have become engaged, Chris avoids telling his mother. Their next door neighbor Sue emerges, revealing that everyone on the block thinks Joe is equally guilty of the crime of supplying faulty aircraft engines. Shortly afterwards, George Deever arrives and reveals that he has just visited the prison to see his father Steve. The latter has confirmed that Joe told him by phone to "weld up and paint over" the cracked cylinders and to send them out, and later gave a false promise to Steve that he would account for the shipment on the day of arrest. George insists his sister Ann cannot marry Chris Keller, son of the man who destroyed the Deevers. Meanwhile, Joe maintains that on the fateful day of dispatch, the flu laid him up. It seems that Joe has convinced George of his innocence, but just as everyone is about to go have a lovely afternoon, Kate jokes that Joe has not been sick in fifteen years, which leads everyone to realize that his excuse of the flu was a lie. Despite George's protests, Ann sends him away. Joe, out of excuses, explains that he felt extreme pressure to keep the government supplied and sent out the cracked airheads to avoid closure of the business, never thinking that they would be used and intending to notify the base later that they needed repairs. However, when the fleet crashed and made headlines, he lied to Steve and abandoned him at the factory to be arrested. Chris cannot accept this explanation, and storms off to try to process this information.


It is very late at night and Chris has yet to return home. Kate says that, should Chris return, Joe must express regret in the hope that Chris will not leave the family forever. As he only sought to make money at the insistence of his family, Joe is adamant that their relationship is above the law. Soon after, Ann emerges and expresses her intention to leave with Chris regardless of Kate's disdain. When Kate angrily refuses again, Ann reveals to Kate a letter from Larry. She had not wanted to share it, but knows that Kate must face reality. Chris returns, and is torn about whether to turn Joe in to the authorities, knowing it doesn't erase the death of his fellow soldiers or absolve the world of its natural merciless state.

When Joe faces Chris he tries to hold on to their relationship, though his son wearily responds, "I know you're no worse than other men, but I thought you were better. I never saw you as a man ... I saw you as my father." Finally, the letter, read by Chris, reveals that because of his father's guilt, Larry planned to commit suicide. With this final blow, Joe finally agrees to turn himself in, saying of Larry, "Sure, he was my son. But I think to him they were all my sons." Joe goes inside telling Chris he is getting his coat so he can go take responsibility for the crime, but while offstage he kills himself with a gun. At the end, when Chris expresses remorse in spite of his resolve, Kate tells him not to blame himself and for he and Ann to move on and have a beautiful life.

Episode Facts

Episode: 2.6

Date Aired: January 1, 2022

Team: Jennifer, Ricardo, and Sam

Analysis Technique: Forwards

Community Voices: Tracey Miller, who emailed us about using our episode 1.14 Indecent to prepare for a project in school

To see the trailer, click here

Screen Shot 2022-01-01 at 5.43.27 AM.png
bottom of page