First impressions

In this entry of the e-portfolio I decided to work on an activity from when we were starting with ‘All my Sons’. I chose the activity in which we analyzed the characters only from their first appearance as Miller described them.

I chose this activity because I thought it would be interesting to see how we were or weren’t able to depicts the character’s personalities as they held up in continuity towards the ending.

The activity

ALL MY SONS

  1. Read below Miller’s descriptions of the characters as they appear on the stage for the first time. Using the list of adjectives given here, write the ones that you believe would best characterize the person in the boxes provided after each of Miller’s descriptions.
authoritarian
cheerful
compassionate
diet-conscious
faithful
fraternal
friendly
full-bodied
garrulous
gregarious
heavy
honest
idealistic
ill-tempered
(im)moral
(im)practical
instinctive
kind
loving
materialistic
powerful
romantic
sarcastic
self-conscious
self-demeaning
sensitive
simple-minded
sociable
strong
strong-willed
taciturn
talkative
tough
truthful
(un)confident
(un)expressive
(un)happy
(un)informed
(un)refined
(un)restrained
(un)sophisticated
weak
a.  (Joe) Keller “is nearing sixty. A heavy man of stolid mind and build, a businessman these many years, but with the imprint of the machine-shop worker and boss still upon him. When he reads, when he speaks, when he listens, it is with the terrible concentration of the uneducated man for whom there is still wonder in many commonly known things, a man whose judgments must be dredged out of experience and a peasant-like common sense. A man among men” (pp. 5-6).
 Adjectives: Full-bodied, Heavy, Moral, Powerful, Loving, Self-demanding, Strong, Strong-willed, tough, confident, unsophisticated, Garrulous
 
b.  Doctor (Jim) Bayliss: “A wry self-controlled man, an easy talker, but with a wisp of sadness that clings even to his self-effacing humor” (p. 6).
 Adjectives: kind, self conscious, self demeaning, sensitive, simple minded,sociable talkative, unhappy
 
c.  Frank (Lubey) “is thirty-two but balding. A pleasant, opinionated man, uncertain of himself, with a tendency toward peevishness when crossed, but always wanting it pleasant and neighborly” (p. 6).
 Adjectives: Cheerful, compassionate, friendly, kind, sensitive, sociable, talkative, happy,
 
d.  Sue (Bayliss): “She is rounding forty, an overweight woman who fears it” (p. 9).
 Adjectives: weak,
 
e.  Lydia (Lubey): “She is a robust, laughing girl of twenty-seven” (p. 10).
 Adjectives: cheerful, talkative, happy
 
f.  Chris (Keller): “He is thirty-two; like his father, solidly built, a listener. A man capable of immense affection and loyalty” (p. 11).
 Adjectives: Compassionate Faithful Friendly Loving Expressive
 
g.  Mother (Kate Keller): “She is in her early fifties, a woman of uncontrolled inspirations, and an overwhelming capacity for love” (p. 18).
 Adjectives: loving,  idealistic, romantic, expressive
 
h.  Ann (Deever) “is twenty-six, gentle but despite herself capable of holding fast to what she knows” (p. 23).
 Adjectives: moral, informed, truthful
 
i.  George (Deever) “is Chris’s age, but a paler man, now on the edge of his self-restraint. He speaks quietly, as though afraid to find himself screaming”(p.51).
 Adjectives: self-conscious, ill-tempered, restrained
 

Answer three questions with evidence from the text (minimum 100 words for each answer)

  1. What bad omens about Larry do we have in this act? Explain Kate’s dream.

The first bad omen we have related to Larry is when the tree falls close to his birthday, we know this because Frank was working on his horoscope. We learn that that tree was planted in memory of Larry, and having it blown down symbolizes that Larry is, in fact, contrary to Kate’s firm beliefs, is most likely dead. “Frank: {noticing tree} Hey, what happened to your tree? Keller:  Ain’t that awful?  The wind must’ve got it last night.  You heard the wind didn’t you?” This is a quote from when they see the tree that fell. 

Kate has a dream in which he sees Larry flying in his plane as he did in his trainings, “Remember the way he used to fly low past the house when he was in training?” she says, but there’s another detail, she dreams that he passes by, but instead he is high up, in the clouds. “Way, way up, where the clouds are.” This represents Larry in heaven, Kate has trouble accepting he is gone and dreams of his death.

  1. Explain how Keller faced the people after the trial. What was the result? What does this show about Joe Keller’s character?
  2. “We’ve made a terrible mistake with mother”
    What was the problem from Chris’ point of view? And what was its solution? Did Joe agree with Chris?

The problem from Chris’s point of view is that they know something that Kate doesn’t about Larry’s death which is wrong not to tell her. He says, “Chris: You know Larry’s not coming back and I know it.  Why do we allow her to go on thinking that we believe with her?”. Chris thinks that the solution to them hiding the secret from Kate is to just tell her, as it has been 3 years already. Joe instead says “Keller: {frightened at the thought} You can’t say that to her.” He argues that Chris has no proof that Larry is dead, he says there’s no body or coffin, and telling Kate could lead to Larry’s mystery getting to the newspaper, which is dangerous for them.

  1. What was Chris ashamed of? What does he feel guilty for?

Chris is ashamed of their family’s money, he thinks it is not “moral” money. He is afraid that his father was partly guilty of the plane accidents too. This isn’t explicitly said by any of the characters but its implicit in how Joe has to reassure once and once again to Chris that they did nothing wrong. “Chris: (angry) I don’t know what you’re talking about. Keller: (a little more combatively) I’m just talkin’. To his last day in court the man blamed it all on me… and his is his daughter.  I mean if she was sent here to find out something? Chris: (angered) Why? What’s there to find out?” We can tell Chris suspects something by the directions, he is angry, he suspects something.

  1. What is the significance of the newspaper in the first act of ”All My Sons”?
  2. How do societal pressures impact the American dream in All My Sons?
  3. What is the dramatic effect of closing lines of Act 1?

Reflection

Well, for starters, I definitely can tell that in this play first impressions weren’t really to be trusted. I think it is very interesting how we described these characters, especially now knowing how WRONG I was.

But anyway, I think the way of learning we applied in this activity is quite unique and very reliying great intuition. We basically had to predict characters’ behaviors and guess their personality based on first impressions and how guessed they would develop in the future. I think it is a good exercise for practicing analysis when lacking information, which is something that could prove very useful in environments where we are expected to learn without much teaching.

Maybe is self-bias knowing how the story plays out, but I would assume that I did not put all of my effort into this activity because the adjectives used are not very well put and associated with the characters. I would be interested to do similar activities, with association and reliance on intuition.

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