A puzzle is made up of tons of pieces, placed together to make one vibrant picture. But when one piece is missing, the puzzle isn’t complete, leaving an empty, unfilled space in this somewhat whole picture. Let’s think All My Sons for a second, Larry’s absence is like the missing puzzle piece, and although the picture looks almost complete, its not and never will be until that piece is filled in. But what happens if you loose the piece? Then you move on, don’t let the past haunt you, but rather accept it as motivation to guide the way for your future.
So in other words, you buy a new puzzle and start fresh. Larry, son of Joe and Kate Keller, has been physically absent since the beginning of the play All My Sons, yet he is as such a character as any one who is actually physically present on stage. His disappearance haunts his family through the many tensions he creates, symbolism and his spiritual existence, as the balance between idealism and realism between the main characters. Let’s leave out the first piece of this All My Sons puzzle to Larry and his absence.
Lets begin with Chris, Larry’s only brother. Between the two boys, Larry is the more sensible one, the one with the head for business and the one who understands the problems his father faces day to day. The play constantly compares Chris and Larry, even though Chris is physically present and Larry is not. Chris can be considered a coward compared to Larry. Think about it, Larry has the strong sense of honor and sacrifices himself in war, to make amends for his father’s wrong doings… now that takes courage.
Joe Keller says quote, “God damn, if Larry was alive he wouldn’t act like this. He understood the way the world is made… to him the world had a 40 foot front, it ended at the building line. ” Unquote. So lets give the representation of the second puzzle piece to the comparison between Chris and Larry and the effects his disappearance has on the family. Chris says that Larry is a road block for the family, and he is the reason they are not able to move on with their lives because they aren’t ready to deal with the loss of Larry.
The book states quote “We’re like at a railroad station waiting for a train that never comes in. ” unquote. Kate neglects to accept the fact that Larry is dead. She has such an idealistic view on the situation, that she goes as far as to get their neighbor Frank, to look up Larry’s astrological chart to see that his supposed day of death was actually his favored day. His disappearance leads to her superstitious beliefs in his return, and the inevitable denial in which she faces. Her need to believe that Larry is alive allows her to avoid the consequences of her husband’s actions.
She knows in her heart, that if Larry is truly dead, than Joe is responsible for his death quote, “something Larry himself confirmed in his letter to Ann,” reflecting “her husbands guilt… knowing that it would destroy her family. ” unquote. It hit her so hard, that she refuses to accept Chris’ proposal to marry Ann because she is quote unquote “Larry’s girl. ” If she accepts the proposal, then that puts her relationship with Joe at risk. Larry is clearly the barrier in Chris’ life, as he seems to disregard his brother’s memory and undoubtedly accepts Larry’s death.
Although Ann has been at the back of Chris’ mind for years, he did not approach her, which tells us that he still may feel the possibility that either Larry is alive or that Ann has not accepted his death- proving Larry’s non- existent presence as powerful. So, the third puzzle piece is the acceptance of Larry’s death and the balance between idealism and realism. We find out later in the book, that Anne has known all along that Larry killed himself in the war, but didn’t immediately move on to a new relationship when she had the opportunity. She states that she was thinking about Chris, but never actually told anyone her true feelings.
Kate clearly does not want her in the house, but Ann does not have the gut stand up to her, therefore leaving Larry’s memory to continue to cause tension in the family. Lastly, Larry’s letter prompts Joe’s suicide at the end of play. The letter reveals Larry’s thoughts, leaving the reader to wonder whether Joe kills himself as a way of making amends with Larry and “All His Sons” of the war, as a way of escaping his guilt, or as a way of avoiding going to jail… but you see, it’s Larry who triggers this consideration, and it’s Larry’s words and Larry’s memory who provoke his actions.
So the fourth puzzle piece represents the tensions he creates within his own family, filling up the spots in the puzzle. Molli: For the central characters of the play, the tensions that overturn their lives are triggered by Larry’s disappearance. Although it was in the past, it originated from the return of the references made to Larry. Chris and Keller, Kate and Ann, Kate and Joe, AND Steve and Keller. 3. SYMBOLISM Upon reading this book, what was the main symbol that pops to mind when thinking about Larry?
THE APPLE TREE. The apple tree is one of the most prominent symbols in the play. It was planted in memory of Larry, but peeling back a layer of bark, it truly represents the Keller family’s lives. The tree acted as a physical representation of Larry. It gave the family the impression that Larry was physically present in their minds. However, the broken apple tree shows that Larry is the missing piece to their life puzzle. As the tree is dying and breaking down, hope crashes for Larry’s return as well.
Even though the tree is lifeless, the apples still cling to it, representing Kate still clinging to Larry. When describing the tree, Miller explains quote, “In the left corner downstage, stands the four foot high stump of a slender apple tree whose upper trunk and branches lie toppled beside it, fruit still clinging to it’s branches. ” Unquote. When Ann reveals the letter to Kate and the family, the broken apple tree diminishes as the key representation of Larry, and the letter takes its position.
The difference between the two is essentially the balance between idealism and realism. The tree is a symbol of the idealistic views people in the play had on Larry’s disappearance, but the letter represents the realistic perception that was gained after being read. The fifth and last puzzle piece goes to Larry’s representation through symbols, and how Miller depicts his character even though he is not present. We have a puzzle, with the central piece missing and although it appears as empty, it’s really filled with the realistic view of Larry’s disappearance.
It will never be filled because he will never return. The puzzle we’ve created showcases pictures that embody Larry. Like the roots to a tree, or the pilot to a plane, Larry Keller is the driving force behind the Keller family’s life in Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons. Just as a pilot steers the way from point A to point B, or how the roots of a tree deliver the message for its life to grow old, there is a bridge between the power of one’s existence and the effects that force has on its surroundings.