The character of Kate Keller, created by Arthur Miller and presented to us in the play of “All My Sons” is a very important and central character, a woman with her own strong views on life, just trying to do the best for her family, loving them and keeping the family together. Prior to Kate’s appearance the audience have already discovered a lot about her via the other characters dialogue, actions and stage directions given by Miller. She is married to Joe Keller, and together they have two sons Chris and Larry, both of whom went to war, however many years have passed and Larry has still not returned.
Kate is a mother who is still grieving over the loss of her son. She still holds out hope he will return one day and she can once again get on with her life. The audience hears a lot about the behaviour of Kate before we first see her on stage. Miller has used this technique to make the audience aware of her presence to show that she is a central focus in the family, and that everyone cares what ‘mother’ thinks. “See what happened to the tree, what’s mother going to say? ”
When Chris first mentions his mother in the play, the mood on stage immediately changes as the dialogue and behavior of the characters becomes much more serious and tense. In a conversation between Chris and Joe, they talk about hearing her up and walking around in the night. There is a tree in the back garden which was planted when Larry was born. He would have been twenty-seven this month, and the tree a symbol of him, blew down that night in the heavy storms.
“What’s she going to say? Maybe we ought to tell her before she sees it? ” “She saw it” “How could she see it? I was the first one up. She was still in bed. ” “She was out here when it broke. ” “When? ” “About four this morning. She was standing right here when it cracked” As Larry’s mother, she is still dreaming of him at night and crying hard for him, although we have a laid out confirmation from Chris Keller in a conversation with his father that he is not coming back, “You know Larry’s not coming back and I know it. ” The audience grows a strong knowledge of Kate prior to her first appearance; we can already see her overwhelming capacity of love for Larry.
The character of Kate first appears to be very irrational even before we meet her, she wants proof of his death, and without that still heavily believes he is alive and wont take no for an answer. She is building a false world around her, to protect her dream of still having two sons. We possibly have been given lots of clues and an insight to this character in order to show the audience that she will become a very important character later on when the play further unravels.
Kate first appears in the play picking a fight with Joe concerning the maid, complaining of a headache, as the mood in the play changes once again. There is greater tension amid the family since she has entered, this could possibly be for the reason that there are secrets being kept, not only about Anne and Chris, but there may be infact something that the even the audience are not yet aware of. “Yeah, I’m last in place again. I don’t know, once upon a time I used to think that when I got money gain, I would have a maid and my wife would take it easy.
Now I got money, and I got a maid, and my wife is working for the maid. ” “It’s her day off, what are you crabbing about? ” Kate is the main cause of this tension, as the mood is switching constantly between her presence – her beliefs on Larry are dissimilar to the remainder of the families. She can be quite a manipulative character, who strongly believes Anne in addition to her, feels the same way about Larry, and that she will wait for his return.
Kate is however a very intelligent character, she realizes exactly why Anne has traveled down after all these years, infact an element of her grieving act may well be intended, and by making comments about the situation in order to prevent him proposing to Anne, and instead to sway Chris into doing the right thing, not betraying his brother. “She knows what I know, that’s why. She’s faithful as a rock. In my worst moments, I think of her waiting, and I know again that I’m right.
Chris lies to her maybe to protect her feelings, he knows how much hope she still carries for her son being alive and by marrying Anne it would be destroying the last chance she has. Her headache worsens – this could be a strategy to change the subject, however Chris leaves to get her aspirin, as she begins to interrogate Joe as to Anne real purpose of visit. “He’s not going to marry her”, this is both a warning and a question from Anne, as she advises Joe not to let it happen. The character of Kate needs to believe that Anne also believes – gives more hope that Larry is still out there.
She shows a huge amount of love for her missing son, as she after many years has still not given up hope for him. We then observe a new side to Kate, the mood in the play then abruptly changes again as she enters an irrational and fragile emotional stage. This is also one of the first signs the audience gets that she may have made herself mentally and psychologically ill over the loss of her son, and the waiting for his supposed return. In a conversation she has with Joe, we see clear evidence of her unsteady mental stage, “Because if he’s not coming back then I’ll kill myself!
Laugh. Laugh at me. But why did that happen the very night she came back? Laugh but there are meanings in such things. ” The sudden loss of control is a very visible change – and quite dramatic. Kate is a very strong character in “All My Sons”; we see evidence of this on Anne’s initial scene. She does not want Anne overlooking her other son Larry, and is seen to be very abrupt and to the point with her when he is mentioned. Kate grew to assume Anne thought in an alike way to her, and was not satisfied when she found out the truth, that Anne instead disagrees.
You mean am I still waiting for him? Well, I’m not Kate” “You’re not? ” “Isn’t it ridiculous? You don’t really imagine he’s – ? ” Anne is relaxed around the Keller’s; she enters with “Hya, Joe! ” – a comfortable family atmosphere. However Kate, the mother figure in the family does not react well to Anne’s visit, she is constantly putting her down in front of Chris, and suggests that she has got fat. We hear from the other characters that they are concerned Kate will try and start a fight; furthermore they should now be preparing themselves for an argument over Larry.
The dialogue between characters suggests to the audience that Kate has an extremely short fuse; her behavior towards Anne could simply be her normal self as it may well be in her nature act this way. Even Anne is seen preparing herself for when she tells Kate about the relationship and purposed marriage to Chris, “I wonder if we ought to tell your mother yet? I mean I’m not very good in an argument” In a scene between Kate and Joe, we see the mood and Kate’s personality change once more. She changes from being a loving mother, to snapping at Bert – an innocent child of a neighbour who lives down the road.
It is a very sudden change in atmosphere, she becomes rather angry at Bert, and is significantly over reacting. The scene breaks up the dramatic structure, as soon as talk of prison is mentioned. “Gee, aren’t you going to arrest him? I warned him. ” “Stop that, Bert. Go home. ” Miller has used very short sentences in this scene, to show the anger and frustration of Kate. Also to make the scene more dramatic as she is loosing control of herself. This may be a reaction to the news of Anne and Chris as she doesn’t know how else to react but take out her annoyance on someone else.
The audience does not know, but there are signals of something going on that we are not aware of yet, as the character of Kate seems to turn at the mention of prison. Kate Keller is the typical housewife. At the time in which the play is situated, women wouldn’t have worked – instead they would stay at home to look after the children, cook and clean. The Keller’s have a very pleasant, well run expensive home, and have grown to become a wealthy family; we have evidence of this as they employ a maid.
Kate is frequently referred to as “mother”; this shows her central control not only in the family – but also in the play. She holds them all together, and shows her capacity to love her family. In return we see they care to a great extent about her welfare, and have not been honest with her over the idea of Larry they have tried to refrain from hurting her more by lying and avoiding the truth. However now, it’s gone to far, as she’s created her own comfortable world around her, still not moved on from his death, and not trying to either.
The reference to “mother” also dates the play, as does some of the language used by the characters, this helps the audience understand the era of the play, and the setting of 1947. However to an audience of 1947, Kate’s reference to “mother” from other characters in the play would seem normal, but to a more modern audience of today it helps them to fully understand life just after the war, and family life of that era. At the end of act one, the audience are made aware of a new character, Anne’s brother George.
He phones, and informs them of his immanent arrival. Kate is immediately very curious as to why he is visiting; she pulls Joe for a quiet word, and clearly knows more that what she is letting on to us. Miller has once again used short sentences to show that she is very tense and on edge. We are left at the end of the act with great tension on Georges arrival, and clues that something else is about to unfold concerning Joe. Kate may be covering up for him – showing her overwhelming capacity for love by doing this for her husband.
The stage directions also give us many clues in this scene; Kate is seen to be “trembling” when talking to Joe, clearly covering up for something, concealing it maybe from George who is about to arrive. A new character is also mentioned, Steve. Miller has included this at the end of the act to build up our suspense of the character, wondering what role he plays in the situation, hoping all our questions will be answered in the following act. “Suddenly he takes an airplane from New York to see him. An airplane! ” “Well? So? ” “Why? ” “I don’t read minds.
Do you? ” “Why, Joe? What has Steve suddenly got to tell him that he takes an airplane to see him? ” When the spectators first see the character of Kate Keller in the play “All My Sons”, we already know a lot about her. She is a loving mother of two sons, and has unrestrained ideas and inspirations seeing that she will not let anyone destroy her hopes and dreams for Larry. Even if she does not show it at times Kate loves Anne and Chris, but by loving them she also doesn’t want to betray Larry, as this would mean pronouncing him dead.
At this point in the play my reaction to the character of Kate Keller is that she is an affectionate mother, whom is simply concerned for the welfare of her family, and chooses not to accept the fact that one of her sons is dead. However her living in denial has made her character become mentally distressed, her personality switches frequently, and she looses control at the slightest thing. She cannot move on, but needs to as everyone else around her already has.
Therefore I do agree with the stage direction of Kate given by miller before her initial scene, “… n her early fifties, a woman of uncontrolled inspirations and an overwhelming capacity for love”. She has her own dreams, and will not let anyone destroy these. This shows the overwhelming love she carries for her son. The audience also pick up clues that there is something going on we do not quite know of yet, maybe a family secret that they are trying to conceal from the world. If we do find out later on that Kate is infact covering up something in order to save Joe, this will also show her love for her family, and her vast ability to love.