This post will explore the ways in which family can be seen as the most fundamental concern in All My Sons for my student audience, and seek to extrapolate some general concept-teaching principles for my fellow practitioners (if any). For the thesis to stand, we will evidently have to lay out the concerns of the play, which mostly exist in reductive yet helpful binary pairs:
- Social responsibility / Familial loyalty
- Moral idealism / Material pragmatism
- Redemption and atonement / Guilt (with survivor’s guilt as a subset)
- Denial / Truth
- Familial relationships
Nearly any dichotomy we identify in a literary text, being so malleable in meaning and effect, would be necessarily simplistic. The term ‘dialectical’ allows for more intellectual engagement. One concept may contrast the other, oppose or come into conflict with the other. This external division is complemented by an internal conflict: protagonists or narrator-protagonists such as Chris, Stevens and Briony are caught in the liminal space between two concerns, epitomised by confessional writing, sealed in the bildungsroman code and reaching as far back as classical tragedy.
Returning to All My Sons, we see that ‘family’ features in two of five concepts / concept-pairs. Examining both would easily, by way of sheer breadth, place ‘family’ above other concerns. Nevertheless, I will choose to study ‘family’ as concomitant with ‘familial relationships’ — the visually inclined will already have pictured familial relationships as the base of an imagined infographic (P.S. it exists in our lecture notes). The question is then… why is it the base? Continue reading “The Importance of Family in All My Sons”