Analysis and main points/quotes on the character of Chris. (Gathered from my own personal reading and study of the text, as well as some extra resources.)
- Chris believes in a greater responsibility to society. That is what the war has left him with, and when his father’s scandal is finally revealed, his response is volatile: ‘What do you mean you did it for me? Don’t you have a country? Don’t you live in the world? What the hell are you? You’re not even an animal!’ ‘Is that as far as your mind can see, the business?’
- The above outburst is voiced a man who at the beginning of the play referred to his father as ‘Joe McGuts’ and a man that was ‘better than the rest’.
- Miller describes Chris Keller as a listener and a man capable of immense affection and loyalty. His experiences during the Second World War have changed his perceptions significantly. At thirty-two years old, he is a powerful and decent man with a value system impregnated by the intense and loving comradeship he experienced as commander of a company in the war. As he tries to explain to Ann, when he came back to America after the war he found himself somehow enlightened in a society that had not learned any of the lessons he had. It seemed to him that people back home did not maybe could not understand the feelings he had felt in the war.
- It was all that rat-race again, with everyone, including his father, out to make the highest possible profit without any consideration for his fellow men. For him, then, the highest law is neither that of the tribe nor that of society, but that of morality; an almost New Testament law of love and co-operation has been firmly embedded within his very soul.
- Opposed sets of values between Joe and Chris that lie at the heart of their relationship throughout the play.
- Chris casts a verdict on the selfish American society that has failed to learn any lessons through the sacrifice of their sons. Miller effectively uses one particular father-son relationship to illustrate a deeply dividing chasm he perceives between two entire generations of men. A small family in an unnamed town thereby becomes a metaphor for an America that has failed to deal with its war generation and to grow morally.
- Chris feels society and other people play a main part in a person’s responsibility, as when he finds the truth out about his father’s actions; he is horrified – “What the hell are you? You’re not even an animal, no animal kills his own. What are you?
- Keller seems to still not understand his sons anguish, as his responses are “Chris…my Chris…”
- In contrast to Joe, Chris has a different view on the world due to his experiences during the war. He presents us his experiences and what he learned from the war: ‘They don’t die, they killed themselves for each other…Everything was being destroyed see, but it seemed to me that one new thing was made. A kind of –responsibility. Man for man.’
- Seeing his comrades dying had a strong impact on Chris’ emotional and moral world. He developed a sense of responsibility and social values which he wanted to transfer to the after-war life. After he returned from the war, he hoped things and people would have changed like the war changed him. However, that was not the case.
- To Chris, the war had been more than some aberrant interruption in his life between schooling and entering the family business: ‘I felt wrong to be alive, to open the bank-book, to drive the new car…I mean you can take things out of the war, but when you drive that car you’ve got to know that it came out of the love a man can have for a man…otherwise what you have is really loot, and there’s blood on it’.
- As all my sons unfolds, it becomes clear that the idealistic, patriotic young men who have served in the armed forces or given their lives for their country have been the loser while those who have remained behind were focused on their own welfare profited from doing so – Staging the war, American drama and WWII – Albeirt Wertheim.
- Chris’ anger at his father for violating this principle of responsibility, and his loathing of himself for being complicit in the violation, brings about more of Millers’ ideas that he is trying to address: ‘This is the land of the great big dogs, you don’t love man here, you eat him.’