Keller's morals are good -- he does not merely seek to win glory for himself, like the simplistic motivation of the man in the fable, he wished to 'make good' for all of his sons. But greed, ambition for his family and himself, and foolishness took hold instead. He loses his sons because of his actions, one of them to suicide, and the others emotionally.
Keller's son Chris likewise is a complex psychological figure. He has a very clear-cut view of the world, and condemns his father, and his father's actions outright. He acts as though he can no longer love his father, because his father has profited from an evil action. This indicates that Chris wants an ideal father, but instead he is confronted with his 'real,' fallible father. He also does not value money and material success the same way his father does. Because of his experiences in combat, he has come to value human life more than money and the conventional trappings of material success. Although he is more moral than his father, however, the audience does not entirely sympathize with his logical overview of the situation. Although in a fairy tale, the characters of Joe and Chris would be seen as black and white, this is not the case in "All My Sons." There is no comfortable moral resolution, and the audience cannot clearly cheer on one individual to succeed, as it does for the redeemed protagonist of "The Kidnapped Wife and the Dream Helper."
P.J. Gibson's play, in contrast to Miller, does not focus on individual dramas, rather it focuses on African-American women and their sense of identity in relation to their friendships and to the shared sense of community they feel as professionals, as black women, and their relationship to a dear friend who has committed suicide. Although they have won material success, like Joe Geller and like the male, Native American protagonist of the myth, they still strive to recover personal success. The play depends upon a contrast between past and present. It shows that character is not a fixed thing, but that the person we are in the past very often is different than the person we are in the present. Like Miller's play, it is dependant upon the revelation of a secret, but the revelation is even more complex. The question of why someone commits suicide cannot be solved, instead the characters can only debate and explore whether they are happy in their own lives.
The drama is created as every revelation adds to the emotional complexity of the women. Laveer Swan is single, and proud of her status as a professional artist and painter, but she still seeks personal fulfillment, which eludes her. Janeen committed suicide even though she was married and seemed to have many aspects of her life fulfilled in terms of her career and marriage. The play contrasts the young and old Janeen and Laveer on stage, and memory and identity are presented as fragmented, rather than consistent. The play is entirely character-driven in the sense that other than a character's internal drama and decision to take her life, there are no wars, no specific physical impacts upon the lives of the characters on stage. Rather change, both positive and negative comes from within.
Stories from early myths to the present have become more character-driven, and as modern life has become more emotionally demanding, characters are portrayed as more complex, multifaceted, and contradictory. But consistent themes still emerge, such as the lies that lurk beneath the surface of family happiness and the quest for true fulfillment that cannot be found in material success or the esteem of the world. Every character must find personal joy in a meaningful relationship with someone else, in all the stories, to be truly happy, a relationship must not be based upon lies.
Gibson, P.J. Long Time Since Yesterday. Samuel French, Inc., 1986
Hammond, Susan Hazen "The Kidnapped Wife and the Dream Helper." From the Spider
Woman's Web. 177-182
Miller, Arthur. All My Sons. New York: Penguin, 2000.