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Tragic Heroes, Joe and Chris Keller, Portrayed in All My Sons Essay

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A tragic hero can be defined by several different factors; the hero usually has a major flaw that prevents him from seeing the truth that lies in front of him, which contributes to the character’s peripeteia due to mistaken judgement. This mistake then leads to achieving anagnorisis, usually at the end of the play, but is too late to change anything, and results in death.
Both Joe and Chris Keller constitute as being tragic characters of All My Sons because they both make very tragic mistakes and are driven by the disastrous events that begin before the play.
Joe Keller can be described as being tragic because his whole life was dedicated to his family and their well being but all his plans were undone by one fatally flawed decision. Joe is the typical small town America ‘everyman’, and is relatable to everyday life which complies with Aristotle’s Poetics that tragic characters should imitate life. Joe is thought to be tragic because he makes the mistake of lying about the cylinder head incident that led to Steve’s imprisonment. From this one event, it triggers a chain reaction of occurrences that drives the play, and pilots the themes that contribute to the tragic nature of Joe’s character. The recurring theme of money and profiteering from the war comes from Joe’s hamartia as he constantly justifies his actions by saying that everything he does is for his family; ‘Chris, I did it for you.’ This also shows that Keller is refusing to take responsibility for his actions and tries to put the blame onto his own son.
In comparison, Chris Keller is seen as more of a noble character rather than an ‘average Joe’, as he would put himself on the line for someone else; ‘man for man’. Unlike Joe, Chris didn’t have a fate ...


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...audience in such a tragedy, and they lend their mistakes and misfortune to each others’ downfalls as they ultimately drive the others fate. You could argue that Chris is the tragic hero in All My Sons because he is left to deal with the death of his father, brother and his ‘men’ whilst also trying to move towards a new life with Ann. However, Chris is an exemplum not to take for granted what you have, and is an example of morality rather than a tragic hero. In my opinion, Joe Keller is the real tragic hero as due to his actions driving the outcome of those around him, he destroys not only his own life but also the life of his ‘sons’. His whole life was dedicated to his family and their well being but all his plans were undone by one fatally flawed error of judgment. Joe perfectly fits Aristotle’s idea of a tragic hero, as he paid the ultimate price for his mistakes.


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