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A close analysis of the theme of family, society and emotional release in All my sons

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Ian McEwan’s controversial, macabre bildungsroman, ‘The Cement Garden’, and Arthur Miller’s Ibsen-inspired domestic catastrophe, “All My Sons”, both exceptionally check out social and familial demands and expectations laid upon guys in these epochs-1946 and 1978 respectively. Aristotle’s definition of a perfect protagonist is “a male who is not eminently great and just, yet whose misfortune is produced not by vice or wickedness, but by some error or frailty … [and] is highly popular and prosperous- a personage like Oedipus” [1] Subsequently, corrupt business owner Joe Keller in ‘All My Boys’ and confused teen, Jack in ‘The Cement Garden’ are determined as the lead characters rather than the other male leads (Joe’s son Chris and Jack’s estranged brother, Tom). They satisfy these requirements as an outcome of their shared hamartia- a hubristic nature, specifying themselves by their fundamental manly desires for monetary power and success, sexuality and status- which is the driver to their failures and has a cathartic purging effect on the audience. Eventually, in both these pieces of significant, postmodern literature, the characters’ lengthy battle with their own identities pertains to a cataclysmic ending following the denouements. Joe and Jack’s identities teeter precariously on the reality that they are top of their familial hierarchies. Like other men of his era, Joe is not just anticipated to support his family as income producer, however likewise his nation while at war; as stated by Miller himself, “All my Sons is a realistic play highlighting the theme that a guy need to identify his ethical obligation to the world outside his house along with in his own house” [2] Despite this frustrating pressure for wealth and security being self-inflicted, he refuses to take responsibility for the effects and blames his better half, Kate, for his own actions. In act 3, he says “You desired cash, so I generated income. What must I be forgive? You desired cash, didn’t you?” [3] Repeating of the word “cash” highlights his main focus, but the cacophonous noise foreshadows the effect his obsession will have and, although perhaps unconsciously, he knows this. Additionally, his bad grammar not just suggests that he is hurrying amidst the height of psychological strength, but also that he is uneducated both intellectually and socially, broadening the description for his desperate efforts for recognition. This is reiterated by his rhetorical question and inability to value that Kate is covering for him- he lacks the intelligence to identify the mistake of his crimes. In his eyes, not accomplishing the objectives he has set himself inevitably indicates failure as a man; so blaming her is a kind of security, preservation and a method to keep the possibility of the broken American dream alive. Although his actions might at first appear narcissistic and self-centered, it could be argued that his aspirations for him and his family are his main intentions. He is willing to taint his credibility and deal with guilt for his family’s benefit. Bosley Crowther revealed his arrangement with this viewpoint in response to Edward G. Robinson’s representation of Joe Keller in the 1948 film adjustment, stating he presented “a little goon who has a softer side … [who is] tender and considerate in the existence of those he enjoys”. Nevertheless, it wasn’t these values that were passed on to his kid, however rather his greed. Chris says previously in act one “If I need to grub for cash all day long a minimum of at night I want it beautiful. I want a household, I want some kids, I want to develop something I can provide myself to.” The repeating of ‘I desire’ suggests his self-righteous nature, developed from an expectation to be the leader and thus essential and it is evident from the errors in sentence type that he too is equally uninformed. Ultimately, Arthur Miller is describing 2 extremely comparable men and the reality that Chris is in numerous ways a reflection of his father, suggests that the method Chris is portrayed exposes Joe’s frequently well-hidden true character. The pastiche extended family wistfully constructed by the 4 siblings in ‘The Cement Garden’, is an insight into the understanding of what was considered to be a desired family and the responsibility of guys within it in the 1970s. Despite being set approximately 3 decades after ‘All My Kids’ and during a fundamental stage in social progression, the characters make every effort to assume stereotyped functions, naively imitating the unrealistic families in motion pictures and tv programs such as ‘The Brady Lot’ and ‘Little Home on the Prairie’. Seventeen-year-old Julie takes on the position of housewife while fourteen-year-old Jack becomes the surrogate daddy who secures his more youthful brother or sisters, thirteen-year-old Sue and six-year-old Tom, who serve as their children. It is this role that comes to be his main focus for advancement; reflecting the social psychological structures suggested by Erik Erikson, Jack is at the phase of his maturation where he is questioning who he is and the position he wants to have in society. Due to the fact that of his patriarchal mentality, he expects that as the father figure, he will be head of the household, however Julie, whose age provides her clout, initially proves him incorrect. Seemingly, unlike in ‘All My Child’s’, there is a power battle in between the male and female lead, but Jack’s decision and need to be the ‘alpha male’ causes him eventually having power over his 3 brother or sisters, which they frown at- as suggested by Julie who states “he wants to be one of the family, you know, huge smart daddy. He’s getting on my nerves”. He strives entirely for this outcome from the opening of the book, highlighted first by the pride he experiences to walk “in front followed by … [his] daddy” rather than following like previously”, and it is relatively this goal that defines Jack’s identity. Nevertheless, completion of the novel sees his determination to coalesce his newfound power with infantilization as he takes the submissive role while consummating his incestuous relationship with his sibling. As Jeannette Baxter explains “this act of filial desire is couched in dizzy terms” [4] which recommend his “uncertainty of knowing how to negotiate injury” [5]; Jack’s description of feeling “weightless, tumbling through area with no sense of up or down” supports this. Additionally, the sibilance in this area, such as “soft shudder” juxtaposes sensuality with an unsettling ambiance. Integrated, these 2 linguistic functions identify Jack as a baffled person who is merely forceful and dominant on the surface area. With his “lips around Julie’s nipple”, he makes himself susceptible and goes back to sexually twisted infantile behavior and childish absence of conscientiousness, whilst emancipating him of the pressures of male gender stereotypes. Due to their familial status, both lead characters are bad and repressive in their actions towards females. Joe is referred to as “a guy among males”- he sees men just as his equals and his subjugation of females limits them to the domestic arena and neighborhood. This treatment was, for the most part, universal as suggested by the surfacing of works such as Betty Friedan’s ‘Womanly Mystique’. It was, therefore, something the audience would have associated with, which is necessary as catastrophe is defined partly as “a replica of an action that is major” [6], therefore it needs to be something out there. Maltreatment is made perfectly clear by the reality that Kate continually refers to Joe by name however he does not reciprocate this regard, and Kate being titled “mom” in the stage directions. They also explain her as “a woman of uncontrollable inspirations and an overwhelming capability for love”- utilizing a word in the semantic field of hysteria, “uncontrollable” not only plays into the Antediluvian viewpoint that females are unsteady and inferior, however also recommends that as a ladies she should be controlled by her better half, Joe. The emotive aposiopesis in Keller’s “commanding outburst” ending in the threatening expression “I much better–” highlights his manly authority and the method it silences those he disparages. The representations of women in the play and in ‘The Cement Garden’ are essential to comprehend the males, as male identities only exist when compared to females. Kate’s weaknesses make Joe appear both physically and emotionally more powerful. He is a “heavy male of stolid mind and build”, who has actually come to terms with the death of his son (unlike his other half). In addition, remarks Kate makes throughout the play provide insight into the misogynistic and judgmental views of Joe, who has most likely seeded the ideas. For example, the method she discusses Ann’s look, such as “I think her nose got longer” and “You acquired a little weight, didn’t you, darling?” recommends that Joe has potentially stated these things about her own look and she remains in fact matching them, for this reason suggesting Joe’s manipulative and subtly abusive character. Applying the very same theory would, however, suggest that he too has a nurturing and affectionate side, suggested by the common term of endearment- “darling”, but he is seemingly depicted otherwise as a happily oppressive tyrant. Jack’s attitude towards female ‘inability’ resembles that of Joe, he anticipates them to be subservient; demonstrated by his disgust towards his brother dressing as a lady. This is acknowledged by Julie who tells him, “ladies can use denims and cut their hair brief and wear t-shirts and boots due to the fact that it’s alright to be a young boy; for ladies it’s like promo. But for a kid to look like a woman is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading.” Moreover, his sexual objectification of his sisters and neglect for anything but their physical qualities is, assumedly, the method he would see females in basic. Only five paragraphs into the book Jack is annoyingly describing the “skin clung firmly to her [Take legal action against’s] rib cage”, “muscular ridge of her butts” and “little flower of flesh” and quickly “the soft line” of Julie’s mouth. “Little”, “flower” and “soft” notably validate Jack’s supposition for women to be innocent and pure yet weak. Defining his sisters using a series of synecdoches offers a sense of depersonalisation and reveals his newfound hyperfocus on the female body; manifestly, his growing sexuality is a specifying function of his character. Eventually, ‘The Cement Garden’ is an odyssey that revolves around Jack’s establishing identity throughout his strenuous ascent into manhood and subsequent discovery of his sexuality. Lacking a male role model, Jack stops working to pass the phallic stages of advancement as described by Freud and Kohlberg, and subsequently he has an alarmingly extreme Oedipus complex. The small impact his despotic daddy has on him was the abuse and manipulation of women: Jack explains how he “understood how to utilize his pipeline against her”. His lack of guidance, combined with the resent he feels towards his dad (stressed by the plosives surrounding his description) is what fuels his need for supremacy and therefore destruction of women. The dogged desires of the protagonists to emulate what they perceive as manly worths lead them to make errors (basically murder and incest) and become anti-heroes. Like most of Miller’s lead characters, following Aristotelian principles, Joe’s hamartia and hubristic nature triggers his death however unlike John Proctor, Eddie Carbone or even Willy Loman, his suicide is selfish, rather than altruistic martyrdom. It is true to his character that he would quicker capitulate to his sins than atone and reach redemption. Cynically, Joe believes the masculine worths he strives for to be unobtainable. He will never meet the ethical obligations thrust upon him as determined by the biblical referral “a guy can’t be Jesus in this world’; which is his reason for abandoning his cause. How can one be something that does not exist? Comparing himself to “Jesus” shows he seeks solace in a higher power and is rather vulnerable, a particular he believes to be unfavorable due to its womanly connotations. His name, Keller is a pun for ‘killer’, marking him as guilty from the start, despite his constant attempts to conceal this. The minute “a shot is heard in your house”, marks Joe’s disillusionment and is in reality him pertaining to terms with his identity in an exceptionally ominous manner. This anagnorisis moment would have surprised the audience and been a minute of manipulated tension- Miller stated, “the audience sat in silence … and gasped when they must have, and I tasted that power … which is to know that by one’s innovation a mass of strangers has been publicly transfixed” [7] However, being a disaster of the commoner and the subtle championing of the underdog makes it hard to look so adversely upon Joe. Both works evoke a catharsis in the audience and reader, intensified by the rather relatable situations the lead characters remain in, making their deaths even more disturbing and uncomfortable to view. The falsehood of the concept of masculinity is portrayed- striving to become a strong and reputable guy has actually removed Joe from reality and results in an absence of morality; accordingly his identity within society is ironically demeaned in spite of this being the opposite of his objectives. As ‘All My Children’ produced controversy amongst a 1950s audience with the truthful depiction of the futility of the American dream, ‘The Cement Garden’ finished with incest and sexual self-discovery- “the unique skillfully inverts the conventional maturation narratives”- and Jack’s sped up rites of passage prove tremendously harmful- in this way it is an urbanised adaptation of William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’. Like a lot of young adults, Jack has actually long desired be independent and virile. However, “considered that instant adulthood they all yearn for” [8] too rapidly shows traumatizing and harmful. He develops such a degree of hegemonic masculinity in the space of days that he loses sense of his own identity, in reality it bifurcates- signified in the line, “I stared at my own image till it started to disassociate itself and paralyse me with its appearance”. The pronoun “it” underlines his frustration with himself and yearning to be various. In addition, his distressed questioning of his own character leads him into a spiral of immoral choices, culminating in his sexual relationship with his sis, and a continuous feeling of unrecognised pity. The repeating headaches of his mother reprimanding him for his serial masturbating, is a clear sign of this, in a sense it is him penalizing himself. The taboo feelings and experiences explained, although typically hyperbolic, are relatable; as argued by William Sutcliffe who specified that the novel generates “a degree of self-excavation that exposes seams one did not expect to find when the digging started” [9] However, the objection of lots of to admit to these ideas to themselves, not to mention others, led the book to at first be prohibited in lots of schools and receive equally negative responses as favorable. Jack is on the cusp of manhood however “torn in between the impulses to progress and regress” [10] he makes mistakes and, much to the repulsion of the reader, sexually objectifies his sibling, henceforth poignantly imprisoning him in a state of immaturity. In spite of the fact that Jack and Joe have actually internalized idealisms of the ideal family and American dream, they are driven by their innate impulses and pseudo masculinity, which is the driver for their failures and termination of their nonstop desires. Obviously, both Ian McEwan and Arthur Miller focus mainly on character analysis and development rather than plot in ‘The Cement Garden’ and ‘All My Boys’. The identity of each male protagonist, Jack and Joe, is checked out and deconstructed; at the core they are defined by a primitive desire for sexual supremacy, a conclusive God complex and inability to accept that they are not all powerful. However, the pursuit of these ‘masculine’ characteristics causes their ultimate death; Joe is taken from a clean state of innocence to intense regret, by nature of his sentient being, pushing him to devote suicide, whereas Jack’s failure to see the indecorousness of his relationship with his sister leads Derek to call the cops. Characterising the 2 by their defects rather than strengths could be planned to encourage self-reflection in the audience and reader, hence bettering oneself by breaking the shell of superficiality numerous rely on to produce a favourable identity instead of a genuine one. The last note is “you can be much better!”

Bibliography 1. Aristotle translated by S.H. Butcher, Poetics (Martino Fine Books, 2011) 2. Arthur Miller, Collected Plays “Introduction” (Allied Publishers, 1972) 3. Bosley Crowther, Film Evaluation (The New York City Times,1948) 4. Jeannette Baxter, Ian McEwan: Contemporary Important Perspective, 2nd Edition (Bloomsbury, 2013), page. 24 5. Linda Napikoski, The Womanly Mystique (About Education, 2016) The Book That Triggered Women’s Liberation 6. Sunday Times, The Cement Garden, blurb 7. William Sutcliffe, Splitting Up (The Guardian, 2005) 8. Sam Mills, Sam Mills’s leading 10 books about the darker side of teenage years (The Guardian, 2006) 9. Šárka Smejkalová supervised by Mgr. Lucie Podroužková, PhD, Characters’ Improvements in Ian Mcewan’s Works (Brno 2007) 10. Wikipedia (2016) The Cement Garden [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cement_Garden] 11. Wikipedia (2016) All My Children [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_My_Sons] [1] Aristotle equated by S.H. Butcher, Poetics (Martino Fine Books, 2011), area 2 Part XIII [2] Arthur Miller, Collected Plays “Intro” (Allied Publishers, 1972), page 11 [3] Bosley Crowther, Film Review (The New York Times,1948) [4] Jeannette Baxter, Ian McEwan: Contemporary Important Perspective, 2nd Edition (Bloomsbury, 2013), page. 24 [5] Jeannette Baxter, Ian McEwan: Contemporary Critical Point Of View, 2nd Edition (Bloomsbury, 2013), page. 24 [6] Aristotle equated by S.H. Butcher, Poetics (Martino Fine Books, 2011), area 1 Part VI [7] Arthur Miller, Collected Plays “Introduction” (Allied Publishers, 1972) [8] Sunday Times, The Cement Garden, blurb [9] William Sutcliffe, Cracking Up (The Guardian, 2005) [10] Sam Mills, Sam Mills’s top 10 books about the darker side of adolescence (The Guardian, 2006)

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