The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. 2013 MYE Exam Review. The Good.
2013 MYE Exam Review
How far do you agree with this assessment of Kate Keller?
(i) unwitting: Kate’s awareness of her own destructiveness is left to interpretation.
(ii) monster: her persistent repression of the truth may be as heinous as Keller’s crime.
(iii) destructively manipulates everyone’s guilt: Mother’s presence is organised around various set-pieces in which she manipulates / manoeuvres/ asserts her version of reality onto other characters.
(i) Unfair assessment: Mother as a sympathetic figure who is no more destructive than Joe and even Chris Keller.
(ii) Fair assessment: Mother as the true villain of the play who calls for denial and ‘living’ for the family up until the very end of the play. Her fervent upkeep of the illusion effectively leaves the Deever family in ruins and functions as the obstacle to the Chris-Ann marriage. “You made Chris guilty with me…you’ve crippled him in front of me.” (P84)
(iii) Fair assessment: Mother ‘destructively manipulates’ the people around her but without malicious intent; Kate occupies the role of Mother in the play and so protects, preserves rather than destroys.
(i) Manipulation of George with her overtly matriarchal mannerisms & appeal to nostalgia: ‘Georgie, Georgie’ (p62-67)
(ii) Manipulation of Ann through emotional appeal and guilt: ‘You think of him! You see! She thinks of him!’/“No, don't you remember? That's Larry's room.”/ “Deep, deep in your heart you’ve always been waiting for him… But deep in your heart, Annie!” (p26-29) and ‘I want to ask you never to say that again’ (p33);
(iii) Manipulation of Chris and Keller by including them in her myth making: ‘We should never have planted that tree... You above all have got to believe’ (p20-23) and ‘God does not let a son be killed by his father’ (p75)
Some common readings:
1. “To hell with that” – Miller’s use of “pagan imagery”, “hellish imagery”
2. “the whole shootin’ match is for you” – Miller foreshadows the gun that Keller will kill himself with. (Idiomatic Expression: the whole of something, including everything that is connected with it, the entire affair or matter)
3. (putting a fist up to Chris’s jaw) – Keller almost inflicts bodily hurt/ violence upon his son, foreshadowing the violence because later on, it is Keller who pounds upon Keller’s shoulders in Act 2.
4. Discussion of Keller and guilt – rather than the father/son, family/social, American Dream concerns that dominate this passage.
Keller: “From mother’s point of view he is not dead and you have no right to take his girl…/ “She thinks he’s coming back Chris. You marry that girl and you’re pronouncing him dead. Now what’s going to happen to mother? Do you know? I don’t.”
Chris: “…and then we’ll thrash it out with Mother?”/ “I’d hope that if I waited, Mother would forget Larry…”
Chris: …every time I reach out for something I want, I have to pull back because other people will suffer. My whole bloody life, time after time after time./ To hell with that./ But if that can’t happen here, then I’ll have to get out… I’ll get out. / I’ve been a good son too long, a good sucker. I’m through with it.
Keller: You’ve got a business here, what the hell is this? / Because what the hell did I work for? That’s only for you, Chris, the whole shootin’ match is for you!
*Note the use of swear words/ vulgarity across the two men.
Chris is more aspirational with the American Dream of the nuclear family and providing for the family: “I want it beautiful. I want a family, I want some kids, I want to build something I can give myself to.”