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II. Act I

H. Open for Discussion

Read the following questions, and discuss your answers in small groups.

  1. In the discussion about different careers in the beginning of the play, Frank says that he once wanted to be a forester. Why do you think the playwright decided to have his character say this rather than something else like cartoonist, or English teacher, or mechanical engineer? Why is Arthur Miller's choice of "forester" significant here?
  2. The tree that the storm has destroyed is an apple tree, and knowledge is an important "topic" not only at the beginning of the play but throughout the development of the plot. Why might the playwright's choice of tree be significant? That is, why do you think Arthur Miller chose an apple tree rather than a cherry tree or an oak tree? Is there a Biblical reference here?
  3. Chris says to Kate, "We're like at a railroad station waiting for a train that never comes in" (21). Why is Chris's statement effective? How does it reflect the situation he believes he and his family are in? If Arthur Miller had written the play 50 years later, how might he have "modernized" the "railroad" metaphor?
  4. Joe Keller plays a jail game with the young boy Bert, who tells him what's going on in the neighborhood. Why is this jail game central to the action of the play? Why do you think Joe needs to know what is happening in his own neighborhood?
  5. "Keller: She'll be down soon. Wait'll you meet her, Sue, she's a knockout. Sue: I should've been a man. People are always introducing me to beautiful women" (10).

In Act I, there are a number of humorous exchanges like this one between characters, some of which come with a touch of sarcasm. Why is humor important in the play? How does it help us to see the truth about the characters?

Now choose one of the above questions and write a report about what the different members of your group said. Explain why you agree or disagree with the comments that were made.

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