How does Arthur Miller build tension in Acts 1 and 2 and up to the entrance of George on page 138?
Tension is defined as ‘latent hostility’, a state of mental or emotional strain on a person. This is particularly evident in the first two Acts of ‘All My Sons’ as there are many ways in which Miller builds tension. He uses the set, symbolism, retrospective exposition, mood and the backdrop of all-American tensions. It is the combination of all of these techniques which culminates in the overall tension of the first two acts. The opening lines of the play describe the very claustrophobic setting ‘hedged on right and left by tall closely planted poplars’, this immediately sets the scene as being closed and private with the audience being granted access into the affairs of the Keller family. Aspects of the yard also contribute to the secluded atmosphere, for example the ‘small trellised’ arbour where people meet gives the impression of an isolated area; the trellis sheltering the group from the outside world. The imagery of the plant wrapping around the arbour is mimetic of the layers of deceit shrouding the Keller family. This consequentially builds tension as the audience becomes intrigued to find out the truth surrounding the characters and what that truth in fact entails. We later learn that Joe Keller plays cards in the arbour with his neighbours who have previously accused him of being a murderer. This in itself arouses tension due to the conflicting opinions between the characters. Due to the set, the play places a 4th wall between the audience and the actors making the setting realistic as if we are living with the characters. This increases the tension felt by the audience as they feel involved in the emotions. One key part of the set is the ‘slender apple-tree’ which was blown down in a storm the night before the play starts. It is not immediately obvious what the significance of the tree is but we later learn the tree was planted in Larry’s memory and...
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