What is the role of women in All My Sons?
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This question can be answered in several ways. The two most compelling ways to approach this question will look at 1) how women are characterized and 2) the roles women play functionally.
Ann and Kate are the two prominent female characters in the play, in addition to neighborhood women who have small parts in the play. Both Ann and Kate are depicted as women with moral strength. Yet they both also need help. Kate is seen at times as almost an invalid and Ann is damaged, to some degree, by the dissolution of her family after her father goes to prison.
To generalize from these two characters, we can say that women are depicted as playing into the "cultural moment" of the 1940s/1950s culture of America. They do not challenge the prevailing image of women and instead perpetuate a view that marriage is a necessary protection and fulfillment for women.
Functionally, Ann and Kate both bear secrets. Ann holds Larry's suicide letter and Kate keeps the secret of Joe's complicity and responsibility in the sale of the faulty airplane parts.
When pressed, Kate and Ann each reveal the secret they have been holding and, in doing so, prove that they have reserves of moral strength that the men may not have.
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