The female characters play important roles in All My Sons. While Kate, Sue, and Ann all function independently to some extent, Arthur Miller largely portrays their significance through their relationships to the male characters. None of them is shown to feel or demonstrate female solidarity. The women’s relative ages create many of the differences among them, especially between the youngest woman, Ann, and those senior to her.
Although Kate and Sue in some respects are foils, their similarities as wives who do not work outside the home connect them to typical early–mid-twentieth-century female roles. Kate, however, identifies primarily as a mother. Miller makes her into a Madonna figure, but one who is paralyzed by grief for her missing son. Deeply immersed in her grief, however, she cannot see how she is failing her husband and other son. Sue, in contrast, strongly identifies with her role in supporting her husband’s career; she criticizes Ann’s matrimonial plans and is contemptuous of Kate.
Ann has a key role in the plot, as her decision to marry Chris and abandon any pretense of waiting for Larry spurs most of the action. She has the opportunity to join her family, which Joe had destroyed, with the Kellers, but must overcome Kate’s opposition. Implying that the burden of healing in the postwar era falls heavily on the women, Miller makes Ann a strong character who is clearly capable of carrying the weight.