The play seems to marginalise women to some extent. Rose is the only major female character, and much of the time she takes second place to the main action involving her husband Troy and other male characters. Critics have often remarked that she appears limited to the domestic role that was generally expected of black women in the 1950s: being a good wife and mother, and looking after the house.
However, in the latter stages of the play Rose does break out of this conventional mould. Although she has devoted her life to Troy, when she learns of his betrayal after eighteen years of marriage she breaks out in passionate indignation:
Don't you think I ever wanted other things? Don't you think I had dreams and hopes? What about my life? What about me? (II.i)
Here Rose is speaking up for herself, expressing her own needs and desires, asserting her identity independent of her expected social roles. Furthermore, she proceeds to leave Troy and begins to follow her own interests, devoting herself to church activities. In this way she shows herself to be a strong woman capable of making her own life.
It is true, though, that she doesn't entirely abandon Troy. She wants him to be remembered positively after his death and even takes in the daughter that he had by his mistress, Alberta. In this way she resumes her role as a loving, caring, family woman. The play seems to affirm, then, that the proper role of women is the nurturing, maternal one.