Similarly to Miller’s depiction of Kate as the family’s rock- contrary to the idea of women’s role in the family of the time as dependent on the husband- Ibsen also depicts Nora as the strength and power in the family. However, it is not so obvious as Kate in All My Sons as it is mainly through manipulation and game-playing that Nora can use her power over Helmer. In the beginning of the play Nora is reliant on Helmer which pleases him as he likes the idea of having someone who is so dependent on him. However, this allows her to act childishly with him in order of getting her own way. For example when she uses the same derogatory names for herself that Torvald does such as ‘little squirrel’ and ‘little sky-lark’ it is to manipulate the tone of the conversation in order of discussing Krogstad’s job at the bank- a subject Helmer doesn’t want to talk about. Furthermore, she uses modal verbs such as ‘will’ when talking to Torvald as a form of psychological manipulation. ‘You will try and do something for Mrs Linde.’
Furthermore, Miller shows contradictions to gender expectations of the time as the husband should have his way through Nora’s new found confidence in Act 2, ‘But wasn’t it also nice of me to let you have your way?’ Miller also shows her manipulation through her presenting and emphasising her own vulnerability to Helmer through her excuses about her ‘daddy’ who lost his reputation in the past.
In terms of the children, Nora and Helmer have a nurse-maid, Anne-Marie, who cares for the children, as she did for Nora when she was younger. This contradicts the typical mother of the time as they would be the child-bearer but due to Helmer’s growing reputation and position at the bank they can afford these luxuries. However, when the children are brought home Nora does interact and play with them. The repeated use of exclamatives when she speaks to the children, such as ‘How fresh and bright you look!’, shows her excitement at seeing them and also reflects that she doesn’t spend a lot of time with them. The use of interrogatives such as ‘You’ve been throwing snowballs?’ shows that she is interested in hearing about their day.
However, the stage direction ‘Nora takes off the children’s coats and hats and throws them down anywhere’ shows that she isn’t the responsible one, but that the nurse-maid is. Furthermore, when she plays hide and seek with them it suggests that she may only do the fun stuff with her whilst the nurse-maid does the rest. Similarly to the way Helmer talks to Nora as if she is his possession, she calls the children her ‘pretty little dollies’. This implies that she may see them as toys and not people to be taken care of.
Another woman in All My Sons is Annie. She was the fiancé of Larry until he didn’t return home from the war. This has lead her to be quite desperate for love and a marriage in order of conforming to the expectations of women in the society of the time. Her position as unmarried is unusual for her age and so she returns to the Keller home planning on marrying Chris, Larry’s brother, despite this being morally wrong. ‘Oh Chris I’ve been ready a long, long time.’
Miller shows that she doesn’t belong to her own family as she doesn’t believe her own father’s word against Joe’s, ‘He killed 21 pilots.’ While she isn’t a real relative, she very much feels a part of the Keller family, seen in the stage direction ‘wondrously at them, happy.’ She does play a role in the family as her presence and plans on marrying Chris worsen Kate’s state in hoping her son Larry is still alive, the wedding if it were to happen would push her into moving on from her son. Furthermore, Annie is the bearer of the truth at the end of the play where she reveals that Larry is dead, ‘I said he’s dead…’ (Act 3).
Similarly, Ibsen also creates a character who isn’t conforming to society’s expectations of her as a woman, Mrs Linde. She is a widow after having felt forced to marry in order of supporting her ‘bedridden and helpless’ mother as well as her two younger brothers. On top of being unmarried, she didn’t have children with her late husband, and thus doesn’t conform to the expectations of being a mother or a wife.
Miller shows that she wants to be in love, married and raise children through her remembered love for Krogstad. The vocative ‘Nils’ she uses for him allows the audience to see that she is personal with him, more-so than anyone else in the play. ‘I need someone to mother, and your children need a mother. We two need each other.’ In this line in Act 3 Miller shows that she wants bring happiness to a home. The extended metaphor of being ‘castaways’ on a ‘wreck’ and ‘clinging to the wreck’ of their lives is used by Miller in her voice to create compatibility between them as she knows that marrying Krogstad and helping him to raise his children would fulfill her gender role of the time as well as putting an end to both her own and his loneliness.