Discuss how an informed reading of A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, influences the way it is interpreted.
The play A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams in 1947 expresses the clear and aggressive differences of power relationships during post WW2 America. This is plainly shown through Williams’ characters, Stanley, Blanche, Stella and Mitch who represent and reinforce the patriarchal roles seen during this period of time. Using a gendered reading readers are able to understand the dominance of males and the lack of power women had. This is shown through Williams’ stage directions, costuming, dialogue and characterisation.
In the play, the character of Stanley Kowalski represents the violence and brutality of men within the new American society during the 1940’s. He demonstrates the absolute control over his household, including his wife Stella Kowalski. This is shown through the stage directions that highlight Stanley’s animalistic nature. In the play Williams associates Stanley’s character to one of a lion bringing meat back to his wife when he is first introduced to audiences, for example “He heaves the package at her… her husband and his companion have already started back around the corner.” Using stage directions William’s creates a very distinct idea that Stanley is an alpha male within this environment with Stanley being able force the package on to his wife, this symbolizes his male dominance within an increasingly patriarchal society. This example also demonstrates how Stanley demands respect from his wife but believes he is not required to return the same affections. It is this binary opposition of marginalised privilege seen in Williams’ characters and setting that paired with a gendered reading allows readers to see and understand the depth of patriarchal American during Williams period of writing. Another example of the imbalance of power within relationship in the play A Streetcar Named Desire is shown through Stanley’s dominate and primal behaviour towards his wife which can be seen in this passage, “Stanley stalks fiercely through the portieres into the bedroom…something is overturned with a crash.” This demonstrates to readers how Stanley’s actions clearly show a definite power imbalance where women are subjected to their husband’s violent actions. This is because if the social historical context of the play which leaves women at the mercy of the males threatening dominance. The use of the word “stalks” relates back to the idea of Stanley being an animal driven by rage and desire, in this case rage. a word often used when talking about hunting, i.e. an animal stalks its prey — it follows its quarry stealthily until it’s time to pounce creates a far more dangerous and pressing atmosphere in to play during Stanley’s outrage. Another example is “She sobs with inhuman abandon…the muted trumpet.” This passage confirms how Stanley is an animal driven by sexual desire and is not punished for his actions like Blanche. It confirms how during the post WW2 American society women had a lack of agency as they were not in control of their lives and had no power over others around them least not their husbands. The fact that Stanley is clear undressing his wife in her time of grieving having seen her sister being taken away, Stanley does not see her pain and proceeds to press his sexual desires onto Stella knowing that she has no power to object. By using a gendered reading, audiences are able to understand the cruel and abusive manner of males in an unfair society that place women in at complete power imbalance.
In the play it is clear that there is not only an unfair divide between male and female relations but elements of division and unity of mateship within the play A Streetcar Named Desire. This is explored through Stanley’s relationship with his companions, Mitch, Pablo and Steve. Masculinity of male’s cards poker stanly is the alpha male
Loyalty stanley tell mitch about blanches sexual past
Steve to Eunice – abuses Eunice males just accept it more on don’t question it laugh
In the play it is evident that Stella has a clear blindness when it comes to Stanley’s violent and aggressive behaviour towards her. This is because Stella represents the tradition views and social norms that she needs a man to achieve happiness and stability, which is what Stanley provides. Williams uses both Blanche’s and Stella’s dependence on men to reveal the poor treatment of women during the shift from the old to the new South. Both Stella and Blanche see male partners as their only means to achieve happiness, and they depend on men for both their ability to sustain them economically and to create a respectful image. Blanche believes that her sister would be happier without her physically abusive husband, Stanley. When Stella chooses to remain with Stanley, she chooses to rely on, love, and the security of a man instead of her sister. Williams’ makes it very clear to readers that Stanley represents a much more secure future than what Blanche has as she is unmarried. An example of this is when Stanley lashes out at Stella during the poker game and she is rushed up to Eunice’s flat for safety she quickly returns to Stanley without a second thought, “The door upstairs opens again …slips fearfully down the step.” This shows readers that Stella cannot stray away from her husband no matter out aggressive and violet he is. This is because Stella truly loves Stanley and therefore is blind to his hostile behaviour. It is also because Stella understands that he is a perfect husband in the eyes of the new American society as he has returned from war a hero and is a leader in the rising working class. Using a gendered reading, readers are able to identify how Williams has used the societal views at the time to highlight the believes of what a successful marriage entails. Another example is when Stella tells Blanche of the events of her wedding night. “Stanley’s always smashing things…light-bulbs with it”, this quote explains how Stella is not afraid or against Stanley’s destructive actions. In fact, she finds it exciting; “I was – sort of – thrilled by it” this shows another side to Stella’s love for Stanley she is excited by his aggressive behaviour as she grew up in a society that behaved very differently, one where Stanley actions would definitely seem common and vulgar, which they do to Blanche who is hysterical after the events and is completely against her sisters marriage to Stanley. By using a gendered reading, readers are able to see and understand the dismissive behaviour of wives due to the social beliefs during the time in which Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire.
Material Type Title Reference list example
Website Explorations of Gender Roles in A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams https://www.bartleby.com/essay/Explorations-of-Gender-Roles-in-A-Streetcar-P3FAEEC8B6A
Website Role of Gender in “A Streetcar Named Desire” Essay https://ontheroad29.wikispaces.com/file/view/Streetcare+Named+Desire+Essay+-+Role+of+Gender.pdf
Website A Streetcar Named Desire
Grade saver https://www.gradesaver.com/a-streetcar-named-desire/study-guide/quotes
Website A Streetcar Named Desire – SparkNotes http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/streetcar/character/stanley-kowalski/
Website A Streetcar Named Desire Gender Roles https://freebooksummary.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-gender-roles-41238
Website A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE MEN AND MASCULINITY QUOTES https://www.shmoop.com/streetcar-named-desire/men-masculinity-quotes-4.html
Book A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams. Copyright 1947 by the estate of the late Tennessee Williams, introduction and notes copyright Ray Speakman 1989