Analysis of A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams nicely presents the stereotypical spousal roles of the husband and wife in his play A Streetcar Named Desire.  He provides the reader with a masculine and dominant male character by the name of Stanley in this particular play and a more feminine and somewhat submissive female character by the name of Stella.  Williams successfully demonstrates the masculinity of Stanley and the femininity of Stella in two ways.  The treatment of Stella by Stanley makes it clear to the reader that Stanley feels highly superior towards Stella, and the acceptance of Stanley’s mistreatment by Stella shows her inferiority towards him.  An alternative approach that Williams takes in order to present to the reader the different spousal roles in his play is by describing the way the men act towards each other and the way the women act amongst each other.

A specific example where Williams conveys his message of the male being dominant and masculine is during the third scene of his play A Streetcar Named Desire titled “The Poker Night.”  In this scene Stanley and his male friends are gathered enjoying a game of poker with some drinking involved.  During the middle of their game Stella walks in with her sister Blanche to check and see if Stanley and his friends are still playing.  While she is talking to Stanley, she receives a slap on her thigh by Stanley.  Stella’s response is, “That’s not fun, Stanley” and it is stated that the men laugh afterwards.  The fact that the men laugh after Stella is disrespected in front of them provides the reader with the idea that the men in the play feel independent of the women in the play because regardless of how they treat women, they are confident that women will continue to come back to them in need.

As mentioned earlier, the manner in which the males and females of Williams’s play behave when amongst their own genders also helps the reader get a better understanding of which gender in the play is considered to be the dominant and independent one as opposed to the submissive and dependent one.  An excellent example would be when Stanley seems to have hit Stella and afterwards the men are trying to restrain him from attacking her again in the third scene of the play.  The men are described by Williams as “grappling and cursing” as they try to withhold Stanley from furthering his violent acts towards Stella.  This provides the reader with the idea that men are tough and rough towards each other even when they are trying to help one another.  On the other hand, Blanche is shown in the fourth scene hugging Stella and showing affection towards her in order to comfort her because of the way she is treated by her husband Stanley.  This brings out the softer and more feminine side of the female characters.  The manner in which the women in this play show affection for one another greatly opposes the manner in which men seem to treat each other.  This is done so intelligently by Williams in order to display the different gender roles to the reader.

All in all, the stereotypical role of men and the women in Williams’s play A Streetcar Named Desire is portrayed well both through the actions of characters towards the opposite gender and through their actions towards the same gender.

Word count: 563

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