“Both Albee and Williams Use Their Male Characters to Explore a Link Between Virility and Status in Both ‘a Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf’.” Showing Appreciation of Context and with Close

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  • Topic: Man, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Gender
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  • Published : December 23, 2010
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“Both Albee and Williams use their male characters to explore a link between virility and status in both ‘A Streetcar named Desire’ and ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf’.” Showing appreciation of context and with close analysis of structure, form and language, consider to what extent you agree with this assertion.

Through male characters’ Albee and Williams, assess the links between virility and status by analysing behaviour and their interaction with same-sex and female characters. The play Wright’s use of structure, form and language exposes the link between a character’s status and their virility. Set in 1940s America, Streetcar portrays men who use their virile nature to increase their status, whereas in Woolf, set in the early 1960s, George portrays a man with a damaged status from his weakened virility, demonstrating the evident link connecting status and virility. Through structure, form and language Albee and Williams give clear evidence of the links between virility and status. From analysis with same sex and female characters the men in the plays can portray the insufficiencies of a man lacking status or virility. In Streetcar, set in 1940s America men are portrayed using their virile natures to increase their status, and in Woolf, set in the early 1960s Albee uses the male characters to demonstrate the closeness of virility and status as characteristics. Allowing both plays to show effectively that neither virility nor status exists without the other. From analysis, both playwrights suggest that the male characters, by sexually dominating women, acquire a degree of personal status. The rape scene in Streetcar allows Stanley to prove himself sexually powerful through his rage and strength. This establishes him as ‘King’ of his territory, as he overpowers Blanche. ‘Since earliest manhood… his life has been the pleasure with women... giving and taking of it... with power and pride’; it is a power he can achieve over women that they cannot over him. ‘Let’s have some rough house! [He springs towards her, overturning the table. She cries out... he picks up her inert figure… carries her to the bed]’. These stage directions portray Blanche’s passivity, and give the audience a better understanding of how the event empowers Stanley and Blanche’s broken line, ‘Don’t you come towards me another step or I’ll-‘, intensifies her lack of power comparatively with Stanley’s. Similarly, Albee shows men’s power through their ability to overpower; George asserts ‘I’d take you by force, right here on the living room rug’. It is telling that at the end of the play he takes Martha to bed, after destroying her fantasy child. Albee in addition uses sexuality as a battle tool; Martha says ‘I was necking with one of the guests’ in an attempt to antagonise her husband yet his insouciance response undermines her quest for power, ‘... Good... Good you go right on’. Women appeared to submit to the power of men; even Blanche admits that maybe Stanley is what they need to ‘Mix with [their] blood’. This power is not only determined through sexuality but also through presence. Williams uses the men’s clothing to portray power, in contrast to Blanche’s delicate ‘white’ clothing. ‘[Stanley, Steve, Mitch, and Pablo wear colored shirts, solid blues, ... a purple, a red-and-white-check, a light green, and they are men at the peak of their physical manhood, as coarse and direct and powerful as the primary colors]’. This description presents the image of men as vivid and virile. Both playwrights suggest that both physical and sexual dominance over women leads to an improvement in the perception and status of the male characters. George’s power over Martha is not evident until the end of the play when he ‘kills’ their child. George says ‘there was a car accident... he’s dead. POUF!’ Which is followed by Martha’s reply ‘(A howl… weakens into a moan) NOOOOOOoooooo’. In killing their son, he kills the illusion that gives Martha her maternal...
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