Gender Roles in a Streetcar Named Desire

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Gender Roles in A Streetcar Named Desire

Throughout history empowerment and marginalization has primarily been based on gender. In the play A Streetcar Named Desire, this idea of empowerment is strongly flaunted. Tennessee Williams’ characters, primarily Stanley, Blanche, Mitch, and Stella, conform the expected roles of men and women at the time. Although World War Two temporarily allowed women a place in the work force, they were dismissed from such empowerment when the war came to a close. Characters in A Streetcar Named Desire are accurate representations of the social historical context of that time. The power struggle between Stanley and Blanche conveys dominant ideas about gender such as the primitive nature, aggression, and brutality of men and the vulnerability and physicality of women. The establishment of traditional gender stereotypes is almost instantly provided when Stanley is highlighted as the ‘provider’. His physical masculinity and power is conveyed through a package of raw meat he ‘heaves’ carelessly at Stella and his abusive nature is shown at once through the use of blood imagery involving the ‘red stained package’. This immediately associates Stanley with brutality, foreshadowing his violence and cruelty in the play. Although Stanley is empowered by his gender, he feels threatened when approached by Blanche, who is of higher class than him. Due to Blanche’s social standing, Stanley is unsure of controlling her. As the play progresses the struggle for power between the two becomes increasingly obvious. At first, Blanche appears victorious in the struggle. The physical proof of the tragedies in her past stop Stanley from arguing. “Here all of them are, all papers! I herby endow you with them!” His failure to exert power threatens his pride and he is inspired to reject Blanche. Segregation between men and women is clearly defined during the poker night in scene three. “Poker shouldn’t be played in a house with women.” This reflects the...
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