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A Streetcar Named Desire Feminist Reading

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A Streetcar Named Desire Feminist Reading

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  • September 22, 2012
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Feminist reading:
The play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams was written in the late in the late 1940’s in New Orleans, Louisiana. In literature, the patriarchy is said to oppress all women and most men. This can be seen as true during the journey of characters such as Blanche, Stella, and Mitch. On the other hand, the text also conveys how the patriarchy can empower men, through the representation of the character of Stanley.

In the play, Stella can be seen as the usual oppression of the feminine by the representation of the patriarchy in Stanley. It is made obvious throughout the play that Stanley holds some ownership or authority over his wife. This is evident in scene three when Stanley ‘gives a loud whack of his hand on Stella’s thigh’ with Stella replying “That’s not fun, Stanley” which is greeted with laughter by the other men at the poker table. This is a sign of Stanley’s believed sexual ownership over his wife, and an example of how Stella is oppressed within the marriage. Stella’s response also reinforces the idea that the women are the ‘passive’ within the hegemonic idea of what marriage ought to be. Further on in the scene, Stanley’s acts of violence towards Stella escalate. “Drunk – drunk – animal thing, you! … You lay your hands on me and I’ll-.” This portrays Stella’s reaction to the threat of Stanley’s violence, before backing away. In backing away, she recognises that she is the sentient, passive being in the relationship, and that Stanley has the authority to attack her. She knows that she is dependent on the male in society, and doesn’t want to defy Stanley. Through the representation of Stanley’s and Stella’s relationship within the play, it is made obvious that in 1940’s hegemonic discourse in society women are to be oppressed by the dominant male.

In the play, Blanche represents the female struggling with the patriarchy. On one hand, Blanche can be seen as the liberated woman, but she also has the same dependence on men...