I think Tennessee Williams is not challenging hegemony in the play “A Streetcar Named Desire” and it’s maintaining the cultural and social topics of the time.
To start off, the characters of Stella, Stanley and Blanche are showing prejudices and discrimination by their actions, behaviour and the way they speak and act. The first clear example is the racial inequality shown, firstly by Blanche with Eunice. Although she lives in the same place as white people and she’s integrated, Blanche doesn’t treat her as an equal saying “What I meant was I’d like to be left alone”. From the beginning we can see that Eunice is serving and asking Blanche while she is answering rudely and not wanting to be helped, responding with monosyllables as “Yes”, “No”, “Thanks”. Blanche doesn’t want to be related or either talk with a black woman, showing the racism of the time.
Another example of racist discrimination is when Blanche talks with Stella about Stanley. There are various examples of it along the first scene but the most clear is when Blanche refers to him, he names him “Polak”. In one occasion, once Stella is stating that Stanley is Polish, he’s even confused or associated with Irish by Blanche, “Oh, yes. They’re something like Irish, aren’t they?”. There’s is not an integration of foreigners from the Americans, yet they are seen as the same people that have the same culture. She’s maintaining the old idea which says that every immigrant is the same to the other and that they are different to the citizens of the USA.
But the principle topic which is named and shown through the characters all over the play is the role of men with women and their relations. There is a type of machismo in the scene which is latent all over the scene. Firstly we can assume or we can be carried to think that Blanche’s problems start off with his husband. Blanche had to deal with all the problems of Belle Reve all by her self, with no one to help her. Her husband died “When I was quite young” Blanche said, and we can think that once Stella went with Stanley, she had to deal with all the money and problems that carried next. Once again we have the example of a woman with no husband that has gone to bankrupt because she was left by her own and she wasn’t strong enough to deal with the problems, yet we can think that she is a weak defenceless woman.
And without going very further, just when Stella asks Stanley “Can I come and watch [bowling]” we can see that she needs Stanley’s permission to act. But she’s not staying in the place, she has returned home while Stanley is with his friends. She has the obligation of waiting Stanley at home while he’s having a good time with Mitch and his friends.
Also with Stanley’s attitude we can observe the sexual inequality it represents. Once he arrives home, there’s like a parallelism when he throws the piece of meat to Stella as a primitive caveman who enters to his house with a capture and gives it to his wife to cook it. This is an action that Stella takes comically, “She cries out in protest but manages to catch it: then she laughs breathlessly.”, but represents more than a simple anecdote.
The clothes and what is related with it in the scene is also a strong factor showing this relation. At the beginning he’s portrayed as “[...] roughly dressed in blue denim work clothes”. He’s roughly dressed, as if he carries out a strong hard work that only strong men could do. Again, he appears at the end of the scene once he has finished the bowling tournament. This time he shows his dominant manners as he asks Blanche, an unknown, this: “My clothes’re stickin’ to me. Do you mind if I make myself comfortable? [He starts to remove his shirt.]”. By this action we can see the difference between men and women, where a woman can’t move and act freely while Stanley has taken his shirt in front of an unknown. But not only by Stanley’s attitude we can assume these differences between men and women; also by Stella and Blanche’s behaviour. Referring to the last paragraph where a woman can’t nearly act freely in a new place, the perfect example is when Blanche takes a shot from the whisky bottle: “[...] she removes a whisky bottle. [...] she carefully replaces the bottle and washes out the tumbler at the sink.” The social standard says that a woman taking a shot of alcohol is not well seen, even though it’s her sister’s house. She needs to make sure that the bottle is in the same position as it was before she moved it and by these action, Tennessee is reinforcing this idea. Stella’s attitude with Stanley is a dominant-submissive relation. When Stanley is away working, Stella says “When he’s away for a week I nearly go wild !” and afterwrds “ I cry on his lap like a baby...”. Here it’s shown that Stella is dependant of Stanley and that he needs a man to nearly survive. By showing this example we return to the topic exposed previously which says that every woman needs a man to live, as Blanche with his dead husband. It’s the traditional subject which Tennessee reinforces, where a woman needs to join a man to live and therefore have a life without problems. After all, there is a clear parallelism between the traditional values of the time and the story and behaviours of the characters in scene one. This is done by Tennessee Williams to show that although everything might be seen as liberal and modern, the conventional ideals are going to be arranged always.