Man vs. Woman in A Streetcar Named Desire

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During the time period Tennessee Williams, author of the play A Streetcar Named Desire, lived in, men were typically portrayed as leaders of the household. Through Williams' usage of dialogue, specific descriptions of each characters, as well as sound, he illustrates to readers of today's society how differently a man and woman coexisted in the mid-1900s, compared to today. Through the eyes of a topical/historical theorist, who stresses the relationships between the story and the time period it takes place, the distinction between today's society and that of five decades past, can be observed with depth and precision.

Stanley Kowalski, a main character in A Streetcar Named Desire, is a common man who is simple, straight forward and brutally honest. He treats his wife with no respect, for she does not deserve it because she is a woman. To him, her duties are to obey his commands and tolerate his intolerable actions. If she chooses to disobey or challenge his orders, it is then his duty to abuse her physically if he deems it necessary. He insincerely apologizes for it afterwards, and expects his wife to learn from her mistakes and to continue with her duties as though he did nothing wrong. During this time period, domestic violence is not uncommon and is widely accepted as a means in obtaining a desired behavior from one's wife. Stanley is clearly aware of this.

After an attack, his wife states to her sister, "He was as good as a lamb when I came back and he's really very, very ashamed of himself (Williams, 2309). Due to human nature, he does show that he feels sorry for his wife, in order to make sure she doesn't get any ideas to leave. Stanley is unaware of this, but the fact that he fears his wife's departure is an insecurity we will never admit to (psychological/psychoanalytic approach).

Stella, Stanley's wife in the play, is a passive woman. She is displayed this way through how she responds to the people and situations around her. When she is beaten by Stanley, she understands that his drunkenness takes hold of him and he has no control over his actions. She knows he never means her harm and his intentions are good.
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