Role of Gender in "A Streetcar Named Desire" Essay

Role of Gender in "A Streetcar Named Desire" Essay

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Social upheaval in many senses was explicit through the beginning of the twentieth century; two world wars had - for a short time - shifted the balance of power between men and women. Women were increasingly employed to fill positions which had previously been considered masculine. This was not to last however, and by the fifties men had reassumed their more dominant role in society. People were finding new voices at this time by taking pre-existing forms and pushing the boundaries to re-voice established literary forms. Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire around the time this reversal was occurring in American society. Williams was a homosexual from the deep south of America, and his play is about physical, emotional and sexual conflict. We also see a discourse about the qualities of an Old South and a New America. It is an astute depiction of the continual metamorphosis gender roles were encountering; and in the play Williams highlights this gender struggle to represent the continual fight for supremacy on the one hand - and equality on the other - in the home between men and women and in the country between the Old south and the New America. Williams depicts "otherness" describing how people are marginalized and objected from society, for example Mitch and Blanche, he is also interested in femininity. Williams take on femininity is interesting as his female characters are central figures that are focused on as primary desiring subjects.

Stanley, the protagonist in A Streetcar Named Desire, is a violent and brutal representation of the male within American society during this period; he demonstrates absolute control of his household, including his wife. He is referred to as "bestial" and is animali...

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...senting these truths Williams poses a question to society, as to whether or not these representations are accurate.


Primary Text from which all of the above quotes are taken:

William, T. A Streetcar Named Desire; The Norton Anthology of American Literature Volume E, W. W. Norton and Company, Inc 2003.

Secondary Texts

Kolin, Philip.C. Confronting Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire Essays in Critical Pluralism; Westpoint, Conn. And London: Greenwood., P 1993

Roudane, M.C. Cambridge Companion to Tennessee Wiliams; Cambridge Univ. Press 1997.

Savran, D. Communists, Cowboys and Queers: The politics of Masculinity in the work of Arthur miller and Tennessee Williams. Minneapolis, Minn. And London: Univ of Minnesota Press 1992

Schlueter, J. Feminist rereadings of Modern American Drama; London Associated University Press 1989.

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