‘The
play admires masculine power but also is aware of it’s drawbacks.’

How
far and in what way do you agree with this view?

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

In
“A Streetcar Named Desire”, masculine power is presented in
various ways through different male characters. The outcomes
following their actions could be interpreted to admire and disapprove
of masculine power and the way in which women are affected by
masculine power is also a key component in the nature of its
portrayal. Tennessee Williams highlights the positives and negatives
of masculine power through the plot and the characterisation of male
characters.

In
“A Streetcar Named Desire”, Stanley is the main character that
represents male power. His control over his wife shows his dominance
and represents female submission to masculine power. Throughout the
play, animalistic imagery is used to describe Stanley. An example of
this is when Stanley is compared to an ape. This comparison connotes
physical power which is highlighted by Stanley’s past descriptions
such as “large and compact.” However, an alternate interpretation
could be that Williams is describing Stanley as undeveloped and
lacking intelligence. The theory of Darwinism suggests that humans
evolved from simple life forms such as apes, this relates to
Stanley’s description as an ape because it portrays
him as not evolved and incomplete in human
aspects such as conscience,
moral judgement and intelligence. This connection could suggest that
Stanley’s masculine power is only admirable to a certain extent and
that Tennessee is critical of the gender issues present
in
the 1940’s. A
gender
issue of power, favourable towards men, is mentioned by Stanley. He
refers to the Napoleonic code when he is speaking to Stella about
Belle Reve. The Napoleonic Code is
a
code of law recognized in New Orleans from the days of French rule
that places women’s property in the hands of their husbands.
This,
along with the abuse towards Stella, is demonstrative of the sexist
views and inequality during the 1940’s.

In
scene 3, it says in stage directions “The poker players wear
coloured shirts, solid blues, a purple, a red-and-white check,
a light green, and they are men as powerful as the primary colours.”
The primary colours have connotations of childhood and immaturity
which suggests their personalities are the same. This in contrast to
how they’re described as physically “strong”. Even though they
are in their “prime” of physical manhood, the primary colours
description can be seen as them not being in heir prime mentally
which suggests immaturity and simple thinking.

Another
way in which masculine power is portrayed is through the differences
in the language of males and females. Contrasting language is
predominantly exhibited by Stanley and Blanche. This is certainly
evident in the penultimate scene before the rape occurs. When Stanley
reveals Blanche’s dishonesty about Shep Huntleigh, his language is
assertive and insistent. Stanley says “As a matter of fact, there
was no wire at all!” The words “As a matter of fact” suggest he
is confident in his exclamation as he describes it as factual. The
exclamation mark enhances his assertiveness as he is speaking fast
and without hesitation. This is in contrast to Blanche’s reply as
she only says “Oh, Oh!” The use of onomatopoeia conveys her fear
and shock because she is left speechless. It also conveys her
hopelessness as she does not retaliate or respond to his allegations.
Blanche’s language is weak and hesitant whereas Stanley speaks
assertively and directly. The weakness portrayed through Blanche’s
language encourages empathy in the reader towards Blanche. It also,
in contrast to Stanley’s speech, conveys vulnerability which causes
the reader to feel negatively towards Stanley but empathetically
towards Blanche. Williams does this to give an insight into Blanche’s
dislike and discomfort towards Stanley which shows that masculine
power can result in unfair circumstances. This portrays masculine
power as a negative aspect in society because it can be abused and
used to hurt the supposedly inferior sex.

Within
Scene 10, there is a metaphorical message relating to masculine
power. During the struggle before the rape, it says in stage
directions “A prostitute has rolled a drunkard…and there is a
struggle, a policeman’s whistle breaks it up.” The female
prostitute represents the female population of the 1940’s whereas
the male population is represented by the policeman. This is symbolic
of the females being submissive to male domination; it also shows
that men make the rules which are similar to how the police enforce
the law. This suggests that Williams is aware of the drawbacks of
masculine power. The police force’s failure to solve issues such as
rape and prostitution suggests that males are imperfect and cannot
fix everything. Because the policeman is male, it conveys a sense of
failure that is generalised to all men.

The
predominant colours of the male attire in the play consist of bright
primary colours whereas Blanche mostly wears white. This is evident
when she arrives at “Elysian Fields” and it says “a white suit
and fluffy bodice.” She is also described as “incongruous”
which conveys a sense of separation and elevation between her and the
characters of Elysian Fields. Because of Blanche’s upper class
background, this presents Blanche as superior. She is dressed in
smarter and more expensive clothes which suggest authority and
superiority. Despite her femininity, she is described as bold and
different. This is in contrast to Stanley’s description that says
“roughly dressed in blue denim work clothes.” This creates a
source of contrast between Stanley and Blanche which elevates Blanche
in terms of socio-economic class. However, Stanley represents and
subscribes to the values of the New South who believe in working for
what you want. Stanley grew up with an immigrant household who had to
work for everything they had whereas Blanche’s money is inherited.
 This shows admiration towards Stanley because he has worked
hard for the money he has.

In
Scene 4, Stella says “There are things that happen between a man
and a woman in the dark–that sort of make everything else
seem–unimportant…” Stella is saying that the physical and
verbal abuse she receives from Stanley is deemed unimportant because
of their vibrant sex lives.  Tennessee Williams does this to
show that masculine power has drawbacks and that some males can abuse
their power. Due to Stella’s sexual attraction towards Stanley, he
is able to get away with the abuse. Their abusive and unhealthy
relationship sustained by sex is caused by Stanley’s tendency to
take advantage of Stella’s sexual desires. This proposes the idea
that men abuse their power and use it for the wrong reasons.