‘Theplay admires masculine power but also is aware of it’s drawbacks.’Howfar and in what way do you agree with this view?In”A Streetcar Named Desire”, masculine power is presented invarious ways through different male characters.
The outcomesfollowing their actions could be interpreted to admire and disapproveof masculine power and the way in which women are affected bymasculine power is also a key component in the nature of itsportrayal. Tennessee Williams highlights the positives and negativesof masculine power through the plot and the characterisation of malecharacters. In”A Streetcar Named Desire”, Stanley is the main character thatrepresents male power. His control over his wife shows his dominanceand represents female submission to masculine power. Throughout theplay, animalistic imagery is used to describe Stanley. An example ofthis is when Stanley is compared to an ape. This comparison connotesphysical power which is highlighted by Stanley’s past descriptionssuch as “large and compact.
” However, an alternate interpretationcould be that Williams is describing Stanley as undeveloped andlacking intelligence. The theory of Darwinism suggests that humansevolved from simple life forms such as apes, this relates toStanley’s description as an ape because it portrayshim as not evolved and incomplete in humanaspects such as conscience,moral judgement and intelligence. This connection could suggest thatStanley’s masculine power is only admirable to a certain extent andthat Tennessee is critical of the gender issues presentinthe 1940’s. Agenderissue of power, favourable towards men, is mentioned by Stanley. Herefers to the Napoleonic code when he is speaking to Stella aboutBelle Reve. The Napoleonic Code isacode of law recognized in New Orleans from the days of French rulethat places women’s property in the hands of their husbands.This,along with the abuse towards Stella, is demonstrative of the sexistviews and inequality during the 1940’s.Inscene 3, it says in stage directions “The poker players wearcoloured 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 immaturitywhich suggests their personalities are the same. This in contrast tohow they’re described as physically “strong”. Even though theyare in their “prime” of physical manhood, the primary coloursdescription can be seen as them not being in heir prime mentallywhich suggests immaturity and simple thinking. Anotherway in which masculine power is portrayed is through the differencesin the language of males and females. Contrasting language ispredominantly exhibited by Stanley and Blanche. This is certainlyevident in the penultimate scene before the rape occurs. When Stanleyreveals Blanche’s dishonesty about Shep Huntleigh, his language isassertive and insistent. Stanley says “As a matter of fact, therewas no wire at all!” The words “As a matter of fact” suggest heis confident in his exclamation as he describes it as factual.
Theexclamation mark enhances his assertiveness as he is speaking fastand without hesitation. This is in contrast to Blanche’s reply asshe only says “Oh, Oh!” The use of onomatopoeia conveys her fearand shock because she is left speechless. It also conveys herhopelessness as she does not retaliate or respond to his allegations.Blanche’s language is weak and hesitant whereas Stanley speaksassertively and directly.
The weakness portrayed through Blanche’slanguage encourages empathy in the reader towards Blanche. It also,in contrast to Stanley’s speech, conveys vulnerability which causesthe reader to feel negatively towards Stanley but empatheticallytowards Blanche. Williams does this to give an insight into Blanche’sdislike and discomfort towards Stanley which shows that masculinepower can result in unfair circumstances. This portrays masculinepower as a negative aspect in society because it can be abused andused to hurt the supposedly inferior sex. WithinScene 10, there is a metaphorical message relating to masculinepower. During the struggle before the rape, it says in stagedirections “A prostitute has rolled a drunkard…and there is astruggle, a policeman’s whistle breaks it up.
” The femaleprostitute represents the female population of the 1940’s whereasthe male population is represented by the policeman. This is symbolicof the females being submissive to male domination; it also showsthat men make the rules which are similar to how the police enforcethe law. This suggests that Williams is aware of the drawbacks ofmasculine power. The police force’s failure to solve issues such asrape and prostitution suggests that males are imperfect and cannotfix everything.
Because the policeman is male, it conveys a sense offailure that is generalised to all men.Thepredominant colours of the male attire in the play consist of brightprimary colours whereas Blanche mostly wears white. This is evidentwhen she arrives at “Elysian Fields” and it says “a white suitand fluffy bodice.” She is also described as “incongruous”which conveys a sense of separation and elevation between her and thecharacters of Elysian Fields. Because of Blanche’s upper classbackground, this presents Blanche as superior. She is dressed insmarter and more expensive clothes which suggest authority andsuperiority.
Despite her femininity, she is described as bold anddifferent. This is in contrast to Stanley’s description that says”roughly dressed in blue denim work clothes.” This creates asource of contrast between Stanley and Blanche which elevates Blanchein terms of socio-economic class.
However, Stanley represents andsubscribes to the values of the New South who believe in working forwhat you want. Stanley grew up with an immigrant household who had towork for everything they had whereas Blanche’s money is inherited. This shows admiration towards Stanley because he has workedhard for the money he has.InScene 4, Stella says “There are things that happen between a manand a woman in the dark–that sort of make everything elseseem–unimportant…” Stella is saying that the physical andverbal abuse she receives from Stanley is deemed unimportant becauseof their vibrant sex lives. Tennessee Williams does this toshow that masculine power has drawbacks and that some males can abusetheir power.
Due to Stella’s sexual attraction towards Stanley, heis able to get away with the abuse. Their abusive and unhealthyrelationship sustained by sex is caused by Stanley’s tendency totake advantage of Stella’s sexual desires. This proposes the ideathat men abuse their power and use it for the wrong reasons.