Streetcar Storyboardthat Assignment
By brucepark, Updated
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How does playwright Tennessee Williams use the character's actions, description, or words to make a strong statement about gender in our society?
Stanley Kowalski is the coarse and brutish yet hard-working husband to Stella, and embodies the notion of an, "alpha male" is to a tee.
"He is of medium height, about five feet eight or nine and strongly, compactly built. Animal joy in his being is implicit in all his movements and attitudes..."(pg.29) "He acts like an animal, has an animal's habits...there he is-Stanley Kowalski-survivor of the stone age! Bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle...Maybe he'll strike you or maybe grunt andkiss you!" (pg. 72)
"Since earliest manhood the center of his life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it...with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens...He sizes women up at a glance, with sexual classifications, crude images flashing into his mind and determining the way he smiles at them. " (pg. 29)
The theme of sex is presented as a destructive power, and as Stanley is figure governed by sexual desires, Williams is able to use his lust as a medium to comment on the objectification of females as mere outlets of sex. To see Mr. Kowalski treat women based solely on imagining the pleasure that they may possibly give him, Williams makes it abundantly clear that the social oppression that women are subjected to is rooted in sex. Regardless if the female had no intention of giving or receiving any sexual advances, it matters not as it is ultimately up to Stanley, the male, to determine how he shall behave towards them.
"What do you two think you are? A pair of queens? Remember what Huey Long said- "Every Man is a King!" And I am king around here, so don't forget it [He hurls a cup and saucer to the floor]" (pg, 107-108)
While Stanley has exhibited a despotic rule as the "man of the house" in previous scenes, when juxtaposed with Stella's unprecedented, outspoken behavior in scene 8, it only further reinforces Williams’ commentary on the oppressive nature that is inherent in the traditional notions of masculinity. As the social construct of manhood revolves around asserting power and strength, there must inevitably be someone designated to a subservient position so that males can fulfill their expectations as the dominant force of society, and Stanley is the physical manifestation of such gender roles. Thus when Stella criticizes his crude eating manners and orders him to clean the table, Stanley sees this as undermining the authority that he has a male and as an upset in the balance of power in their relationship, therefore, he reacts violently in order to subdue his female “subjects” while asserting his status as, “king.”
At its core, “A Streetcar Named Desire” is a criticism of the treatment of women in contemporary society as inferior to their male counterparts. Tennessee Williams uses the derogatory character of Stanley Kowalski as a platform to express his criticism towards the constructs of gender and explores various means in how women are oppressed. In Scene 2, Stanley’s sexual perspectives serves to illustrate the subjection of females as merely tools of sex and when coupled with the outburst that followed in scene 8 where he violently asserts his dominance as, “man of the house” over his female subjects, it’s evident that Williams intends to present the imbalance of power in all its glory. While one play can only discuss so much and while the position of women in society has seen improvement since 1947, this is like life as these issues of feminism continue to be a persistent matter in contemporary society. It is certainly right to acknowledge the progress achieved thus far, but it would be wrong to ignore the systemic flaws that remain in doing so.
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