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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 is a womanizer. He is the classic working class; blue collar man who is gruff, and tough and perhaps drinks a little too much. Throughout the play both his actions and his speech label him as such.
"[The low-tone clarinet moans. The door upstairs opens again. Stella slips down the rickety stairs in her robe. Her eyes are glistening with tears and her hair loose about her throat and shoulders. They stare at each other. Then they come together with low, animal moans. He falls to his knees on the steps and presses his face to her belly, curving a little with maternity. Her eyes go blind with tenderness as she catches his head and raises him level with her. He snatches the screen door open and lifts her off her feet and bears her into the dark flat.] [Blanche comes out on the upper landing in her robe and slips fearfully down the steps.]"
This first quote directly follows a scene where Stanley has viciously beat his pregnant wife Stella. In the quote we get one of our most striking glimpses on how dysfunctional Stella and Stanley's relationship really is. However, the most important part of the scene is how every person treats the beating. It is portrayed as almost normal. With only Blanche and Eunice truly being upset and even them coming to realize (with the "help" of Mitch) that they are actually crazy about each other. The fact is that in the 50s and even to some extent now the amount of power that mean had not only normalized these situations but also meant that abused women in similar situations would have no choice but to return to their place of abuse and live with it as an "unfortunate reality." Just as Blanche is "taught" by Mitch.
"[The bathroom door is thrown open and Stanley comes out in the brilliant silk pyjamas. He grinsat her as he knots the tasseled sash about his waist. She gasps and backs away from the phone.He stares at her for a count of ten. Then a clicking becomes audible from the telephone, steadyand rasping.]STANLEY:You left th' phone off th' hook.[He crosses to it deliberately and sets it back on the hook. After he has replaced it, he stares ather again, his mouth slowly curving into a grin, as he weaves between Blanche and the outerdoor.[The barely audible "blue piano" begins to drum up louder. The sound of it turns into the roar ofan approaching locomotive. Blanche crouches, pressing her fists to her ears until it has gone by.]BLANCHE [finally straightening]:Let me--let me get by you!STANLEY:Get by me! Sure. Go ahead.[He moves back a pace in the doorway.]BLANCHE:You--you stand over there![She indicates a further position.]STANLEY [grinning]:You got plenty of room to walk by me now.BLANCHE:Not with you there! But I've got to get out somehow!STANLEY:You think I'll interfere with you? Ha-ha!
This second quote happens at another very important scene in the play. In this scene Stanley rapes Blanche. Now there are a number of different factors going here for instance Blanche's paranoia, and her illusions combining and falling apart. (In part thanks to Stanley.) And then also Stanleys intentions going into the scene are unclear. If he had initially intended to rape Blanche or not I personally am not sure. The important thing to note in relation to gender here is the effect that Stanley has on Blanche. The pure fear and helplessness that exudes from Blanche throughout the scene even when Stanley has not yet done anything or is not directly threatening is enormous. And it once again stems from the disproportionate amount of power both characters have as well as the normalization of these kinds of acts for both parties. Part of the reason Stanlety feels so comfortable taking such actions is because of the regular power disparity not only between him and Blanche but him and all women including Stella. His relationships with women are not equal. He is thir master. This is the main part of Williams' critique.
The ultimate purpose and critique that these to quotes, as well as Stanley as a character are meant to portray is this. Stanley as described in the first box. Is a character archetype. This archetype of working class, womanizer, controlling man is normal. Its an archetype that almost everyone has seen before. Thats because its real. The fact that this is an archetype, and an archetype that works so well is because it represents life; or at the very least a close imitation of life. That is because both in the 50s and to a lesser extent now men like this have existed and it was/has been normalized as a way of treating women and or acting themselves. Women were not treated as equals , or as people, and as such the type of domestic violence and torture that they were subject to either had to be bore or they were tossed to the side. Such as Blanche was in the final chapter. Her "master" had had enough and her sister was incapable of breaking the false reality she had been thrust into or helping her sister out form what Stanley/ Society has determined best.
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