By xly100, Updated
Do you like waffles?
Stella, “Stella for Star”, Kowalski/DuBois is married to Stanley Kowalski and is Blanche DuBois’ precious “baby sister”. She’s a quiet person, with Blanche forgetting how “quiet she was” upon their reunion. Despite this her love for Stanley is openly passionate, seeing as the couple aren’t afraid to come together with “low, animalistic” moans in public spaces.
How does playwright Tennessee Williams use the character’s actions, description, or words to make a strong statement about gender in our society?
"Yes, you are, Blanche. I know how it must have seemed to you and I'm awful sorry it had to happen, but it wasn't anything as serious as you seem to take it. In the first place, when men are drinking and playing poker anything can happen. It's always a powder-keg. He didn't know what he was doing.... He was as good as a lamb when I came back and he's really very, very ashamed of himself."- Stella pg. 64
"And that--that makes it all right?"- Blanche pg.64
This interaction in the aftermath of Stanley beating Stella, between Blanche and Stanley clearly shows the type of gender commentary that Tennessee Williams is trying to make about the nature of gender roles and patriarchy within the time period. Stella’s inability to come to terms with what exactly happened to her is a product of the fact that she is entirely reliant on Stanley for any sense of self but also because she is absolutely terrified, at least subconsciously, of what he can actually do if she attempts to do any harm to her. This follows within the role of women in the time period that they must meet the demands of man rather than a marriage or any type of relationship being one of mutual giving and taking. For example, when Stanley apparently tried to beat her on the wedding day, rather than fighting back or reporting it she simply deludes herself and tells herself that she actually found it enjoyable. The same happens later in which she tells herself that Stanley is sorry and didn’t actually mean any of it despite the violence being a recurring theme. This speaks to the way in which women are forced to accept anything that happens to them and simply “take it” rather than being able to fend for themselves.
"I couldn't believe her story and go on living with Stanley."- Stella pg. 144
"Don't ever believe it. Life has got to go on. No matter what happens, you've got to keep on going."- Eunice pg.144
This interaction between Stella and Eunice is one of the key moments in terms of gender commentary throughout the entire play because it highlights the way in which claims of rape or sexual misconduct are evaluated. Stella, the sister of Blanche, refuses to believe that Stanley actually raped Blance and instead opts to send Blanche off to an asylum at the expense of her own blood just so that she may maintain the sanctity of her own marriage. Tennessee Williams uses this interaction in order to highlight the way in which women are completely disregarded within society and also how that disregard has been internalized to the point that even other women maintain a structure of patriarchy even if men do not. As a result, Williams is able to show the ways in which power matriculates by showing that the gender roles created for women cause them to quite literally destroy their own lives in an attempt to maintain what little sense of self that is given to them by men.
Both of these moments from the play seem to fall in line with the notion that the women is never the victim but always the perpetrator. Stella’s always seems to rely on Stanley for any sense of affirmation or value rather than looking for it within because Stanley is the one who has authority in pretty much every instance. In the aftermath of Stanley beating Stella, she simply tells Blanche that it is a misunderstanding rather than it being any sort of violence even though it was very clearly a show of violence on the part of Stanley. A similar thing happens later on when Blanche is raped by Stanley. Stella simply refuses to believe her own sister and instead throws it under the rug to maintain her marriage. As such, one can quickly understand that the gender roles that Stella has been forced to take upon herself cause her to always protect Stanley from harm’s way even if that comes at her or her family member’s expense. Ultimately, Williams uses the moments to show the way that women have essentially been forced to give up their own identity and instead have been forced as almost a subset of the man or another piece of a man’s life. This critique speaks to the rather violent nature of patriarchy but also the more subtle ways in which it operates.
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