Williams presents masculinity in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by presenting the violent nature of Stanley in comparison to Blanche as well as how this naturally leads to the destruction of Blanche and symbolically the old south.
From the start of the play, the characters of Stanley and Blanche are presented as polar opposites with Blanche being representative of ‘the soft, sensitive and the delicate’, as Williams says, shown by how she is ‘daintily dressed’ in white. Whereas, Stanley represents the ‘savage and brutal nature of modern men’ as shown by how he ‘heaves’ a ‘package of meat’ to Stella showing his masculine traits.
This contrast sets Stanley and Blanche as antagonist versus protagonist from the start of the play; a troupe of classic Aristotelian tragedy, highlighting the inevitable clash between the characters and the tragic ending of the play. Masculinity is also presented by showing the nature of violent relationships in Elysian Fields revealing the constant power struggle between males and females.
Masculinity is presented in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ through Williams’ use of Stanley’s violent nature. He displays high masculinity and violence through the use of predatory animalistic imagery in both stage directions and Blanche’s descriptions of him.
In the ‘Poker Night’ scene, Stanley ‘stalks’ and ‘charges’ at Stella and hits her. Those aggressive verbs reflect an animalistic nature which Stanley is associated with throughout the play. Blanche describes him as a ‘survivor of the Stone-Age” and “ape-like” revealing his primitive, uncivilized nature.
She also uses a metaphor of ‘bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle!” which further reveals his animalistic behavior as he is aggressive. The use of only exclamation marks and scripted non-fluency by Williams in Blanche’s description of Stanley reveals her fear and desperation which comes due to Stanley’s aggressive masculinity. Masculinity is further presented by asserting Stanley’s dominance over Stella and the household.
He ‘hurls the cups and saucer” to the ground when Stella asks him to clean up after himself and he states that “Every man is a king” thus is asserting his masculinity and dominance over Stella in the relationship. Stanley’s masculinity and physical violence are used to invoke fear in the women and assert himself over them, and this leads to Stella “crying weakly”.
His masculinity is further shown by his demand to have the documents relating to Blanche and Stella’s background and Belle Reve. He uses a series of demanding and interrogative questions such as “where are the papers?” and “what is Ambler & Ambler?” He also repeats throughout the scene the law ‘Napoleonic code’ which is a law that states that whatever belongs to the wife belongs to the husband as well.
He attempts to make his demands of the documents seem like he cares by stating that Stella will be having a baby, but in reality, he demands details and repeats the term ‘Napoleonic code’ to assert his dominance in the relationship. The demanding tone and continuous interrogation that Blanche faces due to Stanley’s masculinity leave her overwhelmed and she gives in to him as she “touches her forehead” and then “hands him the entire box”.
Therefore, Williams presents masculinity in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by revealing Stanley’s violent and animalistic nature as well as his desire to dominate and control in a domestic relationship.
Masculinity is further presented by Williams in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by highlighting the power struggle between the opposing sexes of male and female specifically in domestic relationships.
Stanley and Stella’s relationship is revealed to be an aggressive and violent relationship in the ‘Poker night’ scene. When Stanley ‘charges’ at Stella there is a ‘sound of a blow’ and Stella ‘cries out’. The use of violence by Stanley against Stella reveals the masculine, abusive nature of Stanley in their domestic relationship.
Not only is he physically violent but also psychologically abusive as seen by how Stanley calls for Stella after the fight “[with heaven-splitting violence] STELLL-AHHHH!”.
Not only does Stanley reveal his masculinity through the physical violence but also his desire to have Stella back is even more violent. His use of his abusive, masculine nature in their relationship is further highlighted when Stella talks about her wedding night saying, “Stanley smashed all the light—bulbs”.
The normal reality of domestic violence in Elysian Fields is further displayed by Steve and Eunice’s fight. Eunice shouts “you hit me! I’m gonna call the police” revealing the violent nature of Steve revealing his masculinity. The fact that Stella remarks that “Eunice seems to have some trouble with Steve” shows her carelessness about the situation due to its normality at Elysian Fields.
Furthermore, Mitch’s dismissal of Stanley’s abusive nature in his relationship with Stella when he says to Blanche “don’t take it seriously” revealing how the abusive and violent domestic relationship is seen as normal at Elysian Fields.
Masculinity is finally presented as the reason for destruction, specifically Blanche’s downfall and the destruction of the Old South. When Stanley attacks Stella it brings Blanche to near hysteria as she shouts ‘shrilly’ and ‘runs to the kitchen’. She is left terrified and describes Stanley’s violence as ‘Lunacy, absolute lunacy’.
Stanley’s masculinity also destroys Blanche both psychologically and physically as his rape of her is the ultimate symbol of male dominance. He pins her ‘inert figure”; to the bed suggesting that she has been left powerless in the face of Stanley’s masculinity evoking catharsis in the audience. The rape is the ultimate destruction of Blanche who represents a Southern Belle with her manners and appearance thus the destruction of the Old South by the new emerging south represented by Stanley.
He states “We had this date from the beginning” highlighting the tragic nature of the play as her downfall as well as the Old South’s downfall is inevitable due to the tragic genre of the play according to Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy. The rape removes all of Blanche’s fantasy as Stanley states “There is nothing but goddam imagination”. Therefore, the violence and masculinity of Stanley brings realism to the play.
Blanche is arguably an expressionist character due to her overly exaggerated/ flowery dialogues; thus, she is theatrically isolated as well as powerless due to her femininity. Mitch’s masculinity is also revealed by his attempt to rape Blanche by saying “What I’ve been missing all summer” and he also brings realism to Blanche by revealing that she is “not clean enough to bring in the house with [his] mother.” Thus, masculinity destroys Blanche’s hopes and illusions.
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