‘The play admires masculine power – but is also aware of its drawbacks.’
How far and in what ways do you agree with this view of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.
In ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, Williams expresses his admiration for masculine power through the character of Stanley; however, presents its drawbacks through his personality faults, as well as Mitch’s character. The idea of admiration suggests a certain worship towards the theme of masculinity, whereas the word ‘drawback’ signifies a downside or weakness within a topic or person. The playwright also conveys the concept of masculine power through the different roles of men and women in the post war period.
A way in which the play portrays admiration towards masculine power is through the character of Stanley Kowalski. He is portrayed as a symbol of masculine power and male dominance in the play: “Nothing belongs on the table but cards, chips and whiskey.” The firmness in is voice suggest the alpha-male of the poker party, as the strictness of his tone is indicated through the orderly structure of the statement. This is portrayed through the emphasis on Stanley’s physical body, being the epitome of masculinity: “He is of medium height, about five feet eight or nine, and strongly, compactly built.”. The image of his strength and muscly physique is proposed by the direct description. He is frequently mentioned by Williams stripping his shirt off, representing his sexual desire as a male: “My clothes’re stickin’ to me. Do you mind if I make myself comfortable? [He starts to remove his shirt.]”. The idea of presenting his masculine body through flirtatious commentary allows the audience to see his intentions and foreshadows his brute actions. Furthermore, the act of taking his shirt off immediately gives the impression that the question is rhetorical, as he shows no actual interest in Blanche’s answer, establish his position as head of the household with his masculinity. This links to the forcefulness of his clothing, as he dresses in bright, lurid colours, connecting Stanley’s masculinity to the ‘sub-human’: “Stanley, Steve, Mitch, and Pablo wear coloured shirts, solid blues, a purple, a red-and-white-check, a light green, and they are men at the peak of their physical manhood, as coarse and direct and powerful as the primary colours.” The vibrancy of the colours is described as an image of male power, as they are the most prominent. The recurring motif of undressing himself allows the modern and post-war period audiences to be reminded of his masculine physique, admiring its beauty. Although, the character of Mitch can present masculine features, for instance, he also permits the appreciation of physical attractiveness, since he too boasts verbally of his form: “A man with a heavy build has got to be careful of what he puts on him so he don’t look too clumsy.” His physical pride is evident through his knowledgeable language. This concept of corporal masculine beauty, in which can...