Example Of A Street Car Named Desire By Tennessee Williams Book Review

Published: 2021-07-06 07:45:05
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Category: Family, Thinking, Women, Love, Society, Marriage, Relationships, Husband

Type of paper: Essay

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The author, Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III, was an American writer that worked mainly as a playwright in the American theater. He also published novels, poetry, short stories, screenplays, essays, and a great volume of memoirs. He received most of the top theatrical awards for his works on the stage, with A Streetcar Named Desire receiving the great Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948. Up to date, he is considered among the best known classical writers in the American fields of theatre.
Most of the themes dominant his works (loneliness, desire, sickness, death, alcoholism, depression, etc) are mined from his own personal experiences. He was mostly left with the women folk, during his growing up years, and this affected his works. He was also a homosexual in during the enlightenment period, and his pains are also reflected in the works he produced. His own father’s character (as well as that of other hostile men of his childhood) is reflected in his irresponsible and wild male characters, such as Stanley Kowalski.
In the play ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ Stanley, Stella’s husband, is a male chauvinist. As is greatly evident in the text, he is a man unconcerned with the feelings of the women, proven by the harsh way in which he deals with the women around him, especially Stella, and Blanche, his wife’s sister. Maybe he is only following suit of what the greater society is doing against women. Maybe he is making these advancements on the opposite gender unconsciously. Yet still, his ill treatment of his wife could be interpreted as an only way to cope with the woman in the house. However, the greatly evident, easily accepted and even fought for notion of him is that he is chauvinistic.
Outwardly, someone might say of him as being brutal. Again it may as well be claimed that he is quite obsessed with his being male and goes ahead to celebrate this fact in a rather wild and ‘manly’ dealing with Stella and her sister. To him, man is superior. To him, woman is to serve man, and do so satisfactorily. To him again, woman is to be there to make man gratify his sexual desires. He justifies some of these biased and unfounded assumptions by referencing his actions to the Napoleonic law of Loiusiana, which puts into procession of a man his wife, as well as all that is owned by the wife.
A question a reader needs to ask himself even as he follows this discussion is: are the patriarchal beliefs held by Stanley justified in the society? Can we reach a point and generate a thought that language has been commoditized by some unseen forces in the society, to be manipulated on the benefit of specific individuals? If these questions are just too big to answer at this stage, maybe it gives more reason for one to travel within the realms of this paper and unfold the underlying truths.
[1] From the start, what we can generally say of Stanley basing on his chauvinistic character and great celebration of the fact that he is a man, and that a man should ever enjoy from the superiority complex created by the male-controlled society. He is a man wildly consumed in a strong physical sexual relationship. This relationship is only determined to gratify his sexual desires apart from which we do not see any love.
The problem is not in the physicality of the relationship, the problem is in the low esteem with which he holds women. He seems to be a believer in the ideological philosophy of male supremacy and domination. [2] With justification from the Napoleonic law of Loiusiana, he says ‘…anything that belongs to a wife also belongs to the husband . . . .’
[3] As anybody else would interpret, the word ‘‘husband’’ literally denotes to the male partner in a marriage. It refers to the spouse who takes the manly roles in a marriage, and who, in turn, shall be called ‘father,’ by the offspring, if any. It is the man of the house, although nowadays, with support from the Queer Theories, lesbianism and homosexuality have come to change these early views. (But we shall not concern ourselves with these, at least not at the moment). In all, as said by the Oxford Learners’ Dictionary, it refers to the man to whom a woman is married.
However, Stanley’s perception of the word ‘‘husband’’ here might not imply the denotative meaning the present day person can possess. The world has undergone and embraced rapid change under the great works of the feminist philosophical movements. To him, ‘‘husband’’ is the sole owner of marital authority. He is the dictator in the marriage above whom there is no other law. His perception of the word ‘husband’ seems to be that he is that disciplinarian, that one and only one who brings the whole house under law and order.
The understanding of this word, to Stanley, seems to have deep founded roots in the community. This is evidenced the fact that even Stella as well as their upstairs neighbors (Eunice and her husband) have accepted gender positioning of the man versus the woman. The women are constantly being battered within and without marriages, even Blanche seems to have been dumped by a man in a hotel, and is later seduced by Stanley regardless of their Stella relation. We can therefore lift the blame from Stanley, for it is not his fault (if actually it is a fault) but that of the entire society reflected in him unconsciously.
Stanley, therefore, as depicted in the above argument, uses the word ‘husband’ selectively to raise his position to that above the woman. He uses it to establish his rather physical contention, and social rule over Stella and anyone else in the household.
[4] Contextually, the argument in which the word is said erupts after Stanley feels he has been fooled by Stella, that Stella is hiding other parts of herself from him. It occurs in the first ever interaction between him and his sister in law, Blanche. Of Stella, Blanche has just told Stanley that they have lost the Belle Rene property. Genuinely, even Stella herself has been unaware of this fact all along, and Stanley’s arguments seem more far fetched.
Here, then, the word ‘husband’ is key and prime to the overall understanding of not only the chapter, but also the whole text. It helps us understand the traits of the other characters, including, apart from Stanley, his wife Stella, his sister in law, Blanche, and the Eunice’s family, the next door neighbors who live upstairs.
First, we get to know the prevailing ideology prevalent in this community. The society is patriarchal in structure and thought. Basically, a man should be viewed as the sole pillar of the house, with the wife being perceived as a mere subordinate, just an ‘assistant.’ Here, however, Stanley is interfering with the affairs of not only his wife but also nosing into the privacy of Blanche, his sister-in-law, something for which he has no right. Being a man and they being women, he does not even feel the slightest of instincts against what he is saying nor doing to them. Because no one attempts to reproach him, not at least directly at this moment, we understand that the women are submissive to this idea and entertain it. Stella, even after a beating comes back home for the night, something which Blanche later views as abnormal. Therefore, in this context, the word highlights the accepted patriarchy in the community.
Secondly, the contextual implication of this word is that it helps realize the traits of the characters. We get to know that Stanley is a chauvinist. After reading the other sections of the play, we even find this chauvinism in the character of Stella as well, a fact that upon which scholars can conjure enough of a discussion. However, her chauvinism is the acceptance and working with the women-demeaning patriarchal ideas without question, something Stella does perfectly. And so are the neighbors, Eunice and her ‘husband’.
This excerpt also helps to highlight the fact that Stanley is a man of airs. He carries himself around, pointing out at what he is. Ironically, what he makes out of himself for the public are the natural gifts over which he has no precedence. For instance, was it within his ability that he found himself masculine? No. his being male, which he really brags about, has nothing to do with his personal competence. His job, for instance, which we could say is his personal achievement, is not that good, and so he does not carry much airs about it.
[5] The word, ‘husband’ here has been used by Stanley to render his wife inferior, basing on the rules of Napoleon. However, one question that needs to arise is: who is giving these gender roles and responsibilities. Who has said that everything that belongs to a wife as well belongs to the man? This, in the sober mind, is a claim based on false masculine desires to undermine their female counterparts. And if the statement were true, who defines what the word ‘husband’ means? Husband could as well refer to the woman, and the man to be called ‘wife’ thus reversing the whole idea of male dominance. This is revealed in the author’s later life as a homosexual.
Secondly, the term is used to molest women, and unless its linguistic implication, it shall forever be use by en to depreciate the value of women. As noticed here, Stanley used his position as husband to beat up his wife, intrude into his private life and inflict other wrong doings, all in the name of ‘husband.’ Therefore, unless the world undergoes a major change in the construction and interpretation of gender defining words like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ there shall be continued manipulation of women by the men. Critically looking into the whole scenario, we do not see any reason whatsoever that Stanley, the husband should be up and above his female spouse in the house.
However, and this third argument comes from a philosophical perspective, there need be no negativity attached to the word as spoken by Stanley. Arguably, Ferdinand de Saussure, a French philosopher, talks of the signifier and the signified, as lately taken by today’s literary studies. Here, it does not matter the speaker’s intention since we, the listeners, the audience, are the ones with the ultimate power to ascribe meaning to the word, be it bad or good.
The highlighting of Napoleon, a ruler who is mentioned much in the histories of war, is another ideological state apparatus in action, as Althusser would rightly put it. Being mentioned alongside the physically brutal understanding of ‘husband’, the word unconsciously instills more fear, perhaps more than the intended level. Now that he gets no proper opportunity to attack the women physically, he marches to the bedroom, extracts Blanche’s dresses, and while still obliviously traversing her privacy rights, begins howling accusations against Blanche, evidently in anticipation of a quarrel, which he fails to get.
Again, the word ‘husband’ is used as a strong carrier of ideology, and only that. When said, one need not add his expectations from uttering it, as it is presumed that the contextual understanding the listeners have attained from the society will fill in the blank. It is needless for one to say that he needs respect and a kingly treatment. It is unimportant to add that the women around should not only know but as well understand, that in the vicinity is a man, a ruler.
The house also receives male guests. If we go by the patriarchal nature of the society, all men therefore can be treated equally. However, when he refers to himself as the ‘husband’, Stanley is also cutting himself off from the other men. He is seeking to attain a higher degree of autocracy, now that he is the ‘king’ and ‘ruler’ in his territory, the house.
‘Husband’ as well makes Stanley feel as the initiator of all within the social context. Maybe that is why he latter ends up in a sexual relationship with his very sister in law, not by accident, but calculatedly. Even in knowledge, he feels he should have known of the Belle Rene incident earlier than Stella, and it is this primitive jealousy that infuriates him and leads to his messing up the otherwise good social mood in the house.
[6] What subconscious implications does the passage pose to the consumer of this work? As briefly highlighted above, the word ‘husband’ aims to point at other societal structures, both direct as well as indirect, to greatly undermine the women fraction of the society. Why doesn’t he use a word like ‘spouse,’ or ‘partner,’ which tenderly apply to the same marital position we needed to be created here? Why doesn’t he refer himself to her as being the ‘lover’ a word which could soften the situation and brought much love to the scene?
First, to address the second question, Stella is never by any chance a ‘lover’ in the eyes of Stanley. According to the way he later handles her, alongside other women, we get to know that Stanley is only in the marriage for sexual gratification. Otherwise, in chapter three, why does he, after chasing her away, start weeping immediately the friends leave? If she is the bad character that he makes us think of her as being, why hasn’t he proposed for a divorce, now that one cannot live with a person with whom he gets no reciprocation of what he gives? He is frightened by the fact that he shall end up celibate in the marital bed, to sleep alone, without sex, and perhaps, with no one to beat up. Now that his sexual partner (not lover) is out, he gets out calling after her. Ironically, the wife comes back, implying even the more that she is a submissive sex rag.
Secondly, ‘husband’ is a word present day feminists would want deleted from the dictionaries because of the unconscious extensions it implies in the mind. It creates an identity, the identity of superiority. It lowers the status of the ‘other’ person, the other sex, taking the other as a second grade, an otherwise inferior person. In a normal house setting, when one hears that a partner has beaten the other in the house, it is automatically thought of the violent partner as the ‘husband’. Therefore, Stanley is threatening his household, indirectly, that unless they behave in the manner he wants, he is going to do anything, including the seeking of Napoleonic justification, to ensure they obey his commands and meet his demands.
Thirdly, the word husband is used here with an unconscious foundation in the author’s early life. He was brought up in a family where the father was brutal and always causing pain on the wife. As a result, the author developed a strange repelling towards the attitudes his father had for his mother. Taking this into consideration, Stanley here then refers to the ideal man the author met in his early life; the hard harshness with which men treated their spouses in the world outside the play. Stanley sternly treats the women around him with this harshness. Having grown up with his passionate sister, mother and female house help, Williams identifies with women and tries hard to hit back on their behalf. Critics would claim that this feeling is what later makes him homosexual; fearing to be the ‘ideal’ husband whose identity would be beating women. Stanley, here, represents the chauvinistic males that happened in the life of the author.
[7]In view of the text, the word ‘husband’ has both a positive as well as a negative implication attached. On the positive side, it implies that Stanley is acknowledging his matrimonial roles and responsibilities. Much as we might want to accuse him of not fulfilling his expected roles, does Stella demand anything which is not given in return? If any, the unmet requests are quite minimal. On the contrary, he takes Stella out to the sporting club, to the partying club, etc, thus proving his being ‘husband’.
On the other hand, however, the word ‘‘husband’’ as used here and in the other part of the play portrays a negativity aspect in that, on the whole, it demeans the woman. It positions the womenfolk as the lesser beings in the society. For why should this Napoleonic rule be stated the other way round? Why create such gender disparities when the traits of the two parties are scientifically similar, except for the sex defining organs? It is therefore used as a hindrance to women emancipation from the cocoons of patriarchy.
Another way in which the word ‘husband’ may be put on the negative side of the world is based of the fact that it reminds the brain of marriage. Ideally, marriage is a kind of slavery, simply explained by the fact that an unmarried person does not behave equally as the married one. It is used to tell the woman, as for the present context, that she is not just any other woman but a woman owned by the husband should not conduct her affairs in any other manner but as directed by the husband. This ends up putting a lock on the woman’s mouth, and she becomes like a speechless robot driven around by her husband.
We could refer the meaning of ‘‘husband’,’ for instance, to the man in the earliest marriage on earth, that between Adam and Eve, where ‘‘husband’’ was such a sweet word referring to not only love and compassion towards the wife but also sole responsibility over the whole homestead. The word, therefore, is innocent of all the meanings that might find themselves onto it. This thought will sometimes put the reader in the position as to carry the cross whenever he comes up with an interpretation that puts the utterance in the negativity in meaning.
Conclusion
On the whole, as a concluding thought, Stanley’s character in male chauvinism takes a greater part of the play, giving rise to the key theme of gender bias. His later actions in the play, including wife beating, as well as taking of Blanche into her sister’s marital bed in turn shows the low esteem with which he holds women.
However, the concluding of such a work as this cannot go without critically assessing the issue of gender chauvinism and its resultant violence. Now that even the feminist philosophers like Julia Kristeva and Judith butler say that gender is a social construction, are we justified to blame Stanley, who has been ‘socialized’ into this culture. Again, we also need to ask ourselves, is there actually anything bad in the way Stanley treats the women, now that even the women themselves, including his very wife, do not complain of it but go ahead to render their men innocent? It is maybe to be left to the thinkers to think of this.
When we think of these two, so shall we judge Stanley on neutral grounds.
Key
1. Topic sentence
5. Conscious discussion
2. Passage (sentence)
6. Subconscious discussion
3. Translation
7. Text view
4. Context
References
Tennessee Williams, (1947). A Street Car Named Desire. Heinemann Publishers. New York City

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