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The Attitude to and Treatment of Women in A Streetcar Named Desire.

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Introduction

The Attitude to and Treatment of Women in A Streetcar Named Desire. In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams has a great deal to say about the r�le of, the function of and the attitude towards women, which tend to reflect not only the thoughts of people in Williams' society, but modern attitudes as well. Blanche and Stella are highly detailed characters, and one can sort Williams' development of them into six categories: their clothes and appearances; their personalities, including their flaws and weaknesses; the language used by the two women and how it differs from that of other characters; the treatment of the two women by the men in the play; their treatment of each other; and finally the conflicts that each of the women gets involved in. The last three categories may be examined as one, since the treatment of the women and their conflicts are almost the same thing. To start with, the most obvious way in which the women are portrayed is their appearance. This is perhaps the most important and effective method, at least early on, of establishing the personalities of characters in a play. Williams certainly seems to believe this: the stage directions for Blanche's entrance are explicit, and several fitting adjectives and adverbs are used: "delicate", "fluffy", and "daintily" are examples. ...read more.

Middle

As the play develops, one begins to think that Blanche is not a particularly kind person. She appears to be deceitful: she hides things from her sister, such as her drinking problem. She lies about her age. All of this seems to be for her own sake - to make her image seem better to other people. Her vanity governs her. She says to her sister, "You haven't said a word about my appearance". She is constantly bathing and changing clothes. She dislikes harsh light. Stella also keeps things from her sister. She hides the fact that she is pregnant; but whereas Blanche lies at the expense of her sister (for example, her age), Stella is deceitful for Blanche's sake. She says, "Don't mention the baby" because she wants to wait "until [Blanche] gets in a quieter condition". She even tells Stanley to be deceitful to Blanche ("Be sure to say something nice about her appearance"), because she knows what Blanche wants to hear. Obviously Stella cares for her sister immensely. She complies with her wishes by turning off the lights; she fetches lemon cokes for Blanche whenever she is asked; and when Stanley is talking rather loudly about just how he feels about Blanche, Stella says, frightened: "Hush! She'll hear you!" At the end of the day, Blanche is not like this at all. ...read more.

Conclusion

But it is unlikely that he treats her this way solely because she is a woman: otherwise one would see similar treatment of Stella and Eunice. It is likely that he resents her because she is of a higher class, and that she acts like it. She always pretends to be superior, and this angers Stanley because he knows the truth about her, or at least suspects something. When put this way, one can almost understand what Stanley feels. He hates to see someone in his apartment, deceiving his wife, and arguing with him. There is a constant struggle between Stanley and Blanche, and it is almost like a tournament with several rounds or stages. The "object" that is being fought over is Stella. During these fights, Stanley treats Blanche like a man with the things he says, but both his and her actions are very provocative. Stanley exerts his superiority by shouting loudly and moving close to Blanche, whereas Blanche flirts, doing such things as giggling, calling him names and spraying at him with perfume. This is a good tactic for Blanche, because it angers him more, but he is unsure of how to react. Nevertheless, Stanley always "wins" Stella, and he knows it: his evil grins at Blanche over Stella's shoulder just scream "I've won". But Stanley loves Stella fiercely. Theirs is a love that is passionate and very sexual. ...read more.

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