Gender Stereotypes in The Play “A Streetcar Named Desire” By Tennessee Williams
An imbedded concept, widely agreed to about the behavioral patterns of certain types of individuals, intended to be symbolic of an entire group of those individuals or behaviors as a whole is known to us as a Stereotype. To simplify and categorize a variety of human beings and objects we use stereotypes, often miscarrying the idea of one’s individualistic nature and tend to overlap between certain groups. The biological constituent remains one of the major factors in the fabrication of a stance such as that of a “man’s” or a “woman’s” job in the society. This element tends to have made the existing society where women are supposedly weaker whereas men are tougher, women belong in the kitchen whereas men should and can pursue physical labor. These stereotypical duties are inflicted upon each gender of majority of the cultures since eons and have proliferated through the literary milieu. The standards of middle and upper class women in the 18th and 19th century, in contrast with men, were set to be loyal to only the domestic world of “hearth and home” carrying out the role of daughters, sisters, wives and mothers solicitous of fathers, brothers, husbands and children. Further on, women were supposed to refrain from keeping tenacious sexual desires and opinions as against to the men who were viewed as their ‘guardians’. These standards imposed predispositions upon predominant factors such as those of education, time and financial support which seems to have had impact over participation in the world of literature as a writer. Hence, throughout history men seem to have created what is now known to us as gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes, the embellished, one sided representation of men and women, exploited repetitively in our everyday lives seem to be instrumental in most of literary works. These works almost always support the argument of the typical gender roles which incorporate women attending to the nurturing of her children whereas men carrying out the role of breadwinners.
In the play A streetcar Named Desire written by Tennessee Williams, a classic play set in the 1940’s in New Orleans subsequent to World War II, displays the vulnerable Blanche DuBois through gender stereotypes. This is due to her constant and unceasing ‘desire’ for a man which further on in the play leads her into a chaotic and catastrophic ending which she weaves for herself. The play explores the theme of sexual revelation through stereotypical characterization of the protagonists- Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski.
Characterization, commonly known as a method deployed by playwrights in literature to give prominence to and unfold the details about a character is very evidently present in Williams work through a concept he invented, namely “Plastic Theatre”. “I don’t want realism. I want magic.” The very essence of this line in the play spoken by Blanche DuBois defines the term Plastic Theatre. A term relying profoundly on expressionism and symbolism of a character, further characterized through the alleged ‘production elements’ of light, sound, props and staging. Plastic Theatre was unorthodox and dissimilar to the theatre performed in the late 19th and 20th century of the European Artists. This distinction led Williams to use plastic theatre as a way of conveying the grotesque and absurd realities of life to the audience, disavowing the concept of realism. This form of theatre further enabled him to use the plasticity of production elements to be in congruence with his poetic vision in order to acquire a diverse and in depth response from the audience to his versatile dramatic exposition. Hence, in A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams employs Plastic Theatre to characterize the characters, further creating conflict between romanticism and realism to explore the theme of sexual revelation through gender stereotyping. Williams does this in order to make the audience cognizant of female sexuality and the society that they had been brought up in.
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