The Theme Of Desire In A Streetcar Named Desire By Tennessee Williams

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Williams is clearly writing in a time of fixed gender roles, this is evident through Stanley’s brutal, bestial and wild behaviour. William’s uses the simile of Stanley being “like an animal” combined with anaphora to exaggerate how he “eats like one, moves like one, talks like one!”(p.47) Further identifying how Blanche feels threatened by Stanley’s presence as he is portrayed as being a predator. In some aspects Stanley may be compared to that of the Wolf however, it seems as though the relationship between Stanley and Blanche in comparison to that of the Wolf and Little Red Cap has been reversed in regards to the gender roles. As Duffy demonstrates female power through the turning point in stanza seven “one chop, scrotum to throat”, echoing the wolf’s “one bite”, it is clear that the dynamics have shifted and the girl is now attempting to gain her freedom. Directly referencing female assertive and emasculation of a man; the scrotum contains the testicles where sperm is produced further destroying the wolf’s sexual power combined with the reference to his throat making him unable to have a voice. 

Here Red cap is dominant, achieving rights which women have fought for many years such as; their own voice and sexuality. Duffy concludes the poem with the girl “singing, all alone”, establishing that she has finally found her own voice whilst also being able to gain her individuality. Duffy may also be touching upon her past relationship with thirty-nine-year-old Adrian Henri, with only being sixteen when she met him which quickened the pace of her relationship. In comparison, Williams ends his morality play with Stanley tearing the paper lantern “off the light bulb, and extends it towards her. [Blanche] cries as if the lantern was herself.”(p.105) This final action emphasises Stanley’s victory over Blanche. This simile further implies that Blanche is finally stripped from her dreams and left exposed to the harsh reality as Stanley regains his authority. Blanche’s hamartia is her dependence on dominant figures, she is deeply affected by the loss of her husband Allan who committed suicide, he is described as having “a softness and tenderness which wasn’t like a man’s.”(p.66) Homosexuality is clearly a stand in Williams’ work but never the central theme, this euphemism portrays how it was illegal and not widely accepted to a contemporary audience. Duffy also portrays this sense of loss alongside the expiration of love in the dramatic monologue of ‘Mrs Lazarus’, following a female perspective on Lazarus’ resurrection. The poem begins in the past pluperfect tense “I had grieved.” Representing the true aspect of the biblical grieving as she battles through the pain, loneliness and hope. In contrast, Blanche struggles to deal with the guilt of Allan’s death, Williams uses the motif of the Polka music which is “in her mind; she is drinking to escape it.”(p.83) This music appears when Blanche is confronted with the past or truth and reminds her of the last night she spent with Allan. Blanche uses alcohol as a temporary amnesia and desire to escape reality in order to block out the polka music which constantly haunts her. Similarly, in Duffy’s poem the speaker attempts to complete herself after the absence of her husband and “noosed the double knot of a tie around my bare neck”, almost as though she is filling his role as man in the house by wearing his ties. The adjective “bare” portrays vulnerability much like Blanche alongside, Duffy’s language subtly suggests a thought of suicide. 

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Although, unlike Blanche’s inner conflict, the speaker of ‘Mrs Lazarus’ does not allow the death of her husband to consume her as she learns to live without him and independently therefore, when he comes back she ironically refers to him as being “out of his time.” In ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, the relationship between Mitch and Blanche is formed through desperation rather than love, whilst their characters are both completely opposed they are connected by desire. H. Sambrook states that ‘Mitch is shy, clumsy, slow thinking and he acts as a foil to the shrewd, loud and domineering Stanley.’ However, once Blanche’s truth is revealed Mitch says how Blanche is “not clean enough to bring in the house with [his] mother.” On one hand this expresses his love and respect for his mother and on the other, it also reinforces the traditional male attitudes towards women’s sexuality. Also following a sense of dramatic irony as we know Blanche has been bathing throughout the play as a way to escape reality, alongside Williams use of the biblical allusion of Blanche washing her sins and becoming cleansed. 

Similarly, Duffy portrays this sense of desperation to find true love in her poem ‘Eurydice’ which follows the colloquial tone as Eurydice refuses to go back into the world with Orpheus. The sudden direct address of “Girls, I was dead and down” immediately grabs the reader and allows us to hear this story from the female’s perspective. Duffy highlights the speaker’s desire to be her own individual and not be named “Orpheus’ wife” with the possessive apostrophe indicating her oppression to being labelled as someone else. Unwilling to be “trapped in his images,” further challenges the stereotypical view that women search for security within a marriage. By rewriting this myth Duffy is filing the gap between a man’s story and a female’s version subverting the idea of Eurydice being in control of her own fate now that she has been freed from her husband. Similarly, Blanche’s manipulative personality makes her in control throughout her relationship with Mitch and it is clear that she is the dominating force whilst further displaying the clear distinction between the upper and lower-class societies. Overall, both texts establish the conflict men and women both face within their relationships in addition to the social class and judgement from society which further causes complications. Duffy projects a women’s voice within a relationship and contradicts the social standard of how females should act in society. Williams presents powerlessness within the female characters who often hide behind a wall of lies as he writes through an evident gender struggle. Both writers create a feeling sympathy for those who go unheard and allow us to understand the importance of hearing both sides to every story.  

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