Tennessee Williams was a gay man, he felt extremely

Tennessee Williams: Uncovering Truth About Female Oppression A Street Car Named Desire, a play written by Tennessee Williams, leads its readers down a road of uncertainty and twisted morale. The main character, Blanche, can be viewed from many standpoints. Her character leaves the reader wondering if she is a victim of circumstance who should be pitied, or a mentally unstable, promiscuous woman who should be damned by the consequences of her actions. Stella, the good wife, is portrayed as the classic face of submission. The female characters in Williams’ play are diverse and reinforce the unfortunate truth concerning the suppressed lifestyle that many women were forced to live during that era. Tennessee Williams’ views concerning women are hidden within the plot and are a result of his own life experiences. Blanche’s character is the most prominent of the two women, though Stella’s character is used to contrast Blanche’s waywardness by modeling the typical behavior expected of a woman in the 1940’s.  Through analyzing the sisters’ dependency on men, Blanche’s far-fetched fantasies about southern gentlemen and Blanche’s materialistic thoughts, we can easily see that Williams felt sympathy for these women as well as disgrace concerning societal expectations.  Tennessee Williams was not the stereotypical male of the 1940’s. He had no interest in the fighting in the war and spent his days struggling as a playwright. But even more surprisingly, he was a homosexual. During the 1940’s the idea of homosexuality was foreign to most, resulting in no desire to publicize his sexual orientation. This gave Williams an inside look at the female thought process that the average man would not understand. Leavitt stated, “Since Williams was a gay man, he felt extremely sensitive to the oppression women faced…powerless with no voice” (2011). Streetcar is a play focused mostly on females, therefore the main character, Blanche, is the predominant voice used to relay the message. Being that the females in his play are dependent on a male for most everything, we can see where this may be a reflection of Williams’ own desire for male companionship. Some criticize Williams’ portrayal of women as being one-sided and harsh; though his play accurately depicts the hardships females faced. He was able to convey his message using his own sexuality and experiences to relate to his characters. Both Blanche and Stella lacked independence. Williams made it clear that the female heart longed for a husband to complete it, making companionship the ultimate goal to be achieved. Colin wrote “Western films made women out to be one of three things – a homemaker, a child bearer or a slut. Stella was the domesticated one, a mother and a submissive wife, however Blanche was neither of the two.” (2007). The outcome for each woman supports this idea. Since Blanche was not a homemaker or a mother, she did not fit in with everyone else, which ultimately led to her mental downfall. Opposite of Blanche, Stella had a family and something to work for each day. Because of this, Stella was accepted by society. Disputably, the sisters desire the same ideals: Stella is attracted to Stanley who is the epitome of the modern American man, while Blanche looks for a replacement in Shep after Alan’s death. It could be said that Williams is portraying the message that women need men to survive, yet we see that even though she is married, Stella is questionably no better off than Blanche as she screams, “I want to go away!” multiple times. Her idea of ‘away’ seems to be anywhere where Stanley is not and we can see her desperate tone through her repetition. Stella is unable to hide behind the mask anymore and falls victim to the reality of her circumstances. The dependency Blanche and Stella have on men brings them nothing but heartache and trouble. Though in a twist of irony, after finally giving up hope on the male gender, the Doctor demonstrates compassion towards Blanche. Williams is signifying that when a woman fully depends on a man, she is not free. However, when a woman is self-reliant, she has no one to answer to and gains the liberty she deserves. Blanche’s personality prominently illustrates her dependence on men, as she fantasizes of a Southern gentleman with more traditional (and oppressive) values. Yet, Williams gives Blanche a spirited and stubborn attitude – the opposite of the powerless doormat that feminist critics suggest. Furthering the thoughts of feminist criticism, Thomieres notes, “Blanche subconsciously welcomes the violence that destroys her.” (2012). This idea was taken from the rape scene, “Tiger! Tiger! Drop the bottle top!” We have had this date from the beginning!” (Baym, 2012). The use of the word “Tiger” demonstrates that Blanche had a fierce and animal-like nature – not the qualities of a typical victim of rape. The vagueness about the word “date” shows that Stanley planned his actions and did not see his domination as an abusive act. Stanley perceives Blanche not as victim, but as an opponent whom he challenges with the desire to win as the dominant male. His sexual advances did not stem from lust. Some could argue that Blanche is to blame for her eventual downfall. Williams is proving his respect for females by treating Blanche’s character as an equal. Others, such as Fisher proposed a different view, “Most of Williams’ characters are women…Many have claimed that his characters are just a projection of his own personal and social issues” (1995). This notion can be partly supported by his depiction of Blanche, whom the feminist critics describe as a “homosexual drag queen”(Geis, 2002). Before he began writing, Williams worked in a shoe factory and enjoyed the same freedoms as the average male; but having witnessed sexual abuse towards females earlier in his life, he found that he carried around the sense of shame that those women did. Tennessee Williams’ felt sympathy towards women overall and felt no prejudice towards them, however he used his own experiences to create Blanche, a character representing all of what he had witnessed.  Williams also conveyed his views about women through Blanche’s materialistic personality. Her insatiable need for male attention was one of the most prominent traits that she displayed. In the play, Williams uses the lantern to symbolize her past. When her husband passed away, her light was snuffed out. Drobot suggests that “Blanche used male attention to boost her self-worth which meant that she often engaged in sexual encounters to appease the man.”(2012). We can see evidence of this truth in the play that reads, “After Alan’s death, intimacy with a stranger was all I could seem to fill my heart with,” (Baym, 2012). Using the description of her heart further proves the pain she felt after her husband’s death and her fear of being alone. When Williams outlines Blanche’s detestation of bright light, it could be said that he is stressing the repercussions of a promiscuous nature, as her downfall was a consequence of multiple sexual encounters. This may not have been the message Williams was trying send, however the sixth scene gives proof to this point. During this scene, we know that Mitch is aware of Blanche’s desires and sexual history when begins to make advances towards her. He is prematurely stopped by Blanche saying, “Unhand me!”, proving her blatant refusal to engage with him in that manner. Blanche’s sexual history was a direct result of Alan’s passing. Williams is not relaying the idea that Blanche is an immoral woman, rather he is highlighting the fact that her promiscuous ways signify her desperate need for acceptance and love. To conclude, the manner which Williams portrays women in A Streetcar Named Desire is surprisingly positive when one considers the playwright’s motives and past experiences. Blanche and Stella’s desire to depend on a man for everything was a direct result of societal norms. Oddly, Williams does not support the notion of a woman relying wholly on a man. In fact, Blanche’s downfall was used to illustrate the consequences of such dependence. Williams’ sexual orientation linked him together with Blanche’s character, as he identified with her struggle. Blanche was a representation of the power that women were beginning to obtain during this era – even though Stanley raped her, she was still a challenge to oppose. Lastly, Blanche’s overt sexual behavior would appear sinful to any audience, especially at the time the play was written, however, we can see that Williams truly understood Blanche’s motives. Tennessee Williams skillfully crafted A Streetcar Named Desire using his own experiences as well as a deep understanding of the female mind. On the surface, his work may seem harsh and critical; but if we pay attention to the subtle hints and painfully accurate portrayals, we can see that his purpose was to shine a light on the unfair treatment of women – not support it.Works Cited Anthology of American Literature Vol 2 e. New York: W.W, Norton and Company, 2012. 79-97. Print.Drobot, Irina-Ana. “Perception of Reality in a Streetcar Named Desire.” Scientific Journal of Humanistic Studies, vol. 4, no. 7, Oct. 2012, pp. 153-156.Fisher, James. “‘The Angels of Fructification’: Tennessee Williams, Tony Kushner, and Images of Homosexuality on the American Stage.” The Mississippi Quarterly, no. 1, 1995, p. 13.Geis, Deborah R. “Deconstructing (A Streetcar Named) Desire: Gender Re-Citation in Belle Reprieve.” American Drama, no. 2, 2002, p. 21Kolin, Philip C. “Williams’s a Streetcar Named Desire.” The Explicator, no. 1, 2007, p. 34.Leavitt, Richard F. The World of Tennessee Williams. vol. Revised and updated, Hansen Publishing Group, 2011.Thomieres, Daniel. “Tennessee Williams and the Two Streetcars.” The Midwest Quarterly, no. 4, 2012, p. 374.