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A Major Subject Or Theme Of Tennessee Williams' Plays Is Human Sexuality In Its Various Aspects. Discuss With Reference To A Streetcar Named Desire

2749 words - 11 pages

A Streetcar Named Desire conforms to the expectation that a major theme of Williams' plays is that of human sexuality. Various aspects of human sexuality are explored through the diversity and complexity of the characters. Whilst Stanley Kowalski epitomises masculinity through his primal strength and power, and the increasingly fragile Blanche DuBois attempts to cling to the feminine role of the Southern Belle, these are only aspects of their characters. The fact that their relationship is one of conflict, is representative of their worldviews. However, to reduce A Streetcar Named Desire to the level of mere 'battle of the sexes' would be too simplistic and does the play an injustice by ...view middle of the document...

From our earliest encounter with Blanche, we are made quickly aware of her preoccupation with 'appearance'. Initially this focuses on the appearance of Stella's home, "this horrible place" (120), which compares so negatively when contrasted with the ancestral home of Belle Reve. However, Blanche's real preoccupation soon becomes evident as she chides Stella for failing to say a word about her appearance (122):You see I still have that awful vanity about my looks even now that my looks are slipping! (123).The fact that she 'laughs nervously' whilst looking to Stella for 'reassurance' indicates Blanche's insecurity. All that has been familiar in Blanche's world has changed, and now that age is changing her personal appearance, her insecurities are heightened. However, the dialogue between the sisters evokes a sense of ritual wherein Blanche seeks approval and Stella responds "dutifully" (123) suggesting that Blanche's insecurities are deep rooted and precede the advent of age. As Stella instructs Stanley:...admire her dress and tell her she's looking wonderful. That's important with Blanche. Her little weakness! (132).This is a constant motif throughout the play and Blanche's 'little weakness' reflects the fact that her sense of self-identity needs constant bolstering, especially now that her youth has passed by. It also reinforces the notion of Blanche as adopting a role and the necessity, as with any act, for an audience, preferably a sympathetic one. For Blanche an audience is necessary to enable her to perpetuate her constructed self-image. Compliments and constant reassurance are required to maintain the role she has adopted; it is therefore necessary for her 'audience' to constantly appreciate her 'performance'.When considering Blanche's behaviour with others, we find that she is most desperate to impress her male audience, and it is at such times that she feels the need to rely heavily on her female sexuality. Indeed, the persona that she has adopted is aimed at attracting male attention rather than female sympathy. This becomes apparent through a conversation with Stella wherein Blanche describes her discussion with Stanley regarding the fate of Belle Reve:I feel a bit shaky, but I think I handled it nicely. I laughed and treated it all as a joke, called him a little boy and laughed - and flirted! Yes - I was flirting with your husband Stella! (141).Blanche seems unable, or at least unwilling, to disregard this persona when dealing with men. Such behaviour has become habitual, a fact that becomes increasingly obvious in her relationship with Mitch. After a date together, and despite the fact that Blanche did not enjoy the evening, she still behaves in a manner in which she believes she is obliged to do. As she explains:I was just obeying the law of nature...The one that says the lady must entertain the gentleman - or no dice! (175).Blanche certainly understands how to use her sexuality, but she is not driven by her sexuality in the sense of...

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