Cultural influences have always had an impact on the present times societal structure & gender roles, throughout history. The 1900’s was a time of both American accomplishments and failures. In the 1940’s the demand for theater acts and movie role playing for entertainment started to take root in the hearts and minds of locals. In “ A Streetcar Named Desire”, which was written and acted out through role play in 1947. Where the script goes on to prove just how much everyday societal rules and adaptations effect cultural entertainment and how gender role playing actors interact with each other in films as opposed to present day life.
Just after the Great Depression, in the 1930’s, when the American economy was in an overflow and the industrial revolution was in its infant stages. However, although the economy might have been showing ever increasing signs of stability and growth, fear was in the heart of Americans. 1947 marked the beginning of the Cold War and Americans were feeling the pressure of an always changing and advanced world. To cope with these new societal standards and judgements, tradition was under fire. “ A Streetcar Named Desire’ took a shot at society and caused Americans to re evaluate women’s roles in a warring world dominated by power hungry nations.
Before 1947, and the play, women were looked at as promiscuous sex objects and a strict home wife. Being submissive to men or their husband of the house, who possessed a king like mentality. Women had little to no authority and did not serve as public servants such as mayor, or even on Congress. In New Orleans, especially, women were flaunted around on the arm of rich aristocrats, only to be for show with nothing presumbley viable to offer. Not even in conversation. Women never spoke about business, they mainly had the role of taking care of the house duties and the family while the man was the provider. Which still stands in todays society. But with “ A Streetcar Named Desire “ we see the gender roles break from tradition and portray women in a new light, as well as the way men perceive women. No longer judging the face value of the women. In the 1940’s women were expected to behave a certain way in public while with their husband if married. While others ran around in the local brothels, committing sin and adultery. The culture of New Orleans demanded women conform and submit much like Blanche, a main character from the play. Men could act in ways that women could not, and women would be chastised for things that men could not. In this traditional view of women, Blanche is an aggressive character who breaks that tradition. In the play she takes an assertive role, always fighting against Stanley’s authoritative figure and stance. Stella, another main character from the play, takes the role of the opposite force of Blanche. She is highly submissive, and whole heartedly embodies the southern New Orleanian tradition of being a man’s property. Which also held true in present day times of the reality in 1947. Women were judged based upon the man that they were able to marry. Men were viewed as superiors, so the higher the “class” of a man, the higher of “class” that women were allowed to be.
Stanley, and the man’s perception of society was to always be in domination of women. He was aggressive, fierce, malicious, and always asserted his authority as the head of the household. The gender role playing of how men were perceived was the exact adaptation to societal culture in reality. Where the man was able to be accepted for rambunctious behavior even, while women were ostracized and chastised for taking a position against a man; usually no matter the cause or reason. The 1940’s was a time of unfairness and offered very little protection for Southern women. Men were able to completely dominate in both reality and the way they were portrayed in the play.
Due to the harshness of societal rules and structure of the men having domination and control of women. A lot of them became so mentally weak that they believed, like Stella and Blanche that the only way to hold a proper place in society and have a decent life was to marry a man. Although Blanche stands up to authority in men, because of the intense cultural definitions she was still not able to break from that mindset. Wives became battered and beaten for defying their husbands; as in scene three, when stella was beaten by her drunk husband after a poker game. This caused women to marry not for love, but for social status instead. Because of her past Blanche becomes viewed as a scorned woman that is not fit to be taken as a wife. Through the sufferings of her past, this character starts evolves, breaking down slowly to the authority of Stanely. Where again we see, the lack of expression and care for women. Even experiencing a rough past or childhood, women were not allowed to speak up for themselves and often times weren’t offered the sympathy they deserved. Instead they would be chastised by the man, and possible humiliated much like Blanche was. Because Stanley held such a status of authority, the other characters insistently took Stanley’s word, instead of uplifting the woman to give her a different perception. Because Blanche constantly challenges Stanley, she is constantly insulted for not submitting. Blanche is almost a cliché in that she wants a traditional Southern marriage in the efforts of receiving adoration, appreciation, love and affection from a man without the traditional power struggle. This held true in the reality of it all, in a world in which the unfair treatment of women was noticed but because of Southern tradition society did nothing to morally correct the situation.
Being victimized as women, meant their flaws were focused on rather than the savage like behavior of men at times. Even as an educated woman, and a teacher, Blanche was still a social outcast according to Southern traditions. The hold of tradition is also the cause for Stella’s mutiny from Blanche’s mindset to accept the authority of a male, even though she was the sister of Blanche. This example encompasses just how strong of a cultural hold that traditional roles held over society and what kind of mental and emotional distress that women experienced. The gender roles between the play and society at that present time completely coincide. The play explored the oppressiveness of southern society, and the outcome of a victim’s façade due to a lifetime of inflicted mental and emotional pain. What women could not be in present reality during the 1940’s, Blanche embodied both the southern tradition and the freedom of expressiveness, in wanting to challenge the social norms to raise awareness. You even gain insight into the life of the playwright, Williams, in that he too possible suffered from the social norms of the 1940’s despite being a male.
In conclusion gender roles did not deviate from societal norms, and the playwrights almost perfect perception of those norms. He obviously wanted some sort of social reform in the way that he gave Blanche the audacity to be able to stand up to Stanley and challenge the males authority. But, at the same time she also wanted to be accepted by those social norms in search happiness. Which drove her to make immoraly wrong decisions which ultimately led to her failure of being able to overcome the mans role in society. Gender roles play a huge part in the development of society and culture as a whole. “ A Streetcar Named Desire” perfectly portrayed New Orleanian culture, and social roles of the two genders, while exploring a possibility of a woman gaining a position of power.