Examine the Construction of Masculinity in a Streetcar Named Desire
In both A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman there is a male figure at the head of both families who assert and express their masculinity in quite dissimilar ways. Referring to the screen adaptations of both plays, Stanley Kowalski is a strong, aggressive and forthright individual whereas Willy Loman through stature as well as speech is a bumbling, weak and nervous fool, driven by his own delusions.
As well as through the male protagonists, the construction of masculinity occurs through the women of the play, and how they act towards the men in both productions, as stated through Arthur Miller’s initial stage directions about Linda (Willy’s wife) ‘she more than loves him, she admires him’. Likewise with Stella and Stanley, after he attacks her (seen through stage directions ‘There is a sound of a blow. Stella cried out) ‘her eyes go blind with tenderness as she catches his head and raises him level with her’.
Suffice to say, Stanley and Willy’s respective spouses love them unconditionally and this is certainly an integral contributory factor when considering the theme of masculinity in the plays. This essay will pay particular focus to the issue of money that is a recurring theme and certainly influences the construction of masculinity. Furthermore, a close look at the stage directions will be explored as well as the social, political and economic contexts in which both plays were constructed.
Fundamentally, A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman are two very different plays set in geographically as well as socially dissimilar environments. With regards to masculinity, Arthur Miller wastes no time in depicting Willy Loman as a foolish and delusional old man who is, albeit with futility, constantly pacified by his wife.
Focussing on Willy, money is central to the shaping of his masculinity, and owing to the fact that he is clearly struggling financially, his masculinity is left in tatters. His exhaustion is apparent’ is how he is initially described by Miller in his stage directions, whereas Stan Kowalski is the polar opposite and arguably expresses his masculinity in the most primitive way at the end at the of Scene X, “Oh! So you want some rough-house! All right, let’s have some rough house! ” Although Stanley and Stella live in the relatively dilapidated surroundings of Elysian Fields, Stanley doesn’t appear to be shackled by debt and it is inconsequential for Stella to