A poker to highlight the key gender divisions

A Streetcar Named Desire is a play which reflects the gender dynamics going on in America in the 1940s. This play focuses on the attitudes of post-war America, how it placed restrictions on women’s lives as well as how it constructs the concept of femininity and masculinity.Williams uses poker to highlight the key gender divisions through his cyclical structure. Poker is used at the beginningof the play, and more importantly at the end.  He starts the scene by reminding us of the night before as “the disastrous poker night” in the stage directions. This emphasises on the role that poker plays in Stanley and Stella’s lives and that their lives seem to revolve around it. By ending the play with men playing poker, this emphasises on how men dominate women as well as highlighting how women’s lives revolve around men.Williams uses the stage directions to implicitly show us the gender divide between characters. The stage directions go back and forth, from men to women. This is visually illustrated through the curtain divide also known as the ‘portieres ‘in the play, to create a visual split on the stage. The men take the kitchen while the women are in the bedroom.This would allow the audience to visually see the dramatic change in the moods between the two genders. Stella is arranging the dresses and has been “crying” while in contrastthe atmosphere in the kitchen is “raw”. William’s uses gender based semantics to highlight the stereotypical view of women being fragile and overly emotional, whilst contrasting Stella’s mood to the men’s “raw” mood in the kitchen. This helps emphasis on the gender stereotypes embedded in 1940s society.Williams also uses the way each gender interacts both physically and verbally to draw attention to the gender divide. We see that men use informal nonstandard English and a monosyllabic tone to communicate with each other. An example of this is during poker night when Stanley and Pablo interact with each other by using short incomplete sentences such as “two-” and “three- “. Although the audience don’t understand what they are communicating about, there is a clear understanding between them. Through the unfinished sentences, this shows the audience the familiarity and comfort that is felt when being around their own gender. This is juxtaposed with Stanley’s lack of interest and coldness to Blanche. This can be a reflection of his hostility foreverything that she represents and stands for and on a wider level represents the distrust New America has for Old America. In contrast with the men’s blunt and nonstandard English, the women have a very active and elaborate vocabulary as well as elements of name dropping. We see this when Blanche corrects Stella and Eunice by stating “its Della Robbia blue”. This highlights the fact that Blanche is a very educated woman and that an average woman would have never known that. This can also imply that Blanche identifies with the fading southern aristocrats and deliberately keeps her language formal to distance herself from ‘New America’ and Stanley.Throughout the play Williams embeds many animal imageriesto describe the men through other characters, such as the words “bull” and “pigs”. Williams uses animal imagery when describing Stanley to symbolise his lack of human empathytowards other characters. By describing Stanley as a “pig” this gives the audience an insight on Eunice and other female characters interpretation of Stanley’s masculinity and their distrust of men.The gender roles in this scene are very prominent through the expressionist stage directions. Williams uses Mitch’s soft character to contrast it with Stanley’s masculine character. We see this through stage directions when “Mitch’s arm supporting his cards sagged” and “ducks his head lower”, this gets Stanley to respond by being the dynamic opposite and “slaps” Mitch on the shoulder and “shoves” back his chair. Williams also uses these verbs to emphasise on Stanley’s masculine behaviour whilst also contrasting it with Mitch’s soft side. Mitch’s character is used to bring out the dark side of Stanley’s masculine power and serve to bridge the divide between Old and New America. Williams also hints about Stanley’s past role as a soldier through references such as “salerno”. This historical war reference is used to emphasise his manly triumphs and aggressive nature. Stanley’s history with war may explain hisviolent urges towards other characters. In the 2014 Young Vic performance, they tried to emphasised on Stanley’s past roleas a soldier. They had given the actor playing Stanley tattoos, whilst also adding a few lines to suggest he is a soldier who has just returned from Afghanistan.In contrast with the men, Williams uses very delicate words to describe women, such as “angel” or when Blanche “fingers” the grapes. By using Blanche’s delicate manners, and the words he used to describe women, this in creating a solid divide between the two genders. Men are presented as being aggressive by using words such as “shoves”, while women are presented as delicate and fragile. Not only is Blanche seen as physically fragile, but she also holds the role of a women suffering from a fragile mental state. This is highlighted through Williams’s methods of using plastic theatre such as “Varsouviana” music that rises only when Blanche enters. The “Varsouviana” music was played in the last moments when Blanches husband committed suicide. Since then the song would play whenever she felt guilty for her role in her husband’s death. However, the “Varsouviana” does not only symbolise Blanches guilt, but also her decent into fantasy.After the crisis, both genders have different ways of dealing with the events that just took place. The men go on playing poker, just as before, indifferent to what happened. On the other hand, Blanche “baths” just as she did throughout the whole play, perhaps this is because she is symbolically purifying herself after the crises. This emphasises on her to obsession to look young as well as pure. However, one of her main ways of dealing with the situation is to rely on men, in this case “Sheph Huntleigh”. This is ironic because men are the main reason for her downfall and suffering. Blanche’s last resort is contacting Sheph Huntleigh for financial support as it is her only and last possibility for survival. This highlights the fact that Blanche has no realistic conception of how to rescue and to look out for herself. This would ultimately lead to her downfall. This is also representative of women’s vulnerableposition in America. Similarly, to Blanche, Stella relies on love and would much rather believe in a man rather than her sister. She says “I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley”. This shows that Stella sees Stanley as a much more secure future than Blanche. Stella chooses to depend on love, and to have faith in a man instead of her sister. Both Blanche and Stella believe that male companions are their only means of achieving happiness, they therefore depend on men for support and a comfortable lifestyle.                                                                                             Williams uses Blanche as well as Stella’s dependence on men to expose and critique the treatment of women through the transition from Old America into New America. By the end of the play, Stanley is seen as a far from the ideal conception of manhood in the audience’s eyes. The play leaves the audience feeling very torn about the wider picture of society and its gender dynamics. This play was therefore made to challenge the audience’s worldview.