In A Streetcar named Desire, the American society has been explored in great depth on its social values post the Second World War. The frequent conflict between Blanche, a fired teacher and Stanley, her sister’s husband has been used to expose the status of the American society in terms of beliefs, values, character and perception of various ideologies within the context of a normal American family setting. The play delves much into defining America, who belongs to America and who does not, the beliefs that create America and the struggles of the characters used represent the struggles faced by the nation as a whole. In this paper, I will aim at revealing how the mentioned factors have been expressed in the play, occasionally juxtaposing the events with real life events in post World War II America. It is evident that the American society has undergone dynamic change since the war ended. Among the changes are cultural changes, changes in beliefs and values. In this essay, I will chronologically analyze the events in the scenes in relation to the aforementioned changes in the American society.
The issue of family conflicts within the American society has also been exposed. According to Stanley, Stella has been swindled out of her share of inherited property by her sister Blanche. He doubts what Blanche claims because she cannot produce the documents that support her stand that Belle Reve was taken from them. He is angry because according to the Napoleonic code, a woman’s property belongs to her husband and vice versa and hence in his opinion, Blanche has swindled him too. In the modern American society, property inheritance disputes have emerged many times where individuals have had to settle their cases in court after failing to reach a compromise or an agreement o how to share the wealth. Stanley states “It looks to me you have been swindled” (William, 19).
Domestic violence has also been addressed in the play. Stanley and Steve both beat their wives in the course of the play for no good reason. There erupts a fight upstairs between Steve and Eunice where she accuses him of infidelity with a certain blonde. Eunice opts to call the police after she is beaten up by Steve after their quarrel (William, 52). Stanley is also a violent husband to Stella. He orders both Blanche and Stella to shut up, during Blanche’s birthday party, because he is the leader of the house. In modern America, domestic violence has been on a consistent upward trajectory. Cases of divorce have increased significantly since the Second World War and since then, many marriages do not survive to their tenth anniversary.
Immorality is perhaps one of the most prominent themes in the play. Social decay in post World War II America has been on the rise as more people are being convicted of it in courts of law. Homosexuality is slowly being accepted in some states although it is unnatural and unreligious. Blanche reveals to Mitch of her gay boyfriend who eventually committed suicide after she rebuked him in the casino. She says that she loved him but she lost him (William, 70). Blanche also engages in many acts of sexual immorality. Stanley reveals at some point that she was so immoral that her house was declared “Out of Bounds” by soldiers in a nearby camp (William, 75). She also engages in sexual escapades with a seventeen year old boy who results with her getting fired from the school where she worked as a teacher (William, 75). In another scene, social evils are shown when a prostitute and a drunkard are observed to vanish from sight after the arrival of the police. Soon afterwards, a black lady comes and picks the prostitute’s purse with the aim of stealing its contents (William, 98). This shows that theft is also prevalent in modern America after the Second World War. Another instant of immorality and crime occurs when Stanley rapes Blanche when Stella is absent from home. This shows that the society is indeed morally decayed.
In conclusion, the play exposes some of the changes that occurred after the Second World War in America including changes in beliefs and values, the rise of social stratification, the advancement of immorality and crime among other factors which collectively outweigh the gains made as far as cultural advancement is concerned.
Tennessee William A Streetcar Named Desire New Directions Publishing, 2004. Web 22nd Feb 2014