The theme of sexuality is one of the key ones in modern literature because of its controversy and its role in human life. The play Streetcar Named Desire bares a reference to this theme in its very name and explores it through male and female characters exploration. By introducing the sisters Blanche and Stella, the author presents two different types of female sexuality: the aggressive one and the submissive one.
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Stella, the younger sister, embodies an archetypal female femininity. She enjoys being in a passive position to her husband Stanly. She devoted herself totally to her family and refused from her dreams and wealthy life, which she used to have before. From the very beginning of the play, the traditional male-female relationships are demonstrated in the scene when Stanly brings meat for Stella to cook. However, she is not just a housewife; she has her special ways to express sexuality, which actually attracted Stanley as a husband to her. In fact, it is her passive role and her victim position that make her appealing to Stanley, who is an aggressive macho. Her submissive behavior both irritates and attracts him, provoking splashes of aggression mixed with sexual desire. Thus, for example, when Stanley gets drunk and hits Stella, she puts up with it and forgives hi quickly because, in fact, she does not take any offense. On the contrary, she thinks that being aggressive is a masculine type of behavior, which makes her feel and act in a sexual way. The following extract can best illustrate this point of view.
Why on our wedding night – soon as we came in here – he snatched off one of my slippers and rushed about the place smashing the light-bulbs with it.
And you – you let him? Didn’t run, didn’t scream?
I was – sort of – thrilled by it. (Williams, 4, 18-22)
In contrast, Blanche Dubois represents a totally different type of sexuality, which is, however, by no means less effective. She is presented as a femme fatale, who secretly despises men and wants to allure them in her own interests. In her behavior, she pays a lot of attention to her appearance in order to be attractive. She is constantly acting in a way that allows her to seem more attractive, consciously doing her best to look sexually: “Blanche moves back into the streak of light. She raises her arms and stretches, as she moves indolenntly back to the chair” (Williams, 3, 88). She is also more independent and open minded than Stella, and her rebellious behavior is meant to provoke men. She wants to be at least equal to a man, with a priority of being superior. Her haughtiness and overt superiority is something that attracts men. It enrages Stanley, as she is both provocative and arrogant. Her looks and manners demonstrate her higher origin to him, while she believes that he is not good enough to be equal to her. At the same time, while realizing that Stanley is her sister’s husband, she continues keeping sexual tension between them. As a result, Stanley’s aggressive nature breaks through and he rapes Blanche. Although she had the past with many men, which is considered to be indecent by many people, she still refuses to give in to Mitch because she hopes to get married to him. Therefore, sexual manipulation is her last way to control men, as she is totally dependent on them.
Thus, Stella and Blanche represent two different types of sexuality, which make them attractive to men. While Stella likes the passive role and even the role of a victim of masculine aggression, Blanche reveals her rebellious nature and has provocative behavior of a femme fatale. Yet, in the end, both sisters appear to be toys in men’s hands.