A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof are two plays by Tennessee Williams. Both plays center on the human relations and illuminate the conflicts between main characters of the plays.
A Streetcar Named Desire is a play which is set in New Orleans in 1930s. In this play Williams wanted to express the changes in the social structure and in the roles of women in the contemporary society. The author managed to express the sprit of changes, which influenced the lives of their characters. The author describes female position in the beginning of the twentieth century. During that time women were deprived of many rights and freedoms they possess now. Relations between Stanly Kowalsky and his wife Stella make the main conflict of the play. The conflict between Blanche, Stella’s sister, and the society is another conflict of the play.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is another play about complicated relations. The play describes the crises of the family in Southern America. Brick and Maggie Pollitt experience the crisis of their relations. The conflict between Brick and his father is also a meaningful to the plot line. All the characters lack understanding. They do not make an attempt to understand the needs and desires of the other part. The situation becomes more and more complicated since those who are in power to solve the conflict do not make any attempt to do it.
Gender relations are among the main themes of A Streetcar Named Desire. The author describes the society of the South America in the beginning of the 20th century. The society of that time was completely man-oriented. Women of that time played only secondary role in the society. They were totally dependant on man and could not express their desire freely. Stanly Kowalsky, the protagonist of the play, believes that the man should be the head of the family. He wants to prove all the members of the family his dominant role. Stella, Kowalsky’s wife is completely obedient to him. She does not think to confront her dogmatic partner. Blanche, Stella’s sister also does not have enough power to argue with Stanly. From the one side Stanly presents male ideal of that society. He is strong, self-assured and takes the responsibility for his family. Unfortunately, as a result, this strong male side prevents him from building normal human relations with his wife and other women. He does not perceive Stella as equal partner. He does not respect her and turns even to physical abuse. Stella complains to Blanche: “He was as good as a lamb when I came back and he’s really very, very ashamed of himself (Williams, 270).
Stanley believes that he has moral write to hurt and abuse his wife because he treats her like his property. At the same time Stella also does not treat the behavior of her husband like something abnormal. She is passive and obedient and justifies all actions of her husband. Physical abuse is not the only kind of abuse Stella experiences from her husband. Stanley does not give his wife financial freedom. “Stanley doesn’t give me a regular allowance, he likes to pay bills himself, but – this morning he gave me ten dollars to smooth things over” (Williams, 273). Stella’s life is totally controlled and directed by her husband. She does not possess her own life and totally depends on the will of Stanley.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a play about complex relations between the Pollits. The conflict is realized between the husband and wife. Another conflict exists between generations. Brick is in conflict with his parents and with his father in particular. Maggie suffers because of loneliness in the relations with her husband. “Maggie: I’m not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that’s all” (Williams, 54). The author presents the family which has all the possibility to have a happy life. Brick and Maggie had all the chances to have a happy family life, but they experience alienation and indifference. Maggie makes her best to attract attention of her husband. The symbol of the cat, which is associated with Maggie is a typical image of femininity. Maggie presents the ideal image of woman but her husband does not need all this. The conflict between Maggie and her husband is one of the central conflicts of the play.
Both plays, Cat on a Hot Tin Root and A Streetcar Named Desire describe family conflicts and complex gender relations.
Williams, Tennessee, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Williams, Tennessee Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Chelsea House Publications, 2001.