How are women and homosexuals marginalised within ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ in order to portray ideals within society? For what purposes and with what effects?


During the 1940’s, not only was male supremacy prevalent within society, the shunning of homosexuals was ever-present too. Tennessee Williams himself was a homosexual and perhaps this is what drove his inspiration to divulging the truth behind societies views, using his play as an outlet. Through the oppressive marginalisation of women and homosexuals in A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams is depicting its negative repercussions on these groups as seen through - the tragic demise of Allan Grey, Blanche’s subsequent descent to hysteria, and Stella’s predicament on whether to remain with presumed rapist, Stanley. Williams encapsulates how the ‘brutish’ catalyse the downfall of the ‘fragile’. The negative effects of marginalisation on homosexuals are blatantly shown in the play, as it drives Allan Grey to his own demise. His suicide was a result of collective marginalisation from both society and his own wife. This can be seen through Blanche’s flashback of the night she discovered Allan in bed with another man — she went berserk. Later that evening, she spewed drunken confessions, stating “I saw! I know! You disgust me...” Her words led Allan to “run out of the casino. A few moments later — a shot!” The boy had killed himself. Moreover, the fact that Blanche was under the influence of alcohol when she uttered the demeaning words could suggest that the belief of homosexuals being a disgrace to society has been ingrained in her for a long time. This has connotations to the saying, ‘a drunk mans words are a sober mans thoughts’. Though the character of Allan Grey doesn’t have a role in the main plot of the play, his presence is constant in Blanche’s flashbacks and haunts her conscience. Perhaps Williams has done this to portray that although Allan Grey has no voice in the play, much like the homosexuals in society at the time, his spirit still resounds. Williams also used Allan Grey and Blanche to personify his thoughts when discovering he was attracted to men. This can be inferred from the dialogue “I made the discovery - love. All at once and much too completely.. I didn't know anything except I loved him unendurably...” in scene 6. Williams fell in love with a man at a young age, which is why he created Allan Grey and unveiled the truth behind the marginalisation of homosexuals. He wanted to show his audience that through his own silencing, like that of many homosexuals during his time, his life was affected so drastically.

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Maxine D. is an online English tutor with MyTutor studying at Kings, London University