Comparing A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
In the game of life man is given the options to bluff, raise, or fold. He is dealt a hand created by the consequences of his choices or by outside forces beyond his control. It is a never ending cycle: choices made create more choices. Using diverse, complex characters simmering with passion and often a contradiction within themselves, Tennessee Williams examines the link of past and present created by man's choices in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
Delicate Blanche, virile Stanley. Dynamic Maggie, impotent Brick. Williams' protagonists are distinctly different in temperament. In "A Streetcar Named Desire" Blanche exemplifies the stereotypical old south: educated, genteel, obsolete. Stanley is the new south: primitive, crude, ambitious. Blanche, a fading beauty, uses her sugary charm and soft southern ways to attract men. In comparison, Stanley "sizes women up at a glance, with sexual classifications" to "determine the way he smiles at them" (Williams, Street 29). Course and deliberately aggressive, he is a "survivor of the stone age" (Williams, Street 72). Despite their differences they both possess a raw sensuality. In their first confrontation, Blanche's thick display of charm angers and attracts Stanley. He wants her to be truthful and "lay her cards on the table" but simultaneously would "get ideas" about Blanche if she wasn't Stella's sister (Williams, Street 40-41). Their relationship overflows with sexual tension as they battle for Stella. Stanley, the new south, defeats Blanche, the old south. After destroying her chance for security, his sexual assault erases her last traces of sanity.
Similarly opposites attract in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Maggie is a strong, southern woman, who communicates her needs and desires easily. She seeks confrontation to resume the once sexual marriage, but like a nervous cat she retreats quickly when Brick suggests she leave him. In contrast, Brick is cool and nonchalant. He "wears the charm of the defeated" to disguise his power. Power isn't always brute force. Sometimes refusing to make choices is powerful. Forcing other to make decisions and thus never shouldering the responsibility is a form of dominance. Brick proudly proclaims "Maggie laid down the law to me - said now or never, and so I married Maggie" (Williams, Cat 37). She has to accept a non-sexual marriage or she has to be the one decide to leave. In the end Maggie, wanting to sire an heir and secure her position in the family, forces Brick to make love to her. He doesn't fight her off, but accepts meekly. It seems as if he isn't making choice, but by surrendering he does not have to forgive Maggie or change the terms of their lifeless marriage. Brick, hiding his anger behind a wall of indifference, is powerless and powerful.
The characters are neither saintly nor villainous but rather a combination of both, often a contradiction within...