Women in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
The part of Stella and Linda are both archetypal female figures in
that they follow the typical fictional role of the submissive wife and
mother. In A Streetcar Named Desire, Stella DuBois (renamed Mrs.
Stanley Kowalski) supports and forgives her husband, defending him
against any criticism. Likewise, in Death of a Salesman, Linda - the
only female character with any import - is a meek, timid figure around
her husband. This weakness is underscored by the sentence structure
and diction that each character uses when in conflict with their
husband. As both Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller are men, it can
be seen that their female characters tend to be what men would desire
in women, without giving a too-accurate portrayal of an actual person.
Stella and Linda are both symbols of the deferential wife and mother,
not convincing portraits of women.
Stella and Linda are both thought of only in relation to the other
characters. They exist to support their husbands and defend them from
other characters. Both Stella and Linda attempt to blind themselves to
their husbands' flaws, and apologize to other characters for their
husbands' actions. When Stanley gets drunk, smashes the radio and
window, and hits Stella, Stella must apologize to Blanche for
Stanley's behavior: "He's half-drunk!"; "He didn't know what he was
doing... He was as good as a lamb when I came back and he's really
very, very ashamed of himself." All that Stella can do is make excuses
for his behavior, not blaming him for anything: "People have got to
tolerate each others' habits, I guess." It is in this scene (4) that
the audience truly sees Stella as a woman who will give her husband
anything, including the excuses he needs to continue his behavior -
"you saw him at his worst last night." Linda, as well, must excuse
Willy's continual shouting and talking to himself: "It's when you come
home he's always the worst." She blinds herself to Willy's flaws and
mental instability - "It'll pass by morning." - and it is this
blindness that helps him in his downward stumble. It is possible that
many men desire this sort of unconditional support and forgiveness -
who ever wants to be blamed for their mistakes and behavior - but it
is unrealistic to show a woman who tolerates this action even to the
point that they end up hurting their husband, or another character.
Linda's blindness leads indirectly to Willy's suicide, and Stella's
unwillingness to open her eyes to Stanley's actions ends with Blanche
being taken away to a mental institution.
Both of these characters also forgive their husbands in spite of their
abuse, and back down during any conflict. Stella in scene 3 is hit by
Stanley; during the poker scene he "gives a loud whack...