From “The Glass Menagerie” to “A Streetcar Named Desire”

  Tennessee Williams was one of America’s foremost playwrights after World War II, and his plays focused on depicting the lives of women in the Old South, revealing their pain and misfortune. The author portrayed women with different personalities in his famous dramas “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Streetcar Named Desire”, and expressed deep sympathy for their struggles in fate.
  Tennessee Williams was born in the American South at the beginning of the 20th century, and his childhood reflected profound changes in American society. After the Civil War, as the defeated South, its ideological field, economic mode and way of life were all severely impacted. The conflict between the development of capitalism and the thinking, belief and way of life of the people in the old South was unprecedented. , the old traditions of the South are being shattered like a “glass zoo”, and the economic foundation on which the old aristocrats of the South depended for survival no longer exists. People have lost that layer of protection and have to be exposed to the danger-ridden jungle. Old morals and values ​​have no place in this life-and-death jungle. In reality, people have to struggle to survive, old and new ideas. The conflict between them led to various tragedies for the people of the Old South. Then, in the vicissitudes of society, women, who have always been regarded as weak, have naturally become the most easily harmed and hunted objects. With the rapid development of American capitalism in the 20th century, the women of the Old South who survived in the social background of the law of the jungle are bound to have more painful struggles. They are not only bound by tradition, but also squeezed by the so-called capitalist civilization and values, living in the gap between the changes of the times. Their groans were so faint that they were drowned out by the rumbling wheels of society. Several women in Tennessee Williams’s writings are the embodiment of this social reality.
  1. Women in the “Glass Menagerie”
  Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie was published in 1944 and was an immediate success. The title has a typical symbolic meaning. Amanda and Laura seem to live in a fragile “glass menagerie”, they seem to live in a layer of protection, but this layer of protection is so illusory. The author portrays an ethereal protector in the play, Amanda’s husband and Laura’s father. In the life tradition of the old South, men are the supporters of a family’s economy and life, and women depend on him for everything, and they need to get the source and protection of life from him. However, in “Glass Menagerie”, the protector of the family is nothing but the illusory spiritual support of the women, and his existence can only evoke Amanda’s memories of the good old days and Laura’s imagination of fatherly love. And Laura is the most vulnerable person in this “glass zoo”. She was young, pure, fragile, timid, weak as a lamb. She simply did not face the harsh reality and escaped into the world she had created to avoid external harm. In her glassy, ​​beautiful world, there was nothing but peace and harmony. However, her world is so wind and rain that it will be shattered by a light impact. Another family supporter in the play – Tom, that is, Laura’s brother, is the one who shattered the world that Laura lives on. His incompetence and lack of responsibility not only shattered the women in the family unintentionally. Dreams, and his final run away from home left the two women in the family in the “wilderness of the jungle”. What kind of life will they face?
  2. Women on “A Streetcar Named Desire”
  If in “The Glass Menagerie” still have a layer of protection and can live by indulging in old dreams, then the women in “A Streetcar Named Desire” have been Relentlessly driven out of the “glass zoo”.
  The creation of “A Streetcar Named Desire” was later than “The Glass Menagerie”. Only from the fate of women in these two plays, we can clearly understand the development of the times, the changes of society and the fate of women under the development and changes of society. By extension, we see the painful struggle and powerless struggle of women with old southern traditions after losing the protection of that layer of glass.
  Blanche, the protagonist of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, once had her own “Glass Menagerie”, however, this wonderful “glass menagerie” is farther away from her and is just a childhood memory. In her real life, that wonderful mansion has vanished into thin air, without even leaving any trace, she has completely lost her “beautiful manor”. Blanche has no choice but to live in a jungle full of restlessness. She has to make a living if she wants to survive. She is helpless and hopeless, she needs solace, she longs for warmth. However, who can give her everything she needs? Since her husband died, her life has also been in jeopardy. She is the victim of the conflict between traditional southern thought and capitalist civilization. She abandoned the traditional morality of the South to survive, and was not tolerated by the old morality of the South, that is, she was kicked out of the “glass zoo” by the traditional morality. She was shattered by the last layer of protection and had to go to the jungle full of desire, restlessness and danger to survive.
  What is the fate of Blanche who was kicked out of the “glass zoo”? Where will the “A Streetcar Named Desire” she’s riding go? Blanche, a weakling born in the South Manor, used to a superior life, lacking the ability to survive, and with a long-lasting attachment to the past, in this vulgar street car full of violence and desire What can be found? Blanche is so incongruous and difficult to integrate with this reality. Although Blanche was struggling and seeking, but when she had just gained a glimmer of hope of being loved, she was robbed of this hope by the constraints of tradition and the grim reality. We may not find it difficult to infer that, Blanche’s fate may only go to the “grave”.
  A Streetcar Named Desire also featured another woman, Stella, Blanche’s sister. Stella is the fittest in Tennessee Williams’ earlier “Jungle”, a woman who can escape from her dreams and live in reality. She also came from a wealthy family in the south, and like her sister, she was once an elegant lady. However, in real life, Stella quickly realized that in order to survive, she had to adapt to reality and make compromises. She has identified with the real life, and her traditional way of life and way of thinking has been assimilated by the real ideological and moral values. Stella represents the compromise of old traditional values ​​to new price concepts. She has completely accepted the various ways in modern civilized society, and has no longer indulged in the “good times” of the past. She is making various adaptations and reconciliations with reality. She allowed her husband to beat, scolded, drink heavily, succumbed to her husband’s rudeness, bestiality and desires, tamely obeyed her husband’s mercy, and mingled with the vulgar lower-class people. She is full of sympathy for Blanche but powerless, and she also realizes that if she and Blanche can’t coordinate with reality, it will eventually lead to the same fate.
  A writer’s responsibility is to reflect the fate of characters, raise social issues, and truly describe people’s life experiences in various social development periods, thus reflecting the characteristics of the times. From the portrayal of female characters in the above two plays by Tennessee Williams, it is not difficult to see the development of the times, the conflict between tradition and reality, the collapse of old traditions and the invasion of new values. It is not difficult to see the direction of women’s destiny in the progress of society from the lives and fates of several women in the play. Tennessee Williams is a dramatist who is good at portraying women. From his later plays, we can still see that the fate of women is closely related to the development of the whole society and reflects the changes of the times.