Throughout history people have always seemed to follow what notions that were considered “cool”. Though I doubt that “cool” was the word used to describe these notions they were still there in some form or another. One of the greatest farces ever committed in the name of these popular perceptions was medicine. At that time, medicine that was on the cutting edge seem to have always involved some sort of noxious chemical or a typically atrocious diet. Not to mention the fact that ninety-nine percent of the doctors were men. Women’s notions were immediately discounted on the bases of the preconception that women were not meant for such enlightened thoughts. No, men really knew what was best and women were meant to stand by what their husbands’ said. This brings one particular husband to mind and how he was responsible for his wife going completely and utterly insane. His name is John and he is the husband to a woman who was diagnosed with a temporary nervous depression, meaning a slight hysterical tendency.
Through John’s interference he turned what was considered a minor case of a chemical imbalance into to full blown schizophrenia. During the turn of the century, which is when this story took place, what scientists knew of the human mind wouldn’t fill the inside of a matchbook. This was for certain the case when it was a woman who was the patient. If there was any deviation in the accepted behavior of a woman as deemed by society, the woman was considered hysterical. When dealing with these patients, instead of seriously considering the consequences of their actions, they went along with obscenely stupid notions on how to deal with problems of the mind.
The conventional course of action to take in the narrator’s case was the one of nothing. I mean literally, nothing. For the narrator was considered hysterical and slightly depressed and there was only one course of action for such symptoms. That was one of complete rest. In those days the rest cure was very popular. It involved being set apart from anything that might have even the remotest possibility of stress in it. The main character of The Yellow Wallpaper was indeed set apart from all activity as directed by her husband. John dutifully followed the set path, not questioning any of the accepted methods.
Brutality and Deceit in A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire is a socially challenging play in light of the way in which Tennessee Williams depicts the capacity of human nature for brutality and deceit. He takes the viewpoint that, no matter how structured or ‘civilized’ society is, all people will rely on their natural animal instincts, such as dominance and deception, to get themselves out of trouble at some stage in life. William’s has created three main characters, Blanche Dubois, Stella Kowalski and Stanley Kowalski. Each of these characters is equally as civilized as the next, yet all are guilty of acts of savagery on different levels. Throughout the play Williams symbolically relates these three characters to animals, ‘savages,’ through the disclosure of their attitudes, beliefs, appearances and desires.
The most obvious example of a savage in the play is Stanley Kowalski. He is a large well-toned, territorial male with simple beliefs and a short temper. He does not have many manners and does not care what people think of him. He seems very simple but there is more to him than meets the eye. Stanley feels threatened by Blanche not only because she has invaded his territory, but also because she is a reminder to his wife of what she sacrificed to marry him and of the severe limitations on what he has been able to provide her in return (Adler 51). At first, Stanley acts physically dominant over both Blanche and Stella, by rifling through Blanche’s possessions (Williams 124), by quoting to Stella and Blanche that “every man is a king” (Williams 197-198), by throwing the radio out the window in a drunken frenzy and by actually striking his pregnant wife (Stella) (Williams 152-155). However, towards the end of the play, Stanley realizes his …
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…s that lifestyle that they shared in their youth. However, Stanley has shown her his world and she is caught between the two, like a ping-pong ball. Ultimately Stanley wins the game, because of Stella’s primal nature, her sex drive and her need to be dominated.
It appears that Tennessee Williams has called for all the world to be cognizant of the fact that mankind is still a member of the animal kingdom in spite of society’s efforts to cloak his primal urges and somehow give the appearance that he is above the other animals.
Adler, Thomas P. A Streetcar Named Desire: The Moth and the Lantern. New York: Twayne, 1990.
Kazan, Elia. Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Streetcar Named Desire. Ed. Jordan Miller. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. Stuttgart: Phillipp Reclam, 1988.