Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

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6. Theme 2: The kindness of strangers.

A Streetcar Named Desire The Awakening Tragedy of Blanche and Edna and menThe women in A Streetcar Named Desire could hardly be considered models of girl power. Blanche DuBois and Stella Kowalski are utterly dependent on the men in their lives—dependent on them financially and emotionally.

Blanche looks to Mitch as her savior from the poorhouse. When Mitch rejects Blanche after Stanley gossips about her sexual history, she hangs her hopes for rescue on another man: the millionaire Shep Huntleigh.

At the end of the play, Blanche allows how she’s “always depended on the kindness of strangers”…as she’s being taken off to a mental institution. That dependence has brought about, not her salvation, but her destruction.

Stella, meanwhile, clings to a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with Stanley. In the end, she chooses to side with him against Blanche: Stanley may be a bully, but he’s a safer bet than her nutty sister.

All of  which sets up the point Tennessee Williams sought to make, a point about the place of women in his time…and, to some extent, even ours. More than a point, in fact: It’s a call to action.


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Let’s face it: This play is pretty depressing. On the bright side, all the horrible things that happen to and between the characters actually do have a purpose. We’ll talk about what that purpose is when we discuss Theme Two.

One of the things that makes this play so grim is that its female characters are completely at the mercy of men. Stanley is abusive to Stella, but even when Blanche pleads with Stella to leave him, it’s easy to see that Stella won’t be convinced.

That’s because, in the 1940s, when this play is set, women were still very much dependent on men. And not just for their financial stability. Blanche’s many liaisons reveal another problem with male-female relationships during this era: Women were also dependent on men for their happiness and their self-image.

So that’s theme two in this play: Dependence on men. And part of the purpose of this play is to highlight this dependence—and to criticize it. Williams wasn’t blaming men for the kind of male-female dynamic that plays out in A Streetcar Named Desire, but he was calling for change.

The fact that Blanche’s only escape from her circumstances is either a man, or a descent into a world of utter fantasy, allows Williams to offer up a criticism of a society that he saw as desperately in need of change.


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