Free Research Paper On Representation Of American Masulinity

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Masculinity, War, Literature, Men, A Streetcar Named Desire, Novel, Desire, Internet

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2021/01/29

The American novelist and screenwriter, Raymond Thornton Chandler’s The Long Goodbye (1953) is an excellent social critic. The novel is centered on his famous detective, Philip Marlowe and has autobiographical strains in it. The American playwright, Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) is one of the finest American plays that received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948. The drama projects the atrocities of the post war period and the predicament of the characters thriving to survive in the hostile world. Both these literary works are significant in the sense that they belong to a very tough period, the postwar era and they highlight the sensitive and momentous issues of the time. The present paper attempts to explore the representation of masculinity in these two works and how the varied repercussions of masculinity affect the characters in the two prominent and noteworthy works belonging to the post war era. It also discusses and attempts to scrutinize how the toxic masculinity victimizes the two main characters in the works.
Masculinity or manliness or manhood is an array of traits, conducts, and responsibilities usually related to men. Courage, independence, and assertiveness are some of the qualities associated with masculinity and it is certainly influenced by diverse societal and racial factors. To quote Douglas Schroc and Michael Schwalbe:
Distinguishing between sex and gender is conventional wisdom in sociology, yet the distinction is worth reiterating,.Carrigan et al. (1985; see also Connell 1995) define masculinity as a "configuration of practices"-- practices that have the effect of subordinating women. Although this definition usefully highlights what men do to maintain dominance, it is not without problems. The definition also tends to take the category "men" for granted, rather than treating the cat egory as constructed by practices and the mean ings given to those practices (279).
Masculinity- who is a man, who isn’t, what honorable men are like, how men keep themselves pure- is the conspicuous concept in these two works of two different genres, fiction and play. Manliness is erected on a denunciation of feebleness which is nevertheless crucial to masculinity. To serve the country and participating in war has irreversible insinuations with machismo. Toxic masculinity describes the ways in which the patriarchy destroys and disintegrates men. It pressurizes man to behave in a belligerent, rude and unemotional manner. War and masculinity have impressive ties and to attend war or just glorify war denotes manhood. Birckenbach points out:
Conscientious objection and civilian service make insecure the usually civilian orientation of those willing to serve, which is linked to an ideal of masculinity (). Part of this ideal of masculinity is to prove ones ability to defence and violence in fantasy, in games, and in military service. Exactly this is threatened by conscientious objectors, because they are seen as agents of the ban on violence. In the eyes of these youth, conscientious objectors in the first place don't refuse military service, but this ideal of masculinity. (233)
The Long Goodbye is the sixth novel out of the seven enduring novels by Chandler. Chandler deliberately makes deviation in the progression of characterization in this novel when compared to the rest and he gives voice to the social issues, sketches the characters and their prominent flaws, discusses the modes of survival in the contemporary world amid myriad challenges and struggling, reserving and rather modifying places for leading better lives. In Chandler’s novel, the masculinity is derived from evading corruption and from a desire for comprehensive hermeticism. The novel’s focus is Philip Marlowe’s usual episodes of intrigues and exploitations for a peculiar reason, unlike the other novels, of uncovering and establishing the identity of Terry Lenox, a character whose impact traces each of the deceptively distinct sub-plots wherein Marlowe is involved.
The setting of Lennox’s room is significant for it casts shadows into the personality of his. There is an incredible scarcity and deliberate laxity in the room:
There wasn't a photograph or a personal article of any kind in the place. It might have been a hotel room rented for a meeting or a farewell, for a few drinks and a talk, for a roll in the hay. It didn't look like a place where anyone lived (The Long Goodbye 8).
The dearth of recognizing descriptions in Lennox's room highlights the eclectic leitmotif of his own want of secure uniqueness; his barriers to obscurity being a huge blemish upon his face, retorting to the war, and his prominent white hair. Lennox participated in the World War II in Norway as Paul Marston and got wounded and arrested. After the war, in New York, he embraced the name of Lennox and wedded a millionairess. Her suspicious death persuades him to flee from New York to Mexico, once again forging his identity as a Mexican, Senor Maioranos. Marlowe finds a strange acquaintance and a sense of respect with Lennox’s kindred spirit right from the beginning, which is apparent from his own words: "there was something about the guy that got to me. I didn't know what it was unless it was the white hair and the scarred face and the clear voice and the politeness. Maybe that was enough" (9). Marlowe got attracted to Lennox’s wartime gallantry, but Lennox steps out of the actuality portioned by people around him, into a sort of inattentive mindfulness past all selves and labels. Marlowe’s description of Lennox during their final meeting is quite significant as it probes into the real aspects of Lennox’s predicament:
For a long time I couldn't figure you at all. You had nice ways and nice qualities, but there was something wrong. You had standards and you lived up to them, but they were personal. They had no relation to any ethics or scruples. . . You're a moral defeatist. I think maybe the war did it to you and again I think maybe you were born that way (319).
Marlowe’s descriptions of life in jail, the emptiness that one feels inside the enclosed four walls, can very much likened to the Lennox’s explication of his own sense of emptiness and loneliness:
In another cell you might see a man who cannot sleep or even try to sleep. He is sitting on the edge of his bunk doing nothing. He looks at you or doesn't. He says nothing and you say nothing. There is nothing to communicate (45).
Marlowe's conviction thru the novel that Lennox possesses a disposition with which he can engross is mistook and the disparity amid them seems to enlarge. Lennox strives hard to expunge his self and his bygone days. Marlowe comments:
"It's just that you're not here anymore. You're long gone. You've got nice clothes and perfume and you're as elegant as a fifty-dollar whore." "That's just an act," he said almost desperately. "You get a kick out of it don't you?" His mouth dropped in a sour smile. He shrugged an expressive Latin shrug. "Of course. An act is all there is. There isn't anything else. In here there isn't anything. I've had it Marlowe. I had it long ago." (320)
Lennox, in the end, disappears without leaving a trace: "He turned and walked across the floor and out. I watched the door close. I listened to his steps going away down the imitation marble corridor. After a while they got faint, then they got silent. I kept on listening anyway" (320). The war retains unerasable imprints in the life of Lenox. It is not false to state that Lennox is scarred by the experience of war and he gets turned both mentally and physically that makes him a fragile persona and that urges him to befriend alcohol. Masculinity, most of the times, is a moral virtue. Whereas in Lennox’s case, things are a bit perplexing.
Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire enlivens a vigorous personality, Stanley Kowalski, who happens to make his appearance as a democratic hero who is affectionate and devoted to his friends and loving to his wife. The text projects him as an embodiment of masculinity possessing a fierce animal vitality that is apparent in his actions. He is outrageously candid and quite openly expresses his anger. “Stanley carries his bowling jacket and a red-stained package from a butcher’s” (Scene One, Stage Directions). This simply indicates Stanley’s primeval masculinity Stanley is a stark contrast to the overtly sensitive Blanche, who considers him a Stone Age barbarian. Blanche’s aristocratic background destabilizes Stanley and he makes all attempts to disturb Blanche.

John s. Bak argues:

Arguments have been made for itsambiguity, some seeing this as an artistic failure in the play, some seeing thisas its most lasting attribute. In direct response to this, other critics havecalled Streetcaran unambiguous play, again some viewing this as a liability,some as an asset. So, we have once again reached an impasse. In an attempt to resolve the two problems explored above, various scholars haveexamined the issue from angles other than the seemingly exhausted Blanche-Stanley conflict. These critics believe that external evidence, eitherin the symbolism imposed on the play or in the evolution of the play’s story,themes, and characters, could help illuminate Streetcar’s literary shadow (18).
Stanley’s hypermasculinity and rancor towards Blanche reveals itself in his actions when he investigates her past life, his birthday present and his interference of her association with Mitch. Stanley’s self gets overpowered by wagering, sex, and wild drinking habits. His virility is articulated through lurid uproars that upsets the delicate Blanche:

STANLEY: [booming]

Now let’s cut the re-bop! BLANCHE: [pressing hands to her ears]
Ouuuuu! (2.115-6)
He tries to prove and establish his manliness by beating Blanche and his crooked, perverted nature gets displayed once he brutally rapes his sister-in-law. He designs power and fantasizes supremacy through sexual eccentricities. He, for a common man, is unsophisticated, uncouth and brutal. His attires stand for his nastiness and he gets delight in loud lingering voices and gaudy yells. However, there is no sense of remorse for him committing all heinous sins.
The spectators are at stake when the playwright finally lets Stanley walk out as an ideal man who is very much at home with his wife Stella and their newborn baby, while Blanche stands as an outcast. Placing Stanley in an esteemed position toward the end of the play can be seen as the society’s blind adherence to the patriarchal system and the ostracism of helpless victims like Blanche. He can be perceived as a personification of vibrant potency.
Stanley, after participating in the World War II, works as a salesman and the war definitely leaves him impatient and edgy. John S. Bak highlights:
The society demands Stanley to respond and behave in a manner that labels him as “manly.” He unearths his warmth an gentle feeling after returning from the war and behaves arrogantly that the society brands him a real man. The patriarchal prejudices leaves him a morbid man who, for the sake of society, commits aggressive violence. He succumbs to the toxic masculinity that strains away all his good deeds and people start gazing him as a brutal being.
Both the characters of the literary works can be categorized as victims of the war in the sense that the atrocities and inhumane aspects of the war weaken their humanity and they evolve into indifferent, vicious men. The material word reserves no place for kindness and concern and the characters are perpetually trying to assert their assert their even though by fowl and faulty means.Terry Lennox and Stanley Kowalski are rather the representatives of the post war period.They denote hegemonic masculinities who consider themselves as the supreme of the genders and attempts to rather subordinate the weaker sex and redefine gender constructs. They find it their responsibility to generate hierarchies while reserving for them a peculiar emblematic ascendancy. The traditional constructions of masculinities persuade Lennox and Stanley to willingly take risks, develop physical stoutness, vehemence, and blatant sexual desire. Douglas and comments:
Although these traditions of research have produced a considerable body of knowledge about the diversity of men's behavior, there has been a tendency to lose sight of the goals of trying to understand (a) the social construction of gender in general and (b) the re production of gender inequality. We have suggested that these problems stem in part from a tendency to reify masculinity, to erroneously see it as an essential quality of male bodies, and to treat it as if it had explanatory power (289).
Chandler and Williams use their canvas to picture the different shades of humanity and delves deep into the social system that glorifies the masculine gender. The writers deliberately take sides with the male figures, but there are undercurrents of sarcastic irony in their ways and modes of presentation of situations and characters. The post war era is the period of desolation and destitution and undoubtedly, males gain the supreme power.The whole trouble with the world is the normal predisposition to reify masculinity, to consider it as an indispensable part of a male body. The authors voice their hidden protest toward the patriarchal set up and attempt to bring changes in the attitudes of the common man. Masculinity takes a negative turn in many a moments in the life of both the characters. Lennox murders his wife, cheats Marlowe, disguises his very identity as a result of his hegemonic masculinity that makes him believe that he has the right and privilege to act in the way. Whereas in Stanley’s case, the war makes him destructively powerful and he develops hyper masculinity that ultimately makes him dominate the people around him like his wife, Stella, his friends and the poor Blanche.

Works Cited

Chandler, Raymond. The Long Goodbye. New York: Vintage, 1992. Print.
E. Abbot, Megan. ""NOTHING YOU CAN'T FIX": SCREENING MARLOE'S MASCULINITY." JSTOR. Studies in the Novel, University of North Texas. Web. <>.
Feo, Katherine. "Invisibility: Memory, Masks and Masculinities in the Great War." JSTOR. Oxford University Press. Web. <>.
S. Bak, John. "CRITICISM ON A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE A Bibliographic Survey." 1 Jan. 2004. Web. 6 Apr. 2015. <Web. .>.
Schroc, Douglas, and Michael Schwalbe. "Men, Masculinity, and Manhood Acts." JSTOR. Annual Reviews. Web. <>.
Smith, David. "The Public Eye of Raymond Chandler." JSTOR. Cambridge University Press. Web. <>.
Williams, Tennessee. A Street Car Named Desire (play). New Directions, 1947. Print.

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