Comparative Essay McEwan and Williams focus on what it means to be both powerful and powerless in a variety of contexts. Discuss their exploration of these ideas with reference to both male and females. I will be comparing and contrasting Tennessee Williams play of 1947 ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ with Ian McEwen’ novel ‘Enduring Love’ of 1997. I aim to focus on the theme of power as presented by both authors. The first, a play, explores how power shifts between men and women such as the way that Blanche’s character loses the power of her status to become dependent on Stanley.
The second looks at the power struggle between two men explored through Joe’s obsession created by Jed whilst still highlighting the power struggle of a woman in the way that Clarissa loses control over Joe. (I will be looking at the many types of power such as; cultural, financial, sexual, psychological… ) Both authors show the importance of the power of culture on society; we see the impact that it has on the characters. In Tennessee’s play Blanche panics about the social stigma attached to her being a single woman.
Williams uses this character to portray how patriarchal society controlled and held power over women in the 40s. Blanche’s inferiority complex dictates ‘They think a girl over thirty ought to – the vulgar term – “put out. ”’ He emphasises her complex about age; she feels she must be in a relationship to comply with the norms and expectations of society. Culture granted men a pre-disposed upper hand by frowning upon single woman thus taking power away from the woman in the form of her independence and giving it to the man by making her dependant on him.
Williams displays this through Blanche’s insecurities about a lack of husband especially at her age leading her to rely upon Stanley, depending on his ‘say so’ for shelter and survival. In contrast McEwan’s post feminist character, Clarissa of the 90’s culture gives power to women as portrayed by McEwan’s post feminist movement of the 90’s characters where independence for women is valued so they no longer experience the need to depend on a man for survival. Clarissa is independent enough to discuss breaking up with Joe in a matter-of-fact way without displaying the signs of panic that Blanche had when speaking of her single-dom…
In contrast, 090s culture dictates equal rights and independence for Women, Mc Ewan addresses this ‘Joe, it’s all over. It’s best to admit it now. I think we’re finished, don’t you? ’ Society gives you strength and society gives you weakness – we see how male and female characters are given power and have it taken away by society’s standing Both authors address the power that culture holds on society, it effects the characters of both texts in very different ways, Clarissa very emotion Cult holds on society- exp this by display this thru charac of clarissa- her struggles… Soc cult determines who has power
Soc makes powerful and makes powerless.. POINT: in streetcar Blanche is financially powerless therefore also socially powerless so she is forced to accept stella and Stanley as financially powerful. EXPLAIN: the quote shows how important money is to Blanche and so this is the reason she feels bound to Stella and Stanley. In ‘Enduring love’, the contrast of time changes the assumption that woman are pre-dispositional to be needy. Clarissa doesn’t clasp at strings and hold on to Joe because he is the one providing the roof over her head; she is free to be an independent woman (ADD QUOTE).
Unlike Blanche who is bound to Stanley’s financial support in order to survive. ‘… Don’t, don’t laugh at me, Stella! Please, please don’t – I – I want you to look at the contents of my purse! … sixty-five measly cents in the coin realm! ’ Power can also be associated with obsession. Stanley feeds Blanches obsession to the point where she is obsessed with convincing herself of her status, innocence etc. Through re-iterating it all to mitch She wants to show that she is high in morality etc. POINT: Stanleys obsession with power leaves stella & blanche powerless EVIDENCE: ‘Remember what Heuy Long said- “Every man is a king! And i am the king around here, so don’t you forget it! ’ EXPLAIN: % constantly tries to inflict his power over stella and blache % Heuy Long = known for abusing power (governor) % Alpha – male Similarly Jed creates Joes obsession y psychologically torturing him – via stalking him (EVIDENCE) outside his home (EXPLAIN) he isolates him therefore Joe becomes obsessed with proving to Clarissa and the police etc. POINT: Jeds obsession with love for Joe EVIDENCE: Show me your fury or bitternes. I wont mind. Ill never desert you. But never, never try to pretend to yourself that i do not exist. EXPLAIN: % Jeds obsession with Joe proves to be powerful leaving Joe powerless as it has changed Joes life – Clarissa leaving Joe. In the texts we see that the power of obsession comes about when someone has manipulated another to the point where they are so emotionally wrapped that they display obsession. This links to the theme of Psychological/intellectual power shown in the characters of both texts. The psychological power is having the ability to manipulate another’s mind. POINT; Stanley has power over Blanche as he knows about her past. Blanche fears that news will get around.
EVIDENCE; He goes out Blanche rises from her chair. She seems faint; looks about her with an expression of almost panic’. EXPLAIN; Blanche doesn’t want anyone to find out about her past, but she knows Stanley has therefore he has a power over her and is almost black- mailing her and playing mind games because he makes her feel that he has one over her – creating an inferiority complex POINT: Jed knows that Joe loves Clarissa, and that she is his weakness EVIDENCE; ‘ i’ll do whatever you want. Ill be there in two hours. I wont tell anyone. But don’t hurt her. Please don’t hurt her! EXPLAIN; Jed uses this knowledge to control Joe through Clarissa as he knows that this way will be a ‘fool-proof’ way to get Joes attention. He is able to manipulate Joe to gain power over him. Both writers make their characters use their intellectual power to their advantage = for their own feed on Obsession = the way Stanley feeds on Blanches obsession – creating panic attacks – Jed plays with Joes mind in a similar way PHYSICAL/ SEXUAL POWER POINT; Stanleys physical strength to over-power Blanche and Sexual power EVIDENCE: ‘Come to think of it – maybe you wouldn’t be bad to – interfere with… EXPLAIN; Stanley is capable of talking power of blanche physically and sexually. Also this could be a way for Stanley to prove his power to Blanche. To show his masculinity. POINT; Joe and Clarissa use love (sexual power) to help them move on from thinking about John Logans death EVIDENCE; ‘Why didn’t i think like this? We needed love! ’ EXPLAIN; Joe and Clarissa use their sexual power to overcome the grief of Logan’s death POINT; When Stella walks out in Stanley, Williams shows us Stanley’s powerless side, we see Stellas emotional hold over Stanley EVIDENCE; ‘…
I want my baby! EUNICE! I’ll keep ringin’ until i talk with my baby! ’ EXPLAIN; regardless of it being a patriarchal society, stella still has an emotional hold on Stanley. POINT; The death of John Logan has a heavy emotional hold on Joe. EVIDENCE; ‘… and now I could not quite imagine a route back into that innocence. ’ EXPLAIN; McEwan has presented his character Joe to believe that to a certain extent that he is in control but the emotional power of John Logons death arises inside him gilt (not being able to save him) etc
POINT; Stellas means of survival are Stanley and the baby EVIDENCE; ‘i couldn’t believe her story and go on living with stanley’ EXPLAIN; Stellas price price for survival was giving up her loyalty for her sister. Birth of baby helped her in her decision. POINT; Joe shoots Jed inoder to save himself and Clarissa EVIDENCE; ‘I aimed at his right side … in the enclosed space the explosion seemed to wipe out all other senses’ EXPLAIN; he shoots him for survival Power of narrative Conclusion