A Streetcar Named Desire And Zhang Yimou 's Film Raise The Red Lantern

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Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire and Zhang Yimou’s film Raise the Red Lantern both explore the social constraints that have historically been placed on the female gender. Set in 1940s New Orleans and 1920s Northern China respectively, inherent in both texts is an androcentric and patriarchal society that can be observed to impact the protagonists’, Blanche Dubois and Songlian’s, psychological capacities to a substantial extent. Indeed, it can be suggested that their behaviours, mindsets and attitudes were manipulated by the society in which they lived, the extent of which will be explored in this essay.
Yimou and Williams explore, through their protagonists’ situations, how women were extremely limited in their social and
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Songlian submits herself to the fate of existing solely to serve a man for whom she exhibits no emotional attachment. The fact that Blanche and Songlian saw prostitution and the concubine role respectively as their only option is a reflection of the impact on their psyches by their respective society’s diminished conceptions of women.
Raise the Red Lantern and A Streetcar Named Desire examine the way the power struggles affect the protagonists’ interactions and the motives behind these. The power plays, manipulation and revenge between the four oppressed women. In Raise the Red Lantern are driven by jealousy. Songlian was initially uncomfortable in her relationship with Chen, exhibited during their first night together when her one request to him was to “put out the lights.” However, despite her initial reluctance, she came to the realisation that if she could “manage to have a foot massage everyday [she’d] soon be running this household.” Therefore, she too succumbed to the “petty” rivalries, most notably when she utilised the situation of cutting Zhuoyun’s hair to damage her ear. Similarly, Blanche is continually struggling against Stella’s husband, Stanley, for dominance. Until the arrival of Blanche, Stanley’s masculine power and control was unchallenged. Needing to overcome the “fear” she feels around Stanley, Blanche tries to expose, confront and exploit his vulnerabilities, emasculating him by describing him as
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