Rethinking Tennessee Williams' "Desperate" Women

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Although Amanda Wingfield, Blanche DuBois, and Maggie Pollitt are examined frequently in scholarship on Tennessee Williams's plays, many critics assume that the three women's Southern femininity translates to fragility and that their nostalgia for the Confederate past constitutes delusion. Distancing our perceptions of the three women from the common connotations of Southern femininity--frailty, selflessness, and domesticity—and leaning into the more disagreeable facets of Lost Cause nostalgia reveals the classist and racist ideologies that motivate their quests for upstanding Southern aristocratic lives. Critics have been slow to read Amanda, Blanche, and Maggie as rational socioeconomic actors, but this reading emphasizes the three women's socioeconomic desires, thus de-romanticizing Southern femininity and expounding on its problematic ideological positionalities. Blanche DuBois, Amanda Wingfield, and Maggie Pollitt have been evaluated in terms of their "monstrous" femininity. However, they become less monstrous and more familiar when we recognize the clear race- and class-based motivations for clinging so fiercely to their Southern identities. When we assume that their Southernness is defined by their literal proximity from and ideological relationships to ethnic and racial Others and people from lower socioeconomic classes, their motivations lose some of their critical abstraction and gain a new level of complexity.



Tennessee Williams, American drama, gender, race, class, space, domesticity, culture of the American South