Document Type

Class Paper

Publication Date

Spring 2016


“Be a man!” Popular culture shouts this seemingly innocent command at males of all ages. Throughout the twentieth century, both men and women experienced shocking changes to society’s expectations of their gender norms. With the rise of the feminist movement during the twentieth century, women were able to leave the home and embrace the workforce. More opportunities opened up for women, such as factory jobs and secretary positions, making America’s society more egalitarian between the sexes. On the other hand, after the trauma of WWII and the onset of the Cold War, men experienced a twist in society’s expectations during the 1950s that resulted in an ideal man that very few men were logically able to achieve. An example of this ideal man would be the father figure in many TV shows produced in the 1950s, such as Theodore Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver. Theodore Cleaver exemplified the ideal man because he was the family's sole provider; he was not engaged in the family's business but spend his days working to support his middle-class lifestyle and appeared content with his life. While television shows provide great examples of the expectation of the time, perhaps in no other area is the change in masculinity more prevalent than in America's literature. Like Theodore Cleaver for television, there is one character in literature who stands out as a primary model for the shift in expectations in American manhood: Tennessee Williams' Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.


This paper was presented as part of the American Literature II course (ENG 3113) taught by Professor Jennifer Pittman.