Revolutionary Road

by Richard Yates

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How can I compare aspects of Revolutionary Road with A Streetcar Named Desire (focusing particularly on themes and the role of women)?

Both women are trapped in unhappy marriages and are unable to escape.

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In both Revolutionary Road and A Streetcar Named Desire, women are caught in abusive or unhappy marriages without any means of escape. April in Revolutionary Road finds her suburban life dull and unfulfilling, and her career as an actress has failed. It is clear that she and her husband, Frank, have descended into a dull existence, and Frank has an affair with an officemate. April years to escape to Paris, but her dreams are dashed when she becomes pregnant. When she wants to have an abortion, her husband thinks that she has psychiatric issues.

Similarly, Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire is trapped in an abusive marriage with the animallike Stanley, but she cannot leave him. Like April, she becomes trapped when she is pregnant, and she turns a blind eye to her husband's rape of her sister, Blanche. In the end, Blanche is taken away to a psychiatric institute, though it is arguable that Stanley is far more sick than she is. In both works, women are trapped by marriage and pregnancy, and women who attempt to rebel against traditional roles are deemed insane. The women in the works end up in dire straits. April dies from a botched abortion attempt, Stella is trapped in marriage to Frank, and Blanche is removed to a psychiatric facility.

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In Revolutionary Road, there are some parallels among the female characters with those of A Streetcar Named Desire.

April Wheeler is a very attractive woman who has aspired to become an actress; however, after marrying Frank, her acting is limited to the Laurel Players, a local group of amateurs who put on a play at the high school in the suburb where they live. After an opening night that is less than stellar, Frank attempts to console her, but April puts him on the defensive. She sleeps on the couch, having refused any comfort from him even when he tries to be very sympathetic during the days that follow. The fighting and instability of her relationship with her husband is not dissimilar to the relationship of Stella and Stanley. 

However, not unlike Blanche duBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, April feels herself dependent upon a male: Blanche says, "I've always been dependent upon the kindness of strangers," and she seeks and hopes to make a husband in Mitch. 

Further, Blanche's downward spiral leads to her end, as she does not want the truth. Living the truth is death for Blanche as she ends her journey at Elysian Fields. A woman who is similar to Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire is Maureen Grube, a receptionist where Frank is employed. She goes to lunch with Frank, but ends up at her apartment where she and Frank make love. Maureen finds herself exploited by a man she has depended upon, not unlike Blanche, who says of Stanley, "the first time I laid eyes on him, I thought to myself, that man is my executioner" (Scene 6).

In both plays, then, there are women who manipulate, women who are decent, and women who are exploited and marginalized.


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