Southern literature often focuses on masculine identity, as seen in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire and in Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic. Compare and contrast Mitch in...

Southern literature often focuses on masculine identity, as seen in Tennessee Williams's Streetcar Named Desire and in Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic. Compare and contrast Mitch in Streetcar Named Desire to Julian in Toys in the Attic. State the similarities, then the differences.

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Julian in Hellman's play Toys in the Attic and Mitch in Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire are similar in that they are both devoted to female members of their families. Julian's two sisters, Anna and Carrie, dote on him and sacrifice for him, and Mitch is oddly connected to his elderly mother. Mitch explains during a poker game, "I gotta sick mother. She don't go to sleep until I come in at night" (Scene 3). He doesn't enjoy going out at night because he worries about his mother, and, similarly, Julian's ties to his sisters bring him home after his marriage to Lily. Both characters seem superficially sensitive to the women in their lives.

However, neither man is truly sympathetic. Julian is careless with the money his sisters give him. To tell them about how he's lost the shoe factory he invested their money in, he says, "Oh, that shoe factory. It's gone" (page 22). While he is off investing in a failed shoe factory, his sisters wear worn dresses, about which he thoughtlessly remarks to Anna, "The same dress?" (page 21). Mitch is similarly not as sensitive as he first appears. While a sense of guilt brings him home to his mother, he is actually insensitive. When Blanche tells him that the inscription that a dying girl wrote on his cigarette case is touching and that sick people have "deep, sincere attachments," Mitch responds, "that's right, they certainly do" (Scene 3). Mitch appears to be sensitive, but he is actually too unimaginative and commonplace to really feel sensitivity.

Mitch and Julian are different in that Julian is far more imaginative than Mitch. After he returns home with money, he wants Gus to buy a farm and tries to encourage his sisters to go abroad. He says, "Ah, can't I be romantic for a month" (page 53). Unlike Julian, Mitch is not imaginative. When he is faced with the reality of Blanche's past and her age, he deserts her. He is not a romantic like Julian and is swayed more by societal ideas about Blanche than by his sense of devotion to her.

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A Streetcar Named Desire

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