A Streetcar Named Desire
“A Streetcar Named Desire” By Tennessee Williams
A Streetcar Named Desire is the story of an emotionally-charged confrontation between characters embodying the traditional values of the American South and the aggressive, rapidly-changing world of modern America. The play, begun in 1945, went through several changes before reaching its final form. Although the scenario initially concerned an Italian family, to which was later added an Irish brother-in-law, Tennessee Williams changed the characters to two Southern American belles and a Polish American man in order to emphasize the clash between cultures and classes in this story of alcoholism madness and sexual violence. The action of the play concerns the time that Blanche DuBois spends with her sister Stella and Stella’s husband Stanley, and the action features Blanche’s conflict with Stanley. Blanche’s sordid history gradually comes to light, and Stanley’s commitments to his wife and his friend Mitch only make him crueler to Blanche as he makes sure that she is unable to start over with a new life in New Orleans.
Tennessee Williams was born in Thomas Lanier Williams, as a American theater of the A Streetcar Named Desire who received many of the top theatrical awards for his work. He moved to New Orleans in 1939 and changed his name to “Tennessee,” the state of his father’s birth. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. These two plays were later filmed, with great success, by noted directors Elia Kazan (Streetcar) with whom Williams developed a very close artistic relationship, and Richard Brooks (Cat). Both plays included references to elements of Williams’ life such as homosexuality, mental instability, and alcoholism. Although The Flowering Peach by Clifford Odets was the preferred choice of the Pulitzer Prize jury in 1955 and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was at first considered the weakest of the five shortlisted nominees, Joseph Pulitzer Jr., chairman of the Board, had seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and thought it worthy of the drama prize.
There is a streetcar named Desire that Blanche DuBois travel from the railway station in New Orleans to a street named Elysian Fields, where her sister who pregnant and married to Stanley Kowalski that lives in a run-down apartment building in the old French Quarter. Blanche lost her husband, parents, teaching position, and old family home which named Belle Reve in Laurel, Mississippi. Blanche has nowhere to turn but to her one remaining close relative.
Blanche is thirty years old which is emotionally and economically destitute. There was the discovery about her husband wrote a poet whom she had married at the tender age of sixteen was homosexual. He committed suicide after she had taunted him for his sexual impotence in the Moon Lake Casino. Blanche’s subsequent guilt over his death, she found temporary releases in a series of sexual affairs, the latest having involved one of her young students and resulting in her dismissal.
Blanche is horrified at the circumstances in which her sister Stella lives and at the man to whom Stella is married. Stella’s husband who is Polish, uneducated, inarticulate, and working class, but sexually attractive, he has won Stella by his sheer masculinity. Stella has been narcotized by his sexual superiority. Mitch is the fourth important character and Stanley’s poker-playing companion Mitch, is attracted to Blanche. Besides, Blanche is attracted to his kindness to her, for he is gentle in his manner, as Stanley is not. She refers at one point to having found God in Mitch’s arms, a religious reference frequently made by Williams’s characters at important moments in their lives.
There is many important parts that appeared in this story such as the loss of Belle Reve, the acceptance by Stella of a new life, the world of Stanley and the kind but inarticulate Mitch. A Streetcar Named Desire is a dramatization of a heroin with few, if any, peers in her impact on the consciousness of the American theatrical tradition.
A Streetcar Named Desire starts with the arrival of Blanche DuBois that Belle Reve who has lost her inheritance, at the New Orleans home of her sister Stella and her husband Stanley. A conflict arises between Stanley and Blanche, and after several secrets about her past have been revealed, Stanley rapes Blanche while his wife is in hospital giving birth. Stella, refusing to believe Blanche’s accusations, gives consent for the increasingly hysterical Blanche to be placed in a mental hospital.
The first theme will be sex roles. As Blanche’s difficulties can be traced to the narrow roles open to females during the period. Blanches is nonetheless constrained by the expectations of Southern society although she is an educated woman who worked as a teacher. Blanche knows that she needs men to lean on and protect her, and she continues to depend on them throughout the play, right up to her conservation with the doctor from the mental hospital. Blanche known sexual freedom in the past, but she understands that sexual freedom does not fit the pattern of chaste behavior to which a Southern woman would be expected to conform.
The second theme will be violence and cruelty. Violence in this play is fraught with sexual passion. For example, Eunice and Steve Hubbell’s relationships which has this kind of element of violence, and the unnerving suggestion that violence is more common and willingly accepted by the female partner in a marriage. Besides, Stanley is violence to the Blanche and he raped Blanche during Stella is giving birth in the hospital.
Blanche ask Stella to translate the context of sexual passion, and claiming that “What you are talking about is brutal desire – just Desire – the name of that rattle trap street – car that bangs through the Quarter, up one old narrow street and down another.” “Haven’t you ever ridden on that street – car?” asked by Stella and Blanche answers, “It brought me here – Where I’m not wanted and where I’m ashamed to be.” This appear that the connection in Blanche’s past between violence and desire in some way contributes to the events within the time scale of the play. As this is not to do excuse Stanley’s violence actions or to suggest Blanche brings it on herself.
The third theme will be madness that considering how Tennessee Williams’ sister Rose was the recipient of a lobotomy, the theme of madness running through Streetcar in the form of Blanche’s neurosis and self-delusion may reveal some of the playwright’s fears about the instability of his mental life.
There are two types of styles of the story that include scene structure and music. The first is the scene structure as the most striking feature of Streetcar’s dramatic structure is its division into scenes rather than acts. There are some scenes that make up the play ends in a dramatic climax, and the tension of each individual scene builds up to the tension of final climax. This scene structure give the audience to focus on emotions and actions of Blanche that is the only character to appear in every scene.
The second style will be discussed which is music. Music play a very important role in this stage craft of the play. There are two types of music dominate such as “blue piano” which associated with Southern Blacks. The second type which is Varsouviana that heard only by Blanche as this music is the signals crucial moments in the development of the plot. This is because this music reminds Blanche the scene when she renounced her husband suicide on the ballroom floor.
Blanche DuBois is the complicated protagonist of the play. She is a faded Southern belle without a dime left to her name, after generations of mismanagement led to the loss of the family fortune. Blanche spent the end of her youth watching the older generation of her family die out before losing the DuBois seat at Belle Reve. This experience, along with the suicide of her young homosexual husband, deadened Blanche’s emotions and her sense of reality. Desire and death became intricately linked in her life as she led a loose and increasingly careless life, and indeed, after losing her position as a schoolteacher she is forced to depend on the kindness of her one living relation, her sister Stella. Blanche tries to continue being the Southern belle of her youth, but she is too old and has seen too much, and soon her grip on reality begins to slip. She has difficulty understanding the passion in her sister’s marriage and is coolly calculating in her relationship with Mitch – yet barely manages to suppress a latent nymphomania.
He is loyal to his friends and passionate to his wife. Stanley possesses an animalistic physical vigor that is evident in his love of work, of fighting, and of sex. His family is from Poland, and several times he expresses his outrage at being called “Polack” and other derogatory names. When Blanche calls him a “Polack,” he makes her look old-fashioned and ignorant by asserting that he was born in America, is an American, and can only be called “Polish.” Stanley represents the new, heterogeneous America to which Blanche doesn’t belong, because she is a relic from a defunct social hierarchy. He sees himself as a social leveler, as he tells Stella in Scene Eight.
Stanley’s intense hatred of Blanche is motivated in part by the aristocratic past Blanche represents. He also sees her as untrustworthy and does not appreciate the way she attempts to fool him and his friends into thinking she is better than they are. Stanley’s animosity toward Blanche manifests itself in all of his actions toward her—his investigations of her past, his birthday gift to her, his sabotage of her relationship with Mitch.
Blanche’s younger sister, about twenty-five years old and of a mild disposition that visibly sets her apart from her more vulgar neighbors. Stella possesses the same timeworn aristocratic heritage as Blanche, but she jumped the sinking ship in her late teens and left Mississippi for New Orleans. There, Stella married lower-class Stanley, with whom she shares a robust sexual relationship. Stella’s union with Stanley is both animal and spiritual, violent but renewing. After Blanche’s arrival, Stella is torn between her sister and her husband. Eventually, she stands by Stanley, perhaps in part because she gives birth to his child near the play’s end. While she loves and pities Blanche, she cannot bring herself to believe Blanche’s accusations that Stanley dislikes Blanche, and she eventually dismisses Blanche’s claim that Stanley raped her. Stella’s denial of reality at the play’s end shows that she has more in common with her sister than she thinks.
Doctor escort Blanche to the mental hospital. He is calm, professional, and treats Blanche respectfully in order for her to trust him.
Eunice and Steve Hubbell
The landlords who live upstairs from Stanley and Stella, are a vision of what Stanley and Stella could become. Eunice is overweight and run down from too many pregnancies while Steve is not particularly understanding or supportive of his wife. They are hospitable and neighborly and take Stella in when she seeks refuge from Stanley.
Mitch is noticeably more sensitive than Stanley’s other poker friends. The other men pick on him for being a mama’s boy. Even in his first, brief line in Scene One, Mitch’s gentlemanly behavior stands out. Mitch appears to be a kind, decent human being who, we learn in Scene Six, hopes to marry so that he will have a woman to bring home to his dying mother.
Mitch doesn’t fit the bill of the chivalric hero of whom Blanche dreams. He is clumsy, sweaty, and has unrefined interests like muscle building. Though sensitive, he lacks Blanche’s romantic perspective and spirituality, as well as her understanding of poetry and literature. She toys with his lack of intelligence—for example, when she teases him in French because she knows he won’t understand—duping him into playing along with her self-flattering charades.
Though they come from completely different worlds, Mitch and Blanche are drawn together by their mutual need of companionship and support, and they therefore believe themselves right for one another. They also discover that they have both experienced the death of a loved one. The snare in their relationship is sexual. As part of her prim-and-proper act, Blanche repeatedly rejects Mitch’s physical affections, refusing to sleep with him. Once he discovers the truth about Blanche’s sordid sexual past, Mitch is both angry and embarrassed about the way Blanche has treated him. When he arrives to chastise her, he states that he feels he deserves to have sex with her, even though he no longer respects her enough to think her fit to be his wife.
Stanley Kowalski As an Egalitarian Hero in The Film “A Streetcar Named Desire”
Stanley Kowalski has a major role in the film adaptation “A Streetcar Named Desire” where audiences everywhere consider Stanley to be an egalitarian hero that possesses physical and mental strength. With these things in mind, it effectively shows his characterization throughout the whole story because of his gender, class and history. Be careful with your word choice ‘egalitarian’.
The first key evidence of Stanley having a big role in the story is his own gender because it affects his character a lot as throughout the whole story, we see that males are considered to be very controlling of other women and also has a muscular body. His lack of control is what creates a major conflict both internally and externally as we see in Scene 3 where he loses his temper because Blanche kept on playing music while he is playing poker with his friends while he is sober which causes him to accidently hit his wife Stella and he later feels tearful by saying “Stella! My baby doll’s left me! I want my baby! Stella! Stella!” (Williams 30) which shows that he didn’t mean to hit Stella and that he simply just lost control. We later hear from Stella in which she says “He didn’t know what he was doing….He was as good as a lamb when I came back and he’s really very, very ashamed of himself.” (Williams 63) as it shows in Stanley’s character that he calms down instantly whenever Stella comes to help him and how she herself understands Stanley well enough to know exactly how to calm him down. This conflict is an example of an internal conflict towards himself because he has trouble controlling himself as a person. Yes, this interpretation of yours does demonstrate internal conflict, and you provide good evidence for it. Your structure needs to be more clear though, I think you are looking at Stanley’s physical power through the lens of gender here, but it needs to be clearer.
However when it comes to the external conflicts he has with other people in the story, it shows fully with his relationship with Blanche, Stella’s sister as he has immense hatred for her mainly for her past of being untrustworthy and does not appreciate how she tries to fool other people into thinking she’s better than they are. Throughout the majority of the story, Mitch tries to observe Blanche by investigating her past in which he considers everything she says to be a lie. Later on, he tells Stella that he discovered Blanche’s past which he explains that after she lost the DuBois Mansion, she moves to a fleabag hotel from which she was eventually evicted because of her numerous sexual liaisons and also about how she lost her job as a schoolteacher due to having an affair with a teenage student and later tells Mitch about it in hopes that his relationship with Blanche gets corrupted and gives Blanche a birthday gift to her of a one-way bus ticket back to Laurel and finally in the climax he starts to rape Blanche which results in her being taken away into an insane asylum. Try to avoid too much plot summary. Include your own ideas here. Stanley also has a brief conflict with Stella since we know that he hits her while he is sober and at the very end of the film adaptation, Stella decides to leave Stanley after she heard that he raped Blanche which caused her to become mentally insane. All of this shows how he is extremely stubborn and controlling since he wants everything going in his way which makes him lose control.
The second key evidence of Stanley having a big role in the story is his class as he is considered a low class character, used to be soldier that fought in World War 2 and now works as an auto-parts salesman. At this point in the story, you have two main arguments – the first about Stanley having a big role in the story (and that you want to explore this through his gender, class, etc – and the second argument about internal and external conflicts. You need to pick the strongest one, and structure your ideas around it. Since he used to be a soldier, it can show a clue to his character as he is a muscular person and is often aggressive towards other people particularly towards both Blanche and Stella. In Scene 8, Stanley reveals to us that his parents are from Poland and shows his disgust towards being called “Polack” over her derogatory remarks about his Polish ethnicity and says “I am not a Polack. People from Poland are Poles, not Polacks. But what I am is a one hundred percent American, born and raised in the greatest country on earth and proud as hell of it, so don’t ever call me a Polack.” (Williams 110) which indicates that he was born in America and that he doesn’t want to be considered a “Polack” but instead can only be called a “Polish” as if he was considered an American citizen.
The final key evidence of Stanley having a big role in the story is the history as it was written around time where movies were not allowed to reveal smoking, sexuality, rape, etc. In almost every scene, we see Stanley smoking and drinking at least once throughout the whole movie like how in the first scene of the story where he first meets Blanche, they first talk about alcohol where Blanche says “No, I — rarely touch it.” (Williams 30) and then Stanley responds with “Some people rarely touch it, but it touched them often.” (Williams 30) which is significant to the story since it foreshadows to how Stanley will act like eventually and how he will lose control throughout the story.
The foreshadowing is later be shown in Scene 3 where Stanley becomes sober which causes him to lose control and hit Stella and his friends had to give him a shower to calm him down and finally using rape towards Blanche while both him and Blanche were sober as shown where the mirror shatters in the climax of the story in Scene 10. The overall history effectively shows how men like Stanley were like in the old days.
Stanley’s role in A Streetcar Named Desire effectively shows the theme of gender roles as we see his character based of his own gender showing himself losing control to take advantage of both Stella and Blanche and using his muscular body to verbally abuse both of them, how his class affects his character of being aggressive and having a muscular body, and finally how his own history effectively shows drug and alcohol use from Stanley which overall effectively shows how big of a major role Stanley plays during the whole story.
A Nature Of Mitch in a Streetcar Named Desire Novel
‘Mitch may be a weak character, but his treatment of Blanche is still disturbing and harmful.’ In light of this comment, explore Williams’ presentation of Mitch. In your answer you must consider relevant contextual factors.
Mitch can be considered a weak character due to effeminate nature. Within the start of the play he found to be very caring for his mother. Therefore the men around him class him as a much more feminine man. However, his behaviour towards Blanche is harmful as hurts her feelings. This is seen when he does not attend her birthday party. It is also disturbing to the modern audience as it is not something considered as normal nor polite. On the other hand it can be argued that it is not Mitch’s behaviour that is disturbing, but Blanche’s. This is because she is often found drinking, smoking or flirting with men around her. Such activities were seen as controversial within 1940s America and also the society of Elysian Fields.
Mitch can be considered weak by the patriarchal society that ‘A Street Named Desire’ is based upon as he is very considerate for women around him. For instance, in scene 3, right after Stella is hit by Stanley, Mitch says, “poker shouldn’t be played in a house with women.” This characterizes Mitch as someone who believes women and soft and gentle and should be protected from the roughness of poker. However, a man from 1947 would not believe in such a thing. Men treated women as if they were a lower class of human being so for someone like Mitch to do the opposite of completely that would be absurd. Mitch would have been seen as effeminate and weak. Another factor to which plays into Mitch being regarded as effeminate would be how he cares so dearly for his mother. After the ruckus in which Stanley caused, Mitch says, “I’m out again,” to which Stanley replies, “Shut up.” Mitch then says, “I gotta sick mother. She don’t go sleep until I come in at night.” Mitch deviates from the classic masculinity, in which Stanley fiercely embodies. As a result, Mitch was seen as a weak character by the contemporary viewer and also by other characters within the play.
Mitch’s behaviour towards the end of the play is disturbing to the modern audience, but to the contemporary audience it is seen as the norm. Also, to the society of Elysian Fields, this can be considered as the norm. In scene 9, Mitch explicitly calls Blanche a whore, “you’re not clean enough to bring in the house with my mother.” To the modern audience, this would be extremely offensive and rude. However, to the contemporary viewer, they would agree with what Mitch calls Blanche as during the late 1940s, women were expected to ‘remain pure’ for the men which they soon come to marry. As Blanche as already lost her virginity, the audience would side with Mitch automatically. Furthermore, due to what Blanche has done to him (lied, manipulated and toyed with him), Mitch feels likes he deserves to have sex with her. Mitch tells Blanche he wants, “what,” he’s been, “missing all summer.” That is to have sex with Blanche. To the modern audience, this type of behaviour would not be tolerated. Such behaviour would be considered as sexual harassment. The contemporary audience would feel the opposite. A contemporary viewer would believe that it is, indeed, Mitch’s right to claim Blanche and have her for night. Therefore, it can be argued that Mitch’s behaviour is disturbing to the modern reader, but not the contemporary reader.
However, it can also be argued that Blanche is the disturbing one as she is the one that troubles society and its norms. Mitch is not the one disturbing society. For instance, Blanche is found, multiple times, drinking alcohol. Scene 1, she, “notices something…crosses to it, and removes a whisky bottle.” Blanche has only just entered Stanley and Stella’s apartment and the first thing she notices is a bottle of whisky. This suggests that she may be an alcoholic which, for women during the late 1940s, was seen as something strange. Women were expected to not drink alcohol. Therefore, Blanche can be seen as disturbing what society had set upon women at the time. Furthermore, Blanche smokes as seen in scene 3 when she meets Mitch for the first time and asks, “have you got any cigs?” Women smoking during the late 1940s was also considered as socially unacceptable. Thus Blanche disturbs society with her abnormal habit of smoking. The last thing in which Blanche posses, which really sets off those around her, was her previous job of working as a prostitute. Blanche held, “many intimacies with strangers,” at, “the Flamingo Hotel.” The hotel was one of Blanche’s homes of the past. It was the second rate hotel she practised prostitution. Until the hotel deemed her, “morally unfit for her position,” and also cast her out. This was due to the lifestyle she was living. One where she was smoking and drinking constantly. For a brothel to throw her out shows how seriously in trouble Blanche is. This demonstrates how much Blanche had been disturbing society.
Mitch may be considered harmful as he does not attend Blanche’s birthday and in turn, hurts her. Stella, Stanley and Blanche have all been waiting for Stanley for, “three-quarters of an hour.” However, “a fourth place at the table which is left vacant,” remains. The viewer assumes that this place was set out for Mitch, who stood Blanche up. Mitch not showing up symbolises rejection, that he has rejected Blanche as a lover, potential wife and mother to his children. During the 1940s, such rejection could ruin a woman’s life. Thus Mitch ends up ruining Blanche’s hopes and dreams of ever getting married, leaving Stanley and Stella’s home and creating one of her own. For a woman living in the 1940s, this was something to aspire to. Much like how many aspire to gain a further education, women during the late 1940s aspired to get married. To further confirm Blanche’s hurt and disappointment, she gets up to make a phone call and, “remains by the phone with a lost, frightened look.” Blanche is frightened that Mitch has truly rejected her and does not know what to do anymore. Stanley and Stella were her last and only resort. Now she stands with nothing and not a single penny to her name. Lastly, Blanche has been deeply hurt. This is all a result of Mitch not attending her birthday.
In conclusion, Mitch may be seen as a weak character due to his effeminate nature. However, his treatment of Blanche counters this and seems disturbing. On the other hand, Blanche herself is considered to be a disturbing being as she does not conform to what society expects of women.
Gender Stereotypes in The Play “A Streetcar Named Desire” By Tennessee Williams
An imbedded concept, widely agreed to about the behavioral patterns of certain types of individuals, intended to be symbolic of an entire group of those individuals or behaviors as a whole is known to us as a Stereotype. To simplify and categorize a variety of human beings and objects we use stereotypes, often miscarrying the idea of one’s individualistic nature and tend to overlap between certain groups. The biological constituent remains one of the major factors in the fabrication of a stance such as that of a “man’s” or a “woman’s” job in the society. This element tends to have made the existing society where women are supposedly weaker whereas men are tougher, women belong in the kitchen whereas men should and can pursue physical labor. These stereotypical duties are inflicted upon each gender of majority of the cultures since eons and have proliferated through the literary milieu. The standards of middle and upper class women in the 18th and 19th century, in contrast with men, were set to be loyal to only the domestic world of “hearth and home” carrying out the role of daughters, sisters, wives and mothers solicitous of fathers, brothers, husbands and children. Further on, women were supposed to refrain from keeping tenacious sexual desires and opinions as against to the men who were viewed as their ‘guardians’. These standards imposed predispositions upon predominant factors such as those of education, time and financial support which seems to have had impact over participation in the world of literature as a writer. Hence, throughout history men seem to have created what is now known to us as gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes, the embellished, one sided representation of men and women, exploited repetitively in our everyday lives seem to be instrumental in most of literary works. These works almost always support the argument of the typical gender roles which incorporate women attending to the nurturing of her children whereas men carrying out the role of breadwinners.
In the play A streetcar Named Desire written by Tennessee Williams, a classic play set in the 1940’s in New Orleans subsequent to World War II, displays the vulnerable Blanche DuBois through gender stereotypes. This is due to her constant and unceasing ‘desire’ for a man which further on in the play leads her into a chaotic and catastrophic ending which she weaves for herself. The play explores the theme of sexual revelation through stereotypical characterization of the protagonists- Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski.
Characterization, commonly known as a method deployed by playwrights in literature to give prominence to and unfold the details about a character is very evidently present in Williams work through a concept he invented, namely “Plastic Theatre”. “I don’t want realism. I want magic.” The very essence of this line in the play spoken by Blanche DuBois defines the term Plastic Theatre. A term relying profoundly on expressionism and symbolism of a character, further characterized through the alleged ‘production elements’ of light, sound, props and staging. Plastic Theatre was unorthodox and dissimilar to the theatre performed in the late 19th and 20th century of the European Artists. This distinction led Williams to use plastic theatre as a way of conveying the grotesque and absurd realities of life to the audience, disavowing the concept of realism. This form of theatre further enabled him to use the plasticity of production elements to be in congruence with his poetic vision in order to acquire a diverse and in depth response from the audience to his versatile dramatic exposition. Hence, in A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams employs Plastic Theatre to characterize the characters, further creating conflict between romanticism and realism to explore the theme of sexual revelation through gender stereotyping. Williams does this in order to make the audience cognizant of female sexuality and the society that they had been brought up in.
Review of a Streetcar Named Desire, Based On the Vision of Blanche
“A Streetcar named Desire” is a play driven by the fantasy of Blanche and other prime characters. The characters in the play hide from their reality by acting as if the events they went through didn’t happen or were not important; insignificant. The prominent idea of illusion and fantasy versus reality seems to bring on the idea that these characters want to “escape” their world.
Blanche DuBois is the central character in the play. She draws our attention with her sincere and fragile personality, which later on turns out to be an illusionistic image of her own mind. She lives in the world of illusions in order to protect herself against outside threats and against her own fears; however it becomes evident that she is trapped within her own mind; and the only thing she should fear is her own paranoia and ill mind. In the play Williams contrasts Blanche’s delusions with Stanley’s realism, whilst in the end, Stanley and his worldview wins. Blanche’s hope throughout the play is to salvage her life in the world of brutality where the inner anxiety clashes with the outside threats by using different coping mechanisms: delusions, alcoholism and illusions.
Williams shows deception to be a uniquely human trait in the drama, one that is used to keep consciousness sustaining and something that is used to deceive others and oneself. Blanche is one of the strongest examples of this element of self-deception. She is incapable of seeing herself in the most honest of lights.Blanche has difficulty confronting a pain-ridden past, and so deception is used to keep such a reality at bay. It is also this deception, to a great extent, that feeds the antagonism between her and Stanley, someone that she sees as a fundamental threat to the idea of her self- deception. Blanche comes to need this self- deception in an intense manner and Stanley’s desire to take it from her shows one of the first examples of his savagery and her ultimate defenceless state. For the most part, Stanley is fairly open and direct about who he is and in what he believes, as there is little deception on this point. Yet, he is incapable of being honest in terms of what he did to Blanche. He uses deception to conceal the fact that he raped his wife’s sister. Finally, Stella engages in self-deception to a great extent in order to survive with her husband and in the attempt to maintain control of her world when being pulled between Stanley and Stella. She ends up deceiving herself about the nature of her husband, if nothing else for her own welfare and for the welfare of her child;however this could be viewed as forgivable when reflecting upon the ideals of society at the time.
Upon first meeting Blanche, it is thoroughly evident that she is more cultured and sophisticated than the people who live in “Elysian Fields.” Her surname of French origin, “DuBois,” immediately reveals her as being from the upper class of society. She appears to be ‘daintily dressed in a white suit’ with ‘white gloves’, all of which suggests purity and innocence, but it doesn’t take long to realise that Blanche is nearly always showing pretence. Her pathetic attempt at covering up her drinking problem and hiding her recent promiscuous activity all foreshadow the eventual destruction of her character as she is sent away to a mental asylum by the end of the play.
Blanche was subjected to a series of deaths in her family and the ultimate loss of the ancestral home. The deaths illustrated the ugliness and brutality of life. To escape from these brutalities and to escape from the lonely void created by her young husband’s death, Blanche turned to alcohol and sexual promiscuity. The alcohol helped her to forget, encouraging themes of fantasy and illusion;yet again we see another coping mechanism that allows Blanche to avoid the truth.
Blanche gives herself to men for a number of reasons. She feels that she had failed her young husband in some way. Therefore, she tries to alleviate her guilt by giving herself at random to other young men. And by sleeping with others, she is trying to fill the void left by Allan’s death — “intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with.” And she was particularly drawn to very young men who would remind her of her young husband. During these years of promiscuity, Blanche has never been able to find anyone to fill the emptiness. Thus Blanche’s imagined failure to her young husband and her constant encounter with the ugliness of death forced the delicate young girl to seek distraction by and forgetfulness through intimacies with strangers and through alcohol which could make the tune in her head stop. Blanche creates an illusion that she is still youthful and an eligible bachelorette; by doing so she allows herself to live in another fantasy and avoid the truth; that she is aging and slowly becoming unattractive to the opposing gender.
Stella comes to her sister’s defence against her husband time and time again, starting with his accusation of a “swindle” in Scene Two, and continuing as he uncovers more and more information about Blanche’s past in Laurel. Stella remains firmly on her sister’s side, refusing to believe these stories even in the face of overwhelming evidence. “You didn’t know Blanche as a girl,” she argues. “Nobody, nobody, was tender and trusting as she was.” This it makes it considerably more difficult for us to understand her decision at the end of the play to disbelieve her sister, send her off to a mental institution, and side with Stanley. “I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley.” Stella suggests that she can’t believe the story if she wants to go on living with Stanley. She doesn’t say that she thinks Blanche is lying; rather she’s consciously choosing to think Blanche is lying so her life can continue without interruption.
Every action and every word out of Blanche’s mouth is based on illusion. Her story of why she’s staying with Stella is an illusion. The way she covers the harsh light of the bare bulb with a paper shade is an illusion. The lies she tells Mitch are an illusion. The only positive time in her life was when she was ‘happily’ married to her first husband; she was young. Every action Blanche takes is aiming to recreate this time. But even that happiness was an illusion; her husband only married her in an attempt to deal with his homosexuality, another underlying theme of mistrust and deceit.
Illusion is hard work for Blanche. She is purposeful in her attempts to create illusion. Not only does she shroud the people around her in illusion, she attempts to shroud her own memories and her mind. But illusion is hard to keep up and Blanche is at the end of her strength. Fragments start seeping through, as particularly seen in scene 9. When Blanche’s strength wears out, there is no safe place for her; not out in the world, not in her mind. When reality comes crashing down on her, Blanche has no choice but to go insane.
As her polar opposite, Stanley is the representation of reality. Stanley has neither imagination nor use for living in an illusion. He has no patience for Blanche’s desire to live in a shrouded world. As Blanche uses illusion to survive, Stanley uses brute force. His words are forceful, his moves are forceful, and his actions are decisive and forceful: ‘She’s not stayin’ here after Tuesday. You know that, don’t you? Just to make sure I bought her a ticket myself. A bus ticket! She’ll go!”
Stanley does everything he can to unravel the illusion Blanche presents. He wants the papers to prove what happened to Belle Reve instead of believing Blanche’s story. He goes out of his way to learn the facts regarding why Blanche left Laurel. And when he finds out the truth, he makes sure everyone knows it.
During the final scene of A Streetcar Named Desire, the audience witnesses Stella adopting the delusion that her husband is trustworthy, that he did not in fact rape her sister. Eunice says, “No matter what happens, we’ve all got to keep going,” she is preaching the virtues of self-deception. But apparently Blanche did not have the strength to go on living in spite of everything. She was too delicate to be able to withstand the pressures of living in a brutal, realistic world. Mitch adopts the delusion that Stanley is the only one responsible for Blanche’s undoing, eschewing any moral responsibility.
Finally, even Stanley himself, the masculine character who prides himself on being down-to-earth, at facing life for what it is, falls prey to delusions. For one, he has always been paranoid about Blanche’s intentions, believing that Blanche has been trying to de-throne him from his role as “king of his castle.” Just before raping Blanche he declares, “We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning,” implying that Blanche has complied in the sexual act – another delusion.
When Blanche refuses to go with the doctor and matron, she tells them that she has forgotten something. It is then that Stanley wonders what and takes off the “magic” Chinese lantern from the light, leaving the naked light bulb glaring at Blanche. This is the final blow for Blanche who tries to escape and is trapped by the matron. Again the light symbolism emphasizes Blanche’s desire to live in a world of semi-illusion which contradicts Stanley’s world. She is faced with reality, and is no longer protected by her means of escapism.
The last line of the play puns on the man’s world as Steve announces that the game is “seven-card stud,” a particularly wild poker game. This quotation is the very last line in the play. Within the house, as Blanche is taken away by the doctor to the mental asylum, the other men start another poker game. Firstly, Williams may be intending to reflect the truth of reality; life will continue on regardless of anything that happens or that may happen. But even more so, it reflects the unreliability and the gamble which is taken in life. Blanche could never rely on her family as she watched them all die and suddenly lost her dream-like home, life, and state of mind. In “the game of life,” it is particularly Blanche, who is left to live a life of tragic illusions, and Stella, who has to live a lie, who have lost.
Analysis on the Conclusion of Tennessee Williams’s Book, A Streetcar Named Desire vs the Film Adaptation
The endings of A Street Car Named Desire in the movie and in the play by Tennessee Williams are very different. Initially, they both follow the same storyline, which follows Stella’s struggles between choosing Blanche or Stanley. Near the end, Kazan changes the turning point from what Tennessee Williams wrote. The impact of the different endings dramatically changes the reactions from the audience.
In the play, Eunice is telling Stella that she cannot believe what Stanley did because her life needs to go on. Stella takes the baby, and she goes back to Stanley, and when the baby stopped crying it is as if life is back to normal. When Blanche is gone they treat their lives no differently than when she was there. In this case, Stanley wins the “poker game,” because he has a better hand than Blanche. Stella cries frantically and it shows how badly she feels about admitting Blanche into an insane asylum. The end of the play says “7 card stud.” This tells the audience that the play has gone back to normal. This ending is very different from the movie because Stella makes a different decision than she does in the book.
In the movie, Stella does not go back to her normal life. The book has Eunice giving Stella the baby, but in the movie Eunice does not give Stella the baby and as Blanche is being forced to leave Stella thinks about what Stanley has done. It makes her too sick to even think of Stanley, and she says “Don’t you touch me, don’t ever touch me again.” She relays the amount of hatred she has toward Stanley and it impacts the decision she makes in the end. When Mitch watches Stella being taken away he yells at Stanley and says, “what have you done to her?” and this skepticism was not shown during the play. The movie does not have life going back to normal and although Blanche did not win the poker game, Stanley did lose. Stella goes back inside to Eunice as Stanley continues to call for her. This change is very difficult to comprehend because the result of the play and the movie are opposite. This ending shows the change between who has won the pot: Stanley, Blanche or No One.
As a result of the alternate endings the audience becomes very confused as to why they are so different. If a change had been made earlier in the movie it would not be as drastic as making a change to the ending. This alters the meanings that can be interpreted by the play and movie. The question that many still wonder is why are the endings different if the movie was produced only a couple years after the book? The alternate endings have a negative impact on how people interpret the endings.
Tennessee Williams’ Depiction of Blanche as a Casualty As Illustrated In His Play, A Streetcar Named Desire
“Blanche is a victim of the fact that she is a female.” With reference to the dramatic methods used in the play, and relevant controversial information, show to what extent you agree with this statement.
The play “A Streetcar Named Desire” written by Tennessee Williams portrays the character of Blanche Dubois following her from her hometown of Laurel, Mississippi to New Orleans where she is to stay with her sister Stella Kowalski and her sister’s husband Stanley Kowalski, beginning Blanche’s dependence on men, as she is still ultimately depending on her sister’s husband (Stanley) for her mental and economic recovery.Feminists believe that patriarchy not only suppresses women in such aspects as politics, economy, society, culture, education and so on, but also mistakenly defines women’s psychology as being unsound, irrational, illogical and impulsive. Under this kind of bias and discrimination, women’s psychology is easily distorted, and cannot develop healthily. In A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche is a contradictive lady with very complicated character, which is illustrated from the aspects of sexual desire, fantasy for bright future, and hypocrisy and pretension.
In A Streetcar Named Desire, the females, Stella Kowalski and Blanche Dubois,are portrayed as the weaker sex; women who are overpowered by those such as Stanley Kowalski, the self-aggrandizing, masculine“hero.” Blanche displays deep-seated psychological instability when she is unable to live up to her expectations as a properly raised Southern belle. Stella represents the classic example of a woman’s deference to an abusive husband (which occurs not only in the South during the time of this play, but also resounds throughout most of human history). Stanley Kowalski’s personality provides insight as to how men dominate women, convince them of their inferiority, and ultimately destroy them if unchecked. Through this theme Williams presents a negative view upon the roles of women at the time, criticising the Old South and its treatment of the female population.
Blanche and Stella are portrayed as victims of traditional Southern society in which females had few choices in life. Both sisters were raised on the plantation, Belle Reve in Laurel, Mississippi, and their primary goal in life, paralleled with Southern tradition, was to seek the security of marriage. However, both chose unsuitable husbands. Blanche, who is five years older than her sister, marries Allan Gray for love at a young age only to find her dreams shattered by her husband’s infidelity with another man. Stella, who moves to New Orleans at a young age, chooses Stanley Kowalski, an aggressive, heterosexual man of the wrong social class. However, Blanche is portrayed as the victim here, due to the fact that her marriage was unsuccessful.
Blanche’s failure to save the estate and move beyond her sordid past in Laurel leaves her with only one last hope for the future; to begin a new life with her sister in New Orleans. Unfortunately, she arrives at her new destination as a slave to her definition of womanhood, and feels compelled to lie to herself and others in order to be accepted and secure a respectable husband. She is attracted to Mitch who appears gentlemanly, and she envisions capturing him by being a perfect Southern belle, whilst hiding her promiscuous past. This involves earning a man’s respect by not “putting out” or moving too fast, giving the impression that she’s never been touched, and adhering to old-fashioned ideals of the South. Blanche even tries to recapture the more romanticized gender roles from the age of chivalry. This becomes evident when she requires Mitch to bow as he presents her with flowers and become the “Rosenkavalier” of her affections. After Mitch learns the truth about her past, and that she is not the virgin of his dreams, he refuses to show up for her birthday party, for which Blanche later reminds him that his behaviour is “utterly uncavalier.” Williams is representing that our patriarchal system teaches men that women need to be pure in order to marry them, but they typically adhere to a double standard when the roles are reversed. Blanche is a victim to this scheme of double standards, as her promiscuity is heavily frowned upon by the characters in the novel, much as it would have been within the timeframe in which the novel was set.
Domestic Violence is different to each character in this play. This is because each character has a different experience with it, and the consequences of violence in their lives have been so diverse that each has made up their own conclusion on what it is to be violent or to be a victim of it.
Stanley, for example, is by nature a violent man. He has created a stereotypical view of women in his mind, and his wife should be the embodiment of subservience and submission. When he drinks, these ideals become more powerful and make him even more violent. When his wife does not do as he says he hits her, they fight, and then there is the post-fighting lovemaking which intends to patch all mistakes. Yet, this is to him a form of aphrodisiac and violence is a way to channel his pathological views of life. Blanche becomes a victim of his violence, particularly during the rape scene.
Stella is at the receiving end of Stanley. She is the one getting the hits, surviving the fights, and then getting with him for sex after fighting. However, this to Stella is another curious form of sexual enticement and she even confesses to that much. She even expects the violence partly because of the time in history when women were treated like second class citizens, and partly because Stanley’s rough nature is what attracted her to him in the first place. Stanley’s brutality is demonstrated in many ways, a particularly prominent way being when “He hurls a plate to the floor.” He states “That’s how I’ll clear the table!” He then “seizes Stella’s arm.” This uncalled for violence is not a mere consequence of the physical inequality between the genders, but is an example of male abuse of power and position, in order to further their own dominance. Although Stella may be presented as a female victim, it is clear that Blanche suffers more, regarding violence.
However, Blanche is the opposite. She is appalled by violence, and it is because even in her life of sin and debauchery, inside of Blanche there is a lot of hurt and emotion. When she sees her sister getting hit she immediately calls for the horror of the situation and tries to get Stella out of Stanley’s life. However, she gets in shock when she sees that Stella does not want to leave and looks actually glowing after she makes up with Stanley. After the suicide of her husband, Blanche sees nothing positive in violence, and it stops her frozen. When she becomes the victim of Stanley in the end and he rapes her, she becomes insane. That is the extent to which violence is like napalm in Blanche’s life. This ultimately displays Blanche as a victim to the patriarchy, as Stanley is the embodiment of male control over women.
A particularly complex problem for feminists is the issue of rape – the ultimate outrage. In this invasion of the female body, the woman is uniquely vulnerable to masculine attack, frequently for purposes of domination, not for sexual release. The rape victim is most often portrayed as the maiden in distress. In the case of Blanche, she has flirted with Stanley, engaged him in verbal combat, and challenged his authority. He confronts her in his role of the alpha male facing the attacker of the herd. It is less lust than power that motivates him. in her, he sees a foe. Furthermore, she is no gentle maiden facing this beast. She smashes a bottle, threatens to twist it in his face. She is, as he realizes, a “tiger,” a worthy adversary. This explains Williams’ difficulties in writing the ending of the play. He knew that the censors would want Blanche destroyed, but he was tempted to let her have a triumphal departure. This is certainly not the attitude of a man who belittles women. On the other hand, it plays into the ultimate insulting defence used frequently in courts of law; that the rape victim “asked for it.” In the case of Blanche and Stanley, she incited the outrage, he needed the victory. Both have their share of guilt, although Blanche is regarded as the victim in this situation.
“Now don’t you worry, your sister hasn’t turned into a drunkard, she’s just all shaken up and hot and tired and dirty!” This line is extremely ironic and it also denotes that alcoholism in a woman is a shameful trait, for which excuses need to be made. This connotation is not displayed in respect for the male characters within the text who are drunk. Male alcoholism is displayed as a totally respectable incident, as they are male. That fact that Blanche is a woman means that she is expected to display decorum at all times and that her gender does not allow her to become intoxicated.
Blanche also challenges the typical female stereotype because she has been highly educated. Being an English teacher by profession – breaking the norm – as women were not considered to need to be self-sufficient or to hold gainful employment as a man would always be there to rely upon. This higher education means that she can assert power and supremacy over others by using a more sophisticated vocabulary and style of language. In scene ten, when Blanche is disgraced outright by Stanley, Stanley immediately assumes power over Blanche by ending her long speeches and leaves her vocalizations depleted to an insufficient “Oh!” Williams is asserting through Blanche that within the context of the plays society, women who challenged the feminine stereotype would be forced into submission, this would be done by a deliberate attack on the area of their personality which enabled them to obtain this unwarranted potential. Blanche’s utter demise as a victim of rape, and in fact her relationship with Stanley, is the opportunity through which Williams represents this concept.
During the 1940’s, women’s roles and expectations in society were changing rapidly. Previously women had very little say in society and were stereotyped to stay home and be a good home maker and wife. The 1940’s were different, life for women was expanding, the men were at war and so the women had to step up and take the men’s place. Not only men were going to war either, the war was so big that in 1942, “The Women’s Army Corps” and “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services” were established. After these organizations were accepted congress authorized women to serve in the U.S. Navy. Back in the USA, women worked factory, and labour intensive jobs. Throughout the 1940’s the amount of women in the workforce increased by 25-35%. This was a prosperous time in women’s history. Blanche, however, was removed from her job as a teacher, as she had sexual relations with a 17 year old boy. This is another scene in which we see Blanche as a victim, who has been ostracised due to her promiscuity.
“A Streetcar Named Desire” as a whole is connected to misogyny in the sense that it criticizes the way that women in the 20th century heavily depended upon men. The women in the play (Blanche and Stella) choose to fall back on men and depend on them to help them not only economically, but also emotionally and sexually. When Blanche felt insecure, she turned to younger men in an attempt to make herself feel of value. Stella on the other hand instead relies on her husband for everything, even when he beats her she returns to him for fear of being alone. When her Blanche is raped by Stanley, Stella chooses to turn her back on her sister and believe Stanley for she knows he will continue to provide a home for her, something she feels she cannot provide for both herself and her recently born child. This again makes Blanche a victim, as she is shunned by her only remaining family, and cast aside.
Blanche is one of such females born and brought up in Old South who feels difficult in mastering her own fate and facing conflicts brought by industrialization and commercialization under the restriction and oppression of patriarchy, and only hides herself in imaginative world to release herself. Williams extends his great sympathy to this victim of patriarchy. However, it is evident from what Williams depicts about women that once they yield themselves to patriarchy, instead of straggling indomitably for their freedom, their miserable situation will not be changed. Blanche is a victim because of her gender, and this fact alone contributes to the theme of tragedy within the play.
Determing the tragedy potential in A streetcar Named Desire
The tragedy in A Streetcar Named Desire can be interpreted through the medium of not just watching it, but reading it. Williams achieves this through the use of stage directions written in poetic prose, which create imagery with likeness to a novel. Arguably, the most eloquent of these is the opening stage directions. These have the effect of creating a distinct picture of the cosmopolitan New Orleans, and to use setting to prepare the audience for tragedy. For example, the play is set ‘between the L & N tracks and the river’. These are symbols of the new and the old, which may reflect on the conflict between Stanley and Stella (the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Americans). Also, the ‘weathered grey’ houses may be symbolic of Blanche: something that was once white and pure, but has been defiled by hardship and age.
Williams uses contrast to create the potential for tragedy by contrasting Blanche with New Orleans. For example, colour imagery is often used to express New Orleans’ vibrant and gaudy atmosphere; ‘yellow-checked linoleum’, ‘brown river’, ‘Blue Piano’, whereas Blanche is described as colourless; ‘white suit’, ‘white gloves’. It is obvious that Blanche doesn’t fit into this society; ‘her appearance is incongruous to the setting’. We can see this further when Williams depicts her as a moth, something attracted to light, however she ‘must avoid a strong light’. This shows how although she may be attracted to the bright vitality of New Orleans, it is something she is always at an arm’s length to, and can never truly be a part of.
Williams creates the potential for tragedy by describing Blanche as a polar opposite to Stanley, with Stella as the link between them. Stanley is described as the strong, masculine, brutish symbol of the heterogeneous ‘New America’; ‘animal joy’, and ‘gaudy seed-bearer,’ whereas Blanche is described as the traditional, ultra-refined, delicate symbol of the redundant elite social stratum of the ‘Old America,’ ‘looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party’, a ‘delicate beauty’. Williams further illustrates this point using animal imagery; Stanley is a ‘richly feathered male bird’ showing his machismo and pride, while Blanche is simply ‘a moth’, showing her fragility. This dichotomy is important, as it creates a high possibility for conflict, which is intrinsic to tragedy. Another effect of this is that it helps the audience form opinions on who is the tragic hero, villain and victim. For example, some audiences may view Stanley as the villain due to his brute animalism, and Stella as the victim due to being caught in the middle of such opposing sides. However, this is a domestic tragedy and all the characters have conflicting qualities, which means that there is no clearly defined tragic hero, villain and victim. Blanche in particular has many dislikeable qualities, and is initially hard to sympathise with; perhaps she is an anti-heroine?
In many points within the first four scenes, Blanche fails to comprehend her sister’s lifestyle; ‘This – can be – her home?’ This once again shows Blanche’s ostracism from normal society, and shows her ignorance of Stanley and Stella’s relationship. This incomprehension returns in Scene 4, where she once again fails to understand their relationship, romanticising it into some kind of ‘desperate situation’ from which she must escape; ‘I’m not in anything I want to get out of’. It is ironic that Blanche assumes that Stella is being oppressed by Stanley, when it is Blanche who tends to eclipse Stella. It is this inability to clearly and objectively see relationships which is Blanche’s tragic flaw; it led her to marry a gay man, to lie to Mitch, and to make incendiary remarks about Stanley, all of which conspire to create her own tragedy.
Williams uses foreshadowing in the first four scenes to create the potential for tragedy. For example, in Scene 2, when Stanley rummages through Blanche’s trunk and throws things around, it foreshadows how he later rummages through Blanche’s life, drawing out her secrets and memories. Some audiences may interpret this invasion of privacy as a portent of her rape. Williams also foreshadows character development in these first scenes. For example, Blanche turns suddenly from tension and exhaustion (‘take them, peruse them – commit them to meory’) to the dreamy excitement of Stella’s pregnancy (‘Stella, Stella for star!) This inconsistency, along with her wavering speech, foreshadows her subsequent mental instability. Also, when Stanley tells Blanche about Stella’s pregnancy simply because he has no comeback, he unveils his spitefulness and foreshadows his later vindictiveness.
Scene 3 is important to the development of the tragedy as it unveils the violence and primitiveness that underlines Stanley and Stella’s relationship. Despite the fact that Stanley is physically violent towards Stella, she still returns to him: ‘Her eyes go blind with tenderness,’ Williams writes. This shows that her passion and love for Stanley makes her ignorant of – or overlook – his flaws. The domestic violence in Scene 3 is also important as when Stella calls Stanley an ‘animal thing’ it provokes a vicious attack from him. Blanche later makes provocative remarks about his animalism, foretelling another brutal response.
Scene 3 is also important as it prognosticates the quality of Blanche and Mitch’s relationship. We can see that they both connect on a base level because they have both experienced heartbreak: ‘there is little belongs to people who have experienced some sorrow’. However, whereas Mitch’s sorrow has made him sincere, Blanche’s sorrow has made her insincere and craving make-believe and fairy tales. Such different perspectives on such similar events show that they are ill-suited, and their relationship is destined to be fraught and unsuccessful.
An important part of the tragedy in A Streetcar Named Desire is that Blanche struggles to accept the truth, and would rather live a false, romanticised version of life, which we can see when she says ‘I don’t want realism, I want magic’. Williams uses light imagery to express this, displaying Blanche with an aversion to bright light; ‘I can’t stand a naked lightbulb’. Perhaps light represents the truth and practicality that Blanche longs to escape. Furthermore, the light imagery around Blanche is developed in her description of her relationship with Allan; ‘you suddenly turned a blinding light on… and the searchlight… was turned off again’. Perhaps light signifies love to Blanche, and the reason for her aversion is that it brings up memories to her that are too painful to recall. The fact that she describes love as a ‘spotlight’ may also highlight her need for attention and neuroticism. Light also signifies the effect of her past relationship on the way she lives her life, a mere imitation of her previous self: ‘never for one moment since has there been any light that’s stronger’. However, light imagery is also used to presage Stanley’s part in the tragedy: ‘He smashed all the lightbulbs’. This foretells the aggressive side Stanley takes towards Blanche’s truths. The fact that he puts out all the light could be an omen of her rape; nothing is real for Blanche after that.
In many ways, Scene 4 is a turning point in the play. It is the point in which Blanche makes an impassioned speech about Stanley, suggesting that he is a symbol of the degeneration of America: ‘Don’t hang back with the brutes’. Stanley overhears this, which wounds his pride, and brings up some of his own self-doubts about his status: ‘You knew I was common when you married me’. This causes Stanley to see Blanche as the problem in his relationship with Stella (‘we was fine before she arrived’) and drives him to investigate Blanche’s past, and uncover her scandal. Essentially, when Blanche condemns Stanley, she is condemning herself. Also, it is in Scene 4 where we see where Stella’s true loyalties lie. Up until then, we have seen her display equal love towards Stanley and Blanche; after Blanche expresses her disgust of Stanley, however, we see Stella embrace him. This demonstrates that perhaps her affections are tipped towards Stanley, allowing him leverage to bring about Blanche’s downfall.
In conclusion, the potential for tragedy is evident in the first four scenes of A Streetcar Named Desire as Blanche is painted as ill-fitting to everything around her. Small details foreshadow important events in the unravelling of the tragedy. These initial scenes exhibit the imperfections of the characters and relationships between them, which, catalysed by the brewing mix of tension and conflict, forms the perfect conditions for tragedy.
The Story A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams
“A Streetcar Named Desire” is the famous story of Blanche du Bois and Stanley Kowalski’s passionate power struggle; written by Tennessee Williams in 1947, the Play is set in New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 1940s.
To judge what extent Stanley is a villain it is necessary to first assess which criteria of a typical villain he fits. Throughout the play Stanley proves that he inflicts emotional pain on Blanche, and by not letting her forget her past and by destroying any possibility of love in her life Stanley becomes an obstacle she must attempt to overcome. It is Stanley who brings about the protagonists demise. However, although it appears that Stanley is vindictive and only bringing Blanche down for his own personal gain, one could argue that he is doing it for his relationship with Stella as Stanley would like things to return to the way they were before Blanche arrived. Stanley talks about how he wants their relationship to simply go back to normal: “Stell, it’s gonna be all right after she [Blanche] goes…”
Stanley first shows signs of villainy in scene three, through his need to be dominant which foreshadows the conflict between him and Blanche which, later, leads to the rape. At the start of the scene, he tries to assert his authority by telling Stella and Blanche to “cut out that conversation in there!” Throughout the scene, when he feels that he is losing control and authority, he loses his temper; one trait of a traditional villain, in the form of striking Stella after she yells at him – “Drunk – drunk – animal thing, you!” It is clear to the audience that Stanley would have liked to hit Blanche instead. The fact Williams stages the scene so that the ‘strike’ was off stage shows that this violence would have been just as shocking at the time the play was written as it would be to a modern-day audience.
This scene establishes Stanley as a villain and an obstacle to Blanche’s progress early on. It is possible, however, to argue that Stanley is not a traditional villain; in the opening scene, it is Stanley who is the civil character, not Blanche. He seems friendly and even welcoming; “Well, take it easy.” The audience feels sympathy for Stanley who has just had his wife’s sister arrive, clearly out of the blue, as he says; “didn’t know you [Blanche] were coming in to town.” We can relate to Stanley more than to Blanche in this scene, because Blanche is invading his home and although this comment is reserved, it is undeniably civil. The fact Blanche has drunk some of Stanley’s liquor does not go unnoticed as the stage directions tell us that Stanley ‘holds the bottle to the light to observe its depletion’ before he says to Blanche “Some people rarely touch it, but it touches them often” – both indicate that he knows Blanche is a heavy drinker and that she had had his alcohol, yet he does not question it.
At first, he seems to have no objection to Blanche and tries to make conversation, even though he appears to dominate it. Although Stanley is not villainous in this scene, there is a growing sense of tension and opposition forming. The tension is shown when the two try to engage in small talk throughout the scene, and there is an obvious dichotomy between them. Blanche is portrayed as having pale skin, a white suit and fluttery manner, suggesting a fragile moth, which is contrasted with Stanley’s bold colours and obtrusive nature. At the end of the scene, Stanley mentions Blanche’s dead husband, Allan, unnecessarily; hinting properly for the first time that Stanley has a cruel and villainous side as he clearly intends to inflict emotional pain by making Blanche remember Allan with the comment “What happened?”
Another scene in which the audience feel sorry for Stanley is in scene four, when he overhears Blanche trying to persuade Stella to leave Stanley. Blanche points out the differences between her and Stanley, saying “Stanley Kowalski, survivor of the Stone Age!” “Such things as art – as poetry and music – such kinds of new light have come into the world since then!” We also feel sympathetic towards Stanley at the end of scene three when he begs Stella to come back – “I want my baby down here. Stella, Stella!” It is in scene ten that Stanley reveals the true extent of his villainy as well as being the dramatic climax of the play.
At the very start of the scene, Blanche is staring in to a mirror, she ‘Tremblingly lifts her hand’ before slamming it down ‘with such violence that the glass cracks’, giving a distorted image – a metaphor for her distorted view of the world. Stanley enters wearing a ‘vivid green’ shirt – the bold colour emphasising his personality and mood. Stanley senses Blanche’s distress and mocks her fantasies and illusions of a rich admirer coming to rescue her; “Well, well. What do you know?” The fact she need to be rescued emphasised the fact she is trapped; unable to escape her mind and the memories that she tries to repress.
Dramatic irony is used effectively in Stanley’s line “It goes to show, you never know what is coming” that foreshadows the rape. The audience expect a climax to the tension that has built throughout the play and the scene is full of sexual references such as ‘pounding the bottle cap on the corner of the table’, ‘the bottle cap pops off’, “bury the hatchet” and “loving cup”, which hint at the play’s conclusion.
Throughout the scene, tension mounts as the atmosphere between the two fluctuates; at the start of the scene, there is a moment when it seems as though Stanley is going to make a friendly gesture towards Blanche, however, when she refuses, the previous animosity between them is restored. Blanche then makes a biblical reference “casting my pearls before swine” which Stanley does not understand and takes as a direct insult. For a short while, he plays along with her illusions before suddenly turning on her again.
As the scene closes, Williams uses imagery to make Blanche’s terror take on a physical form as ‘grotesque and, menacing shapes’ that close in around her and animalistic sounds can be heard and frightening, sinister ‘shadows and lurid reflections’ appear on the walls, moving like ‘flames’ which mimic Blanche’s nervous movements. Stanley’s last line “We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning” shows his intent and to a certain extent, Stanley is right when he says this; Blanche and Stanley’s relationship has always been sexual to a certain extent – Blanche was fully aware of Stanley’s intense masculinity and she responded with provocative seductive and sexual behaviour, even admitting to her sister that she knows about sexual desire – “when the devil is in you”.
This scene is technically very dramatic in technique and the use of the blue piano and ‘inhuman voices like cries in a jungle’ create a threatening and animalistic effect. The sounds of the train, the streetcar named Desire Blanche arrives on, are heard throughout the play and get louder and louder as well as faster. The train will inevitably crash like Blanche. The visual effects represent the present evil and Blanche’s decent in to madness. Williams intended to shock the audience with the full extent of Stanley’s villainy in this climatic scene and his act seems even monstrous due to the fact he is raping his pregnant wife’s sister. It is in this scene that Stanley displays almost all of the traits of a traditional villain; he both emotionally and physically causes Blanche pain as well as clearly finding pleasure in bringing about her demse. In the penultimate scene the line; ‘she sunk to her knees’ tells us that Blanche has given up and Stanley has finally destroyed Blanche completely.
In conclusion, I personally see Stanley as a villain because although at certain points in the play the audience is sympathetic towards him and can see the motive behind his actions, and even relate to them, it is hard to forgive his ruthless and systematic destroying of Blanche both emotionally and physically as well as his lack of control when hitting Stella. Blanche destroys Mitch and any chance of a relationship with him with her lies, however, Stanley destroys Blanche with the truth and does so in such a spiteful, manipulative and ultimately villainous way; it tears her apart. Stanley defines himself by displaying all the traditional characteristics of a villain.
Evaluation of the Social Class Ranking As Illustrated In the Book, A Streetcar Named Desire
Class differences lie behind conflict in the play. Through close analysis of the dramatic methods used in the play, and drawing upon relevant external information on social class in the southern states of America, show to what extent you agree with the statement above.
Throughout “A Streetcar Named Desire,” William’s presents conflict as a main theme. Class is a prominent factor within this theme, displayed through characters and their actions.
Clear contrasts can be viewed between characters almost immediately. Blanche DuBois, the Southern Belle, who is still living within the ideals of the “Old South,” and Stella DuBois, the former Southern Belle who chose to marry down the social hierarchy and wed Stanley Kowalski, a Polish immigrant of lower class. Blanche is initially surprised by her sister’s new standards of living, surrounded by those of the lower class; not only her husband, but her friends also. Social class issues are clearly illustrated throughout the two opening scenes. Although both sisters are from the same family, they both have different lifestyles which they’ve adapted to. The social class differences between them demonstrate how society behaved during the 1940’s.
It’s important to establish the atmosphere in this particular setting of New Orleans, especially as Blanche brings to the Kowalski apartment her prejudices, which prove to be out of time and place. Class distinctions don’t matter here, which is why Stella and Stanley seem to make a fine match despite their backgrounds.It was at this time, during the 1940’s, that all of those in surrounding areas began to move there along with many different groups of immigrants as well, making it a centre for multiculturalism in the USA at the time. New Orleans attracted people from all walks of life. And with this different variety of groups of people from different classes and backgrounds coming together and living in one place, there was a sort of a cultural revolution that at this point in time was completely and utterly unprecedented. Blanche was completely unused to this, and so her prejudices may have been a cause for conflict in the play.
When Blanche shows up at Elysian Fields, Williams writes that “her appearance is incongruous to this setting. She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district.” Not only are these clothes incongruous to the setting, but also may represent more expensive items of clothing only worn by those of the higher class.Blanche owns many furs, which Stanley immediately assumes to be expensive, causing a small conflict between the pair. She also owns costume jewellery, such as a tiara, which could represent a past member of higher class wishing to climb back up the hierarchy.
Blanche assumes the superiority inherited with her family name. She is disparaging about the small size of Stella’s home, and expects her to have a maid. Most of all, however, she is astonished that her sister has married someone so lacking in refinement or culture as Stanley. She also shows her prejudice in referring to him as a ‘Polack’. She makes her feelings about him abundantly clear in Scene Four, after witnessing his violence in the poker party of Scene Three. In her damning account of him, which he overhears, she calls him ‘sub-human’ and ‘ape-like.’ This display of ignorance towards the lower class and immigrants causes conflict within the play.
Stanley becomes irritated at Stella’s lack of respect for him, supposedly caused by Blanche’s influence. Stella claims that Stanley “makes a pig of himself,” which causes conflict between the pair, due to Blanche’s superficial ways.
Operating on the idea that all men are created equal, the “American Dream” is an ideology in the United States in which freedom includes the possibility of prosperity and success to all, regardless of social class or race. It emphasizes a direct link between individual effort and success in an open, merit-based system and attracts most people to this country in the first place. However, America’s “dream” dramatically changed as the country’s definition of success applied primarily to white middle class men from the 1930s to the 1950s, creating a class structure fuelled by discrimination. In the play, the audience see that it is Stanley who appears to benefit most from the “American Dream,” as an immigrant who has made a decent life for himself in America. Stanley states that the “pulled Stella down,” referencing that she married down the hierarchy of society. This fact displeases Blanche, and so is another element in which class is the driving force between conflicts within the play. Stanley also claimed that “she loved it,” meaning that she enjoys living life as a lower-class citizen, which would also cause conflict between her and Blanche, as Blanche was left to defend Belle Reve alone.
Certain elements in Blanche and Mitch’s relationship could be viewed as a conflict between classes. Blanche acts as a refined lady, which “old-fashioned ideals.” It is clear that Mitch wishes to act upon his desires with Blanche, but is stopped by her pretence. She tries to act like a higher member of society, who will not lower herself to be handled by a man, and lose his respect. After Blanche asks Mitch if he speaks French, an attribute associated with the more refined and educated higher class, he responds that he doesn’t, displaying the gap in the hierarchy between them. Blanche teases Mitch in the language he can’t understand, asking, “Do you want to sleep together this evening? You don’t understand? What a shame!” Blanche grows rapidly more amorous, irritating Mitch and causing underlying themes of conflict to increase.
Throughout Blanche’s stay at his house, he feels that she has drunk his liquor, eaten his food, used his house, all of which he has provided with his own money from hard work, but still has belittled him and has opposed him. She has never conceded to him his right to be the “king” in his own house. Thus, he must sit idly by and see his marriage and home destroyed, and himself belittled by someone of a supposed higher class than him, or else he must strike back. His attack is slow and calculated. He begins to compile information about Blanche’s past life. He must present her past life to his wife so that she can determine who the superior person is, and show that she is in fact, not one of a higher class. When he has his information accumulated, he is convinced that however common he is, his life and his past are far superior to Blanche’s. Now that he feels his superiority again, he begins to act. He feels that having proved how degenerate Blanche actually is, he is now justified in punishing her directly for all the indirect insults he has had to suffer from her. Thus he buys hera bus ticket back to Laurel, and reveals her promiscuous past to Mitch. This is a major conflict within the play, with the driving force being class.
The “Varsouviana” represents the higher class, thus represents Blanche. The “Blue Piano” represents New Orleans, and so represents the lower class, Stella and Stanley. The music plays during scenes of conflict and drama, and so is a representative of conflict throughout the entire play.
Blanche’s dialogue, juxtaposed against Stanley’s, shows her as a more refined, well-spoken lady. Stanley’s speech consists of colloquial language, associated more with a less educated citizen. It is clear that Blanche has received an excellent education; however it is also evident that Stanley is smarter when it comes to manipulation, etc. Blanche is naïve, and so this could be an argument that Class isn’t necessarily a main driving force behind the play, it may only be due to Stanley’s cunning ways and tricks.
Class features strongly throughout this play. There are many arguments to suggest that class differences lie behind conflict in the play. However, we must consider other factors that may have caused conflict, such as manipulation, deceit, lies, and abuse. Blanche clearly demonstrated that she sees those of a lower class inferior to her. Here, Williams could have been trying to suggest that those who do not see society as one will not succeed in life. He was trying to convey ideas of a more united America, one in which those of higher and lower classes could potentially one day live as one.