Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire opened on Broadway in 1947, since then it has won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, been nominated countless times for the Tony and Oliver awards for drama, is considered one of the leading plays of the twentieth century, and regarded as William’s finest works. The play focuses on the contrast between reality and fantasy in the mind of the main character while maintaining a backbone of social realism. The three main characters include Blanche Dubois, Stella Kowalski, and Stanley Kowalski. All three have acutely contrasting personalities, depicted by the different ways they cope. The play opens with Blanche’s arrival to New Orleans, Louisiana. Blanche has recently the lost of the family’s ancestral estate, Belle Reve in Laurel Mississippi, and is is reunited with her sister, Stella. It is established early on that the sisters did not remain close when Stella left the family home. Upon arrival, Stella’s husband Stanley acquires a distaste for Blanche. The conflicting nature of Blanche and Stanley throughout the play is greatly caused by Blanche’s compulsive lies, restricting her from being able to see reality through the lens of those around her. Her need for verification, lavish lifestyle and confidence in herself causes Stanley to be painfully aware of his position in the lower class and despises Blanche for her inability to accept the fate she has received. Blanche’s incompetence to see her own reality immediately strains her relationship with Stanley, which only worsens as Balance sees what she considers his personal flaws, and the flaws within his relationship with Stella.   Blanche’s lack of stability is established almost immediately after the curtain opens. She has just lost her family’s wealth, works to conceal a clear struggle with alcoholism and is profoundly insecure about her aging beauty. Her coping mechanism revolves around creating a life she has never experienced. Clothing herself in luxurious fox scarves, long strands of pearls and diamond tiaras, Blanche dresses for the life she desires. Light is an important symbol to understand Blanche, as she refuses to be seen during the daytime or under bare light due to her insecurity of her age. This is avoided by only leaving home at night, or claiming she cannot stand the naked light. Throughout the entire play, she works to create an illusion of who she is. When Mitch, the man she falls in love with begins inquiring about her age, Blanche becomes defensive with the fear of her fantasy world being shattered, even admitting her deceit to him.  “I don’t want realism. I want magic! Mitch laughs Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it!— Don’t turn the light on!” (Williams 145). Her fear of light is due her inability to accept her age, along with life she has lead. Though she admits to “misrepresenting” aspects of her life to others, it is clear that she does not believe her lies are an issue. Blanche is developed as an unstable deceitful due to her deep insecurities, this drives the plot throughout the play, which initiates the central conflict between Stanley and Blanche. Stanley’s insecurities attribute to their conflict as well, his sensitivity initates violent reactions. He envies Blanche’s ancestral wealth in the United States therefore upon the arrival of Blanche’s trunk at the Kowalski home and when Stanley discovers the lush garments, extravagant jewelry, and shining diamond accessories, he begins to violently question the story Blanche tells about losing the estate after deaths in the family. Stanley inquires whether or not Stella should have received a share. He envies the material aspects of Blanche’s life, this only furthers his hatred for her. A turning point in the plot, as it is the first time Stella and Stanley’s relationship is affected by Blanche’s entrance into their lives. He becomes aggressive towards Stella over the money he believes he deserves due to the Napoleonic Code, Stanley says, “In the state of Louisiana we have the Napoleonic code according to which what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband and vice versa” (32). However, Blanche claims she did not receive any money for the estate, therefore, she does not owe anything to Stella or Stanley. This angers Stanley and he becomes violent, marking the first violenting clashing with his wife over by Blanche’s stay. Stanley, the son of a Polish immigrant identifies strongly as American and rarely acknowledges or celebrates his heritage. Blanche, inconsiderate about his sensitivities, uses racial slurs when referring to Poland that only furthers the tension between the characters. This contrast is one that marks an important historical point America. Stanley represents the “new” America, a heterogeneous group of Americans that hail from around the world. Coming from a long line of wealthy American ancestors, Stanley seemingly envies Blanches pure American blood and families prosperity in fulfilling the American Dream. This jealousy, combined with Stella’s defensive nature pertaining to her sister sparks more outbursts for Stanley, continuing to cope with personal aggravation with outward violence,Don’t ever talk that way to me! “Pig— Polack— disgusting— vulgar— greasy!”— them kind of words have been on your tongue and your sister’s too much around here! What do you two think you are? A pair of queens? Remember what Huey Long said—” Every Man is a King!” And I am the king around here, so don’t forget it! He hurls a cup and saucer to the floor My place is cleared! You want me to clear your places? Stella begins to cry weakly (131).These scenes of brutality reveal more about Stanley’s beliefs and self doubt . Though they are revealed through conflict with Blanche, they are aspects of Stanley that would have become apparent without the intervention of Blanche. Stanley’s violence towards Blanche and Stella shows only the surface of the oppression and abuse towards women throughout the time period. Stanley, a stereotypical working-class man, shown through the beginning of the play as a hero who works hard to provide for his wife. He views Stella as a homemaker whose sole purpose is to care for him. This is revealed through the lack of independence he gives to Stella, she tells Blanche, “Stanley doesn’t give me a regular allowance, he likes to pay bills himself” (78). They seem quite comfortable with their stereotypical gender roles until the arrival of Blanche. As the story continues and conflict rises between Stanley and Blanche; Stanley’s crude, hostile nature is revealed, largely through the way he treats his wife behind closed doors. One of Stanley’s most exposing proclamations, Who do you think you are? A pair of queens? Remember what Huey Long said—” Every Man is a King!” And I am the king around here, so don’t forget it! He hurls a cup and saucer to the floor My place is cleared! You want me to clear your places? Stella begins to cry weakly. Stanley stalks out on the porch and lights a cigarette (131) Which exposes the way in which Stanley regards women in general. Similar scenes and the romantic reunions between the couple reiterates the audience Stella’s weakness for Stanley and lack of confidence in herself. Throughout the play it is clear that Blanche is not grounded in reality, her entire life is a fantasy she chooses to believe. However, she seems to understand and react when her sister is being treated poorly, even though many of Stanley’s outburst are caused by her presence. Since their first interaction, a clear tension is established between Stanley and Blanche, his aggressive sexuality leaves her concerned for her sister’s well being. When Stanley physically abuses Stella during his poker game the severity of their corrupt marriage is revealed. Blanche sees the severity of the unhealthy the relationship and works to understand it for herself, along with bringing light to the situation to Stella in hopes she would make a change. Through their dialogue the next morning shows Stella will not resist nor understands her situation. Blanche confronts Stella concerning Stanley’s abuse, STELLA: In the first place, when men are drinking and playing poker anything can happen. It’s always a powder-keg. 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. BLANCHE: And that— that makes it all right? (72). Stella’s defensive response concerns Blanche, leading her to confront others on the issue of their relationship. Neighbors and friends, too, refute her accusations, claiming that Stanley and Stella are in love, calling the conflict normal, small fights. The easy-going attitude towards the incident further reminds the audience this type of behavior was commonplace for an area such as New Orleans in the 1860s, continuing to establish Blanche as an elitist due to her astonishment upon these acts. Throughout the play Blanche’s entire character is defined by fantasies she creates in her own mind. However, she adjusts to a take-charge mentality when seeing the abuse her sister endures, regrounding her in reality. The sisters are different in so many ways, but also extremely similar due to the fact they only believe what they want to. Stella adopts a Blanche like fantasy which lets her continue to believe her marriage is strong. Blanche’s strong outward opinion that Stella deserves better leads Romanian theatre journalist Anca Vlasopolos in her article Authorizing History: Victimization in “A Streetcar Named Desire” to believe that Blanche is stable when it comes to viewing others, “Opposed in their reactions to Blanche, concur in their exclusive focus on the hero as the moral key to the play. Perceptions of Blanche as the sole representative of sensibility destroyed by a callous society…” (Vlasopolos 324). She states Blanche’s tendency to live in a fantasy is caused by a harsh society breaking her to the point her only outlet was to create a new world for herself. This is true for Stella as well as she lives through a callous marriage, she creates a fantasy in order to make herself happy. The most immense change seen throughout A Streetcar Named Desire is the shift from Stella following Stanley’s orders without question, to standing up to her husband’s exploitation. Stanley notes the change and is quick to realize it stems from Blanche’s entrance into their lives. He despises her elitist mentality, her desire for people to wait on her, her need for verification and slowly breaks down her self-confidence. What they do not realize is they are stunningly similar, both finding trouble relating to others outside of a sexual manor. Many of their fights have a flirtatious undertone, though their despise for the other is very real. During the final act of the play, when Stella is having her baby Stanley finally loses his temper with Blanche. As she rambles on about the luxurious life she will have with an old admirer, Stanley finally loses his temper and takes her into his bedroom, raping her. An act of payback and violence for turning his wife against him, Blanche’s flirtatious tendencies throughout the play justifies his actions in his own mind. Stanley says, “Drop it! We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning!” (162). It strips Blanche of being able to maintain a perfect fantasy world in her head, eventually causing her to go to the asylum, rather than resisting such as the Blanche introduced at the beginning of the play would have. This final act of degradation deprives Blanche of her final dignity and ability to remain upbeat despite her situation. The contrast between Blanche and Stanley is the driving factor of the plot in A Streetcar Named Desire. Their clashing personalities reveals Stanley’s aggressive tendencies, along with further highlighting Blanche’s insecurities. It also results in the revelation of the damage within Stanley and Stella’s marriage, leading to more conflict when Blanche attempts to intervene. With such juxtaposing characteristics William uses Stanley and Stella to successfully display the differences of wealth, mentality on gender roles and race seen in America in the middle of the eighteen hundreds.

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