Essay, Research Paper
The Characters of A Streetcar Named Desire
Tennessee Williams gives insight into three ordinary lives in his play, A Streetcar Named Desire which is set in the post world war 2 era, in New Orleans. The main characters in the play are Blanche, Stanley, and Stella. All three of these characters suffer from personalities that differentiate each of them to great extremes. Stanley and Stella are form the city and Blanch is from the country. Their lifestyles are quite different. Because of these dramatic contrarieties in attitudes, there are mounting conflicts between the characters throughout the play. The principal conflict lies between Blanche and Stanley, due to their conflicting ideals of happiness and the way things “ought to be”.
Williams begins by introducing you to the happy couple, Stanley and Stella Kowalski. The two live in a run-down part of New Orleans, but are content in their surroundings and their lifestyle. Stanley Kowalski is the son of a Polish immigrant who strongly believes in the role of a man in his own household. The man works and the woman is supposed to cook, clean, and take care of other house-hold chores. One may perceive him as being unrefined and rude, due to his blunt nature, but to himself and Stella, it is just his practical attitude towards life. Evident, through his interaction and dialogue with Stella and other characters, is his need to prove his masculinity by being dominant and imposing.
In contrast, Stella is overly mild-tempered and always striving to please. Generally, she is able to adapt to all situations. This ability to adapt proves to be useful, as both her husband and her sister, Blanche, have such strong personalities. From the beginning, it is apparent that Stella often plays the peacemaker. She is able to foresee that Stanley and her visiting sister would clash. In hopes of avoiding any confrontation, she warns them both to be on their best behavior. Stella is soft-spoken, speaking only when it is needed, and expressing her grief only when it overwhelms her, whereas Blanche is the opposite: an outspoken woman, with many opinions.
Superficial is the first impression that Blanche gives when she enters the play. Consumed by appearance and face value, she is unable to see that Stella’s new lifestyle is not as horrid as she imagines. In comparison to Belle Reeve, it is true that these New Orleans slums may not meet Dubois standards, but Blanche is unable to see beyond the way things appear in order to realize that Stella’s world does not revolve around material items. This flaw is intertwined with her vanity and the need keep up appearances.
On the surface, Blanche appears to be snobbish and conceited. She comes to visit Stella with a trunk full of decorative dresses and fancy jewels, and although it was obvious that these items are superfluous in Stella and Stanley’s lifestyle, she parades them about as if to show her true importance and beauty. When more thought is dispenses on this matter, there lies the question of whether Blanche is as confident in herself and her beauty as she seems. Surely, when one is as confident as Blanche seems, it is not necessary to fish for compliments from others. Nor is it necessary to worry, as much as she does, about what others think. Blanche was never sincerely confident. She was a young girl trapped in a woman’s body. Her youthful insecurities lingered with her as she matured physically, but her mind is still that of a young girl.
From the beginning, it is clear that Stanley and Blanche have irreconcilable differences. Their confrontation is inevitable. The two characters are very much alike, but to opposite extremes. Both are stubborn and imposing, but the attitudes behind these traits are emphatically different. Blanche puts in great efforts to “save” Stella from what she sees as a horrible life with the drunken tyrant, Stanley. Stella’s view on her life with Stanley is a picture of a typical, loving and somewhat thrilling relationship. Stanley sees his life as perfectly satisfying, maintaining a steady job, friends who appreciate him, and control over a wife whom he does love, although he occasionally loses control of his temper.
Because Blanche and Stanley are so dominant, it was impossible for them both to stay in such proximity to one another and not get in each other’s way. Both were fighting for their own cause, trying to justify themselves and destroy each other. It seemed as if they were both concerned for Stella’s well-being, but inwardly both were fighting for the pride of the lifestyle they maintained, or in Blanche’s case, the lifestyle she once had, and longs to have once again.
Through many mind games Stanley and Blanch characters combat each other and Stella is stuck playing the mediator. But in the end Stanly wins and Blanch is sent away to the asylum.
The characters in this play are quite intriguing. Wither it is Stanley as the dominant male, or Stella as the peace maker, or even Blanch’s desire to appear wholesome and youthful. Their ideals differ greatly and that is what makes this an interesting play.