A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams

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Street Car Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams in 1947, has been called the best play ever written by an American. The geological setting of the play, New Orleans, creates a remarkably blended mood of decadence, nostalgia, and sensuality. The plot of the play comes about through the conflict between a man and his sister-in-law who comes to live at his house with he and his wife. Stanley Kowalski immediately captures the attention of the audience through Williams' excellent portrayal of the intensely strong willed character.

The portrayal of Stanley Kowalski plays a major role in the success of the play. Williams forms Stanley into an extremely masculine character who will always have his way or no way at all and makes his opinions very clear to those around him. This profound masculinity places Stanley in direct opposition to Blanche DuBois. "The high-minded yet oddly fragile Blanche takes an immediate dislike to the loutish, working-class Stanley, while Stanley immediately recognizes Blanche for what she has become: a woman who finds consolation in indiscriminate sex and alcohol." (Authors & Artists, 165). This clashing forms the conflict which eventually roots itself deeply into the plot of the play. Stanley represents the symbol of the New South. Stanley's aggressiveness leads to his ease in taking total control over a situation. This characteristic also allows Stanley to completely secure the respect of all the men who associate with him, however, his aggression also shines a light upon a very destructive side of his character. In many ways, Stanley's brutality leads to the major conflict between Blanche and himself. "And look at yourself! Take a look at that worn out Mardi Gras outfit, rented for fifty cents from some rag picker! And with that crazy crown on! What queen do you think you are?" (Williams, 127). Stanley becomes very blunt in his contempt and aggression towards Blanche. Another view into the excessive aggression of Stanley appears in the third scene. In this scene, Williams provides a look at a very negative side of Stanley. Stanley physically assaults his wife, Stella, after she returns to the house during his poker game. "How anyone could find Stella Kowalski's comatose endurance of Stanley healthy or whole-hearted is, indeed, a subject for wonder." (Drama Criticism, 401). Stanley also shows his vi...

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...own here. Stella, Stella!" (Williams, 59). Stanley also appears to fight Blanche for the purpose of saving his life with the woman he loves. "When Blanche threatens Stanley's marriage by cajoling her sister to abandon her husband, Stanley brandishes Blanche's weaknesses for all to see in an effort to preserve his home and family." (Authors & Artists, 165-66). These characteristics show the loving and caring side of Stanley as well as offering a contrasting view to his dark, brutal side.

Tennessee Williams creates a brilliant play in A Streetcar Named Desire, featuring an amazing and complex character in Stanley Kowalski. The reader must constantly reevaluate the character of Stanley Kowalski as he presents many questions to the reader throughout the play. During the play, as the conflict develops between Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski, the audience must constantly consider which character portrays the villain and which portrays the victim. "Ultimately, however, Stanley prevails. He has gotten rid of Blanche, who has lost everything, and as we see in the closing lines of the play, he is able to soothe Stella's grief, and their life goes on." (Masterplots, 6316).
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