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The play, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is a story with many characters but it mainly focuses on two characters, Blanche Dubois and her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski. Blanche arrives at the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans, on Elysian Fields Avenue. Blanche is an aging southern belle, she’s melodramatic and has built this allusion about herself, in which she is still a wealthy, lovely socialite. The reality is that Blanche is a closet alcoholic who has little money or dignity left. Stella’s husband is a no-nonsense, Polish blue-collar worker. Stanley sees through Blanche’s illusions, has no respect for her and does not trust her at all. Blanche believes Stanley is a brute and is beneath both her and her sister. The setting, characters and the conflicts between them, overall makes this play an American classic.
The setting of this play is set in Faubourg Marigny of New Orleans, in a street named Elysian Fields Avenue. A city located on the Loire River in Centre, France, and is well known for its distinct French Creole architecture, as well as its cross-cultural and multilingual heritage which makes this the perfect setting for this play. The local streetcar she takes to arrive there is named “Desire.” Desire was just the first step of her life after her husband Allan had died. Still struggling with his loss, she was desperately longing for love and companionship, but ended up leading a life which was filled with sex and immoral decisions, “Yes, I had many intimacies with strangers. After the death of Allan – intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart withâ€¦” (Williams 1224). At this time she was hence obsessed by desire. The name of the street where Stella and Stanley live is Elysian Fields. In Roman mythology, “Elysium (or Elysian Fields) was a part of the underworld and a place of reward for the virtuous dead. For some it was only a temporary paradise. At the edge of its soft, green meadows flowed the Lethe, river of forgetfulness, from which all souls returning to life in the world above had to drink” (EBSCO host). The house they stayed in was yet another important part of this play. It was the main setting where all of the conflicts and social interactions between the characters took place.
There’s an array of characters in A Streetcar Named Desire. Stella, Stanley’s wife and Blanche’s sister. Stanley Kowalski a down-to-earth character. Harold Mitchell “Mitch” the only person other than Stella who seems to understand the tragedy of Blanche’s madness. Blanch DuBois, a woman with many secrets and she’s viewed as a fallen woman in society’s eyes. These personalities clash with one another throughout this play.
Stanley Kowalski is a fascinating character. His family is from Poland and he often expresses his outrage for derogatory names, especially when Blanche calls him “Polack.” Irate, Stanley begins to belittle Blanche by asserting that he was born in America, and he is an American. Stanley represents a theme of realism in the play. He is shown as a primitive, masculine character that is irresistible to Stella and on some levels even to his “opponent” Stella’s sister Blanche. Stanley sees Blanche 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. Stanley possibly portrayed as the hero at the beginning of the story, quickly proves harmfully crude and brutish. His abusive and disturbing behavior is evident after he erupts at a poker game, beats his wife, and towards the end of the play while never stated but many readers has thought he rapes his sister-in-law Blanche.
Harold Mitchell also known as Mitch, appears to be a kind, decent human being, he’s noticeably more sensitive than Stanley and the rest of the poker friends. He’s clumsy, sweaty and often made fun of for being a mama’s boy. We later learn that Mitch is looking for a wife that he can bring home to meet his dying mother. Mitch is a gentleman and those attributes quickly stand out and capture Blanche’s attention. As the play progresses Blanche realizes that even though Mitch is sensitive, he lacks the romantic perspective and spirituality, as well as her understanding of poetry and literature. She toys with his intelligence and possibly with his emotions by teasing him in French knowing he wouldn’t understand, making him play along with her self-flattering charades and by repeatedly rejecting Mitch’s physical affection. In Scene 9 Mitch discovers the truth about Blanche’s indiscretions, Mitch is both angry and embarrassed about the way Blanche has treated him. Mitch arrives to confront her, and later states that he no longer respects her enough to marry her.
Blanche DuBois is a complicated character. Her family’s estate is gone, she lost her young husband to suicide years earlier and she’s a fallen woman in society’s eyes do to her indiscretions. She paints a picture of herself as a frail, tragic figure and has a drinking problem which she covers up poorly. In this film, Blanche is always in dim lighting, she is fearful of light as it exposes her true age. Blanche depends on male sexual admiration for her sense of self-esteem, which means that she has often gave in to intimacies with strangers. The way she copes with her indiscretions is she constantly wants to take long hot baths, possibly filling her need to cleanse herself from her sins. “Yes, I had many intimacies with strangers. After the death of Allan-intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart withâ€¦” (Williams 1224). Blanche was hoping to escape poverty and her reputation by marrying but due to Stanley’s relentless persecutions, Blanche’s plans to marry Mitch were stopped as well as her attempts to protect herself from the truth. In the last scene, Blanche allowed herself to be taken away by a kind man, ignoring her sister’s cries, and ended up proving Blanches vanity and total dependence upon men for happiness. The main source of conflict in this story first arises when Blanche arrives at the Kowalski household.
There are many conflicts in A Streetcar Named Desire. Most of the conflicts revolve around the two main characters Stanley and Blanche. Stanley’s authority over his home is questioned. Stanley has always had authority and control of his home and of his wife Stella. Stanley and Stella have a conflict of their own. Stanley is dominating, controlling and abusive. When Blanche arrives both characters clash and it begins to feels that he is being invaded of his privacy. His style of life doesn’t match with Blanches. One of the main conflicts of this play is that Stanley and Blanche are in a battle to win Stella and neither of them will give her up. There’s also the conflict between Mitch and Blanche in the later scenes, Mitch finding out about Blanche’s indiscretions, and the confrontation Mitch and Blanche had in the house while Stanley and Stella were in the hospital. And the final confrontation between Stanley and Blanche shortly after Stanley arrived from the hospital, confronting her about her past and the rumors he’s heard, exposing her for what and who she really is and possibly leading to the alleged rape which could have been what caused Blanche to go over the edge of insanity.
A Streetcar Named Desire is one of the most famous plays, and films of its time. The southern setting is central to the play, the characters, and their conflicts. The complexity of the characters brings both drama and violence behind closed doors. Stanley, Stella, Mitch, and Blanche all have their faults to how this play unfolds. Stanley’s arrogance and aggressive nature causes Blanche to snap into a state of insanity. Mitch is extremely sensitive and Stella is the punching bag for Stanley and Blanches problems. The conflicts of this film spiral out of control leading to none of the characters left with their previous lives before Blanche came to their home. This film will always be a classic for the genre of drama.
Williams, Tennessee. “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The Nortons Introduction to Literature. 10th ed. New York, London: W.W. Norton &, 2011. 1165-238. Print.
“Elysium.” (n.d.): Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. Web. 18 Oct. 2012.
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