A Streetcar named Desire

Blanche is presented as a mediator between the antithetical characters of Stanley and Blanche. She represents the assimilation of the old southern American values and class distinction, with the new multicultural and equitable America, represented by Stanley. This is shown by her transition from the privileged life she, led in Belle Reve to the life she lives now in Elysian Fields.

She fits in well there and even though she is described the first time we see her in scene one as, “of a background obviously quite different from her husband’s”, she has made friends with her neighbours and does not treat them with any disrespect because of their different backgrounds. Stella’s integration to the new way of life in Elysian Fields helps the audience to understand that Blanche is never able to get rid of her incongruity to the place.

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She highlights the way in which Blanche is completely unable to understand the way relationships work in Stanley and Stella’s lives. This becomes apparent in scene four, the morning after Stanley hit Stella, Blanche is frenzied with fear and confusion she “utters a moaning cry and runs into the bedroom, throwing herself down beside Stella in a rush of hysterical tenderness”. Stella’s behaviour is a complete contrast to Blanche, her “face is serene in the early morning sunlight”.

By presenting the two sisters to be so divergent in their response Williams’ is able to present Blanche as melodramatic and histrionic which prepares the audience for her propensity to reside in a fantasy world where she is unable to distinguish truth from fallacy and reality from dream. Blanche remarks on Stella’s quiet reserved manner. Stella’s reply is that she has never had much of a chance to talk with her sister around, but hints at an independence of mind, “You never gave me a chance to (talk) honey!

A certain dry, sarcastic note may be heard when she speaks, but her sister never notices it, which emphasises the point that Stella is presented as a realistic, normal character to call attention to the silliness of Blanche. Blanche treats her like a child, a “blessed baby”, ordering her to stand up in scene one and rebuking her for her untidiness as well as criticising her home “I thought you would never come back to this horrible place! ” Stella makes no objection to this, but it is noticeable that any adverse comment on her husband brings an instant protest.

Stella’s silent manner is her response to what is of no importance to her. It is obvious throughout the play, but particularly in her passionate declaration in scene four, that she is deeply in love with her husband, and this love is the cornerstone of her existence. She declares that “I said I am not in anything that I have a desire to get out of”. Williams uses the stage directions at the end of scene four, after Blanche has been wildly criticising Stanley, to show that if the choice lies between her sister and her husband, there will be no question whom she will choose.

Stella has embraced him with both arms, fiercely, and full in the view of Blanche”. Based on an overpowering physical passion, which she describes as “things that happen between a man and woman in the dark – that sort of make everything else seem – unimportant” Stella’s surrender to Stanley is almost total: she has accepted his world and its values. She has chosen to become part of Stanley’s life, remembering gradually less and less of her early life, and accepting her husband’s standards.

This is symbolised in scene four after she has made up with Stanley and from one of her hands “dangles a book of coloured comics”. Williams uses Stella to portray Stanley’s machismo and need to dominate, but also to increase the conflict between Blanche and Stanley. Stanley is quite as acutely class-conscious as Blanche herself and, having married a woman of a much higher class than himself, he is resentful of the differences in outlook and manner between them.

Stanley knows that pulling Stella down to his level is part of the sexual attraction for her. Conflict is therefore inevitable between him and Blanche, who is trying to make Stella revert to the past of Belle Reve. Williams portrayal of Stanley as establishing his domination of Stella through sex, prepares the audience for the inevitability, given Stanley’s awareness of his masculinity and contempt for women, that he should seek to express his hostility to Blanche through sexual domination at the pinnacle of the play in scene ten.

Stella does play a vital role in helping the audience to understand the characters of Blanche and Stanley, as well as prepare them for what is to happen in the play. Stella offers her sister kindness, but only as far as her all-absorbing passion for her husband allows, this is constant throughout the play, Williams uses it to forestall the answer to the question of loyalty that Stella has to answer in scene eleven.

Stella is used by Williams to contrast the dominating and high-strung personalities of the other two characters, her moderate behaviour emphasises how absurd the behaviours of the others are. The love triangle between the three characters adds another dimension of tension to the play, because even though Stella is always on Stanley’s side the audience still wonder if after scene ten, Stella might realise the truth about Stanley and side with Stella.