Site Loader

The drama A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams was written and staged in 1947. Since then it has received a high popularity with the public not only in the USA but all over the world.Almost all the critics agree on the wide range of conflicts being present in the play. The researchers from different critical schools find them on topical, character, stylistic and symbolical layers. The key players in the explicit conflict shown in A Streetcar are Blanche DuBois and her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski. Against the backstage of intensely complex and diverse culture of New Orleans they perform scenes of mortal combat. In the end of the play both of them are put on the brink of collapse. The critics say that Stanley having abused his power in regard to Blanche symbolizes the victory of primitivism over high culture, of realism over romanticism and of urban Yankees over rural southerners.  However, the essence of the conflicts in A Streetcar is far more complex.Throughout the scenes of the play an observer is free to compose his or her own understanding of the conflicts happening. Though Blanche is assaulted as the representative of the Southern refined culture, though she is abandoned in her feelings and values and is taken into mental asylum in the end of the drama, this living symbol of noble culture is not defeated by her counterpart Stanley. The theses are proved by various pieces of critique in different periods as well as by the deep analysis of the play itself.In the introductory scenes of A Streetcar the author depicts Blanche as being “incongruous to this setting” (Williams 5). The critics interpret the stage remark as the clue to Blanche representing an environment that is more refined than the cheap setting of Elysian Fields. What does it mean to be “incongruous”? The author clearly emphasizes that the heroine is incompatible; inconsistent, dissociable in regard to the surroundings not just in terms of geographical localization or appearance. Gradually a reader of the play script (or a spectator of the classical variant of the play) learns what incongruity means in the DuBois’ case.Having come from the fortress of the Old Good South, the Belle Reve, having escaped from the shameful settings of Laurel to Elysian Fields, the main female character is conceptualized at first as being really unprepared for dirty staircases, rough neighbors, shambling houses and the scenes of street disorder at the Kowalskis. She is not prepared to see her sister to be a plain housewife and her brother-in law to be dressed in a bowling jacket. Tischler defines Blanche DuBois (who is impeccably dressed and has distinguished looks) as “a Southern belle” (42) and it seems to be true. Yet why is Stanley (who is dressed casually and looks plainly) defined as “the clear victor” (ibid.) then?Williams describes Blanche as a woman whose “delicate beauty” “must avoid a strong light” (Williams 5). She is undoubtedly a product of the old-fashioned and traditional South with women sitting on the shady verandas or in the cool living-rooms accepting flirtous, easy-going and amiable relatives and friends. She behaves like a heiress of an exuberant and rich household waiting for a true lover to come and take her with all her beautiful body, refined soul and possessions. However, this myth of “a Southern belle” tends to be ruined in the sequence of scenes.First, the Belle Reve, a beautiful dream of the rural South, comes to a decline. Second, amiable and multiple relatives disappear. Whereas Blanche stays the same beautiful dreamer, the beautiful world around her ceases to exist. Her sister’s place appears to be a pitiful and hostile place. Her refined manners are said to be a mask too loose to fit. Her brother-in-law happens to be a brutal beast spying and tracing her like a game, denigrating her human and female value, devoiding her of the only candidate to make a match, etc. Yet she is hoping for some chimeras. Meanwhile, Stanley is not dreaming but forces Blanche to leave his house and life.Frankly speaking, the essence of the play’s conflicts is not of the family conflicts between close relatives. To understand it more clearly, the characters need to be characterized. As a French descent, a southern belle, Blanche is extremely choosy concerning social background of her own and of men to socialize with. She despises Stanley for being Polish and mockingly asks him if the Poles are “something like Irish, aren’t they?” (Williams 16). In the southern snobbish consciousness people from other places besides the South itself are intruders and barbarians. Brustein pointed that “[a]s a social or cultural figure, Stanley is a villain, in mindless opposition to civilization and culture – the ‘new man’ of the modern world whom Williams seems to find responsible for the present-day decline in art, language, decorum, and culture” (9).It is true that Kowalski prefers bowling and poker to noble hunt or horse rides. It is true that he does not speak French, the language of the nobles. It is true that he throws bloody piece of meat for his wife to cook instead of inviting her for a walk in the magnificent alley of the ancestral manor. However, Stanley is far from being just a villain or a Neanderthal as Blanche puts it. Brustein proceeds that “[a]s a psychological or sexual figure, however, Stanley exists on a somewhat more heroic moral plane” (9).Stanley is at all times an active character, one who manipulates each situation in which he appears. Rather than expressing dissatisfaction with the grubby conditions in which he lives, he exults in them, and he does not indicate any desire to better himself. More important, Stanley, as brute force incarnate, has no poetry or sensitivity or nobility in him […]. His intelligence is mostly animal cunning and his power of speech limited to expressing basic desires. (Brustein 10)The emphasis in depicting this character is vividly made on his active and exuberant sexuality. Neither Stella nor Blanche can avoid this animal charisma. Some may say that Stanley is too primitive as a person: his dominant motives are “a sense of ownership” and “ecstatic sexuality” (Tischler 42). But he is shrewd enough to notice that Blanche steps out as his antagonist, He senses “condescension in her tone toward him [that] signals a challenge to his authority” (Tischler 42). He understands that she is “the snake in his garden” (Tischler 42).To continue, despite his sexuality and brutality, Stanley is able to display affection towards his wife and a baby. If he is “an ignoble rather than a noble savage” (Brustein 10), then, he behaves in a strange manner pleading his wife to stay with him. As Tischler notices, he possesses “a rough charm, broad comedy, delight in battle, primitive protectiveness of his home – the qualities most frequently admired in the all-American male” (47). Stanley says about himself: “I am not a Polack. People from Poland are Poles, not Polacks. But what I am is a one hundred per cent American, born and raised in the greatest country on earth and proud as hell of it, so don’t ever call me a Polack” (Williams 134).Kowalski is not a plain barbarian but a rather complex personage, though, with rigid cultural, moral and intellectual frames. Kernan assumes that “[i]n his code, women are divided into two categories, sluts and virgins. Only virgins are allowed to marry his buddies; sluts must be exploited and exposed” (17). He finds evidence of Blanche being a slut and does not pause to treat her accordingly. Blanche, however, is not a plain slut.Strikingly, Kolin agrees with Henry I. Schvey in the assumption that “Williams was thinking of attributes traditionally identified with the Virgin in Renaissance art” (82). Blanche is “a tragic heroine” (ibid.) partly because of the impossibility to stick to this image of purity and suffer. She is obsessed with lust and is able to welcome equally the soldiers from a military camp in Laurel, a newspaper courier, and Stanley’s friend who is far from being her ideal man.Brustein analyzes the conflict between Blanche and Stanley as the one with sexual underlying:The conflict between Blanche and Stanley allegorizes the struggle between effeminate culture and masculine libido. It is no accident that Stanley, in the climax of the play, subdues Blanche by a brutal sexual assault. (9)If Blanche is obsessed with lust so much (the same researcher stated that “Blanche is a nymphomaniac,” Brustein 9), why does she reject Stanley then? Why is their sexual encounter a rape? What man does Blanche seek for?The poet Allan Grey whom she has fallen in love with for his masterfully written letters turns out to be a pervert. Her ideal of manhood, a “beautiful and talented young man” is “a degenerate” (Williams 124). In a while she meets a high-school student of hers in Laurel who also bears the same sign of distinction from the others as Grey: “There was something different about the boy, a nervousness, a softness which wasn’t like a man’s although he wasn’t the least bit effeminate-looking – still – that thing was there” (Williams 114). If she seeks for sensitivity in a man, she makes the wrong choice because in the end of sensitive relationships she is collapsed physically and mentally. If she seeks for plain and exuberant sex, she is collapsed again psychologically and in terms of her reputation in the end of each affair.Blanche is portrayed as “a frantic, trapped woman, still proud, still determined to survive. Because she assumes that she must pretend to be the innocent romantic in order to attract men, she hides her past, her age, and her sexual appetites” (Tischler 46). This inner and implicit conflict of Blanche adds complexity to the intrigue of the play. One may find it strange that Stanley’s sexual appeal is found “though violent, […] unmental, unspiritual, and, therefore, in some way free from taint” (Brustein 9), and Blanche with her sexual appeal is called a nymphomaniac. Her sin and perversity may derive themselves from the sources other than sex.Additionally to being tainted with corrupted sexual lust, Blanche does not suit the everyday environment in regard to her habits and manners. Why does Stanley’s informer who used to know Blanche in Laurel refers to a woman of manners, good social background and high education as to “not just different but downright loco – nuts” (Williams 121)?  Why does she ironically remark: “True? Yes, I suppose – unfit somehow . . .” (Williams 146-7)? Does the argument cover just the matters of sex and prostitution? Hardly is it so. On the point Tischler assumes:She has to prove she is a lady of breeding and elegance, forcing herself to perform rituals out of keeping with her new context. When her commitment to class distinction requires that she demand respect due a lady rather than accepting tacit recognition by those she meets, she quickly becomes a grotesque parody of a forgotten age. (49)According to Brustein, the conflict between Blanche and Stanley comes from the distinctions in their cultural backgrounds: “culture and tradition are desirable, but breed effeteness and perversity […] and make one an easy prey to the unenlightened” (9). The enlightenment for Blanche is her reminiscences of better times and better places. Tischler calls these Blanche’s pattern of socializing to consist of “empty gestures of an anachronistic cultural context” (48).Blanche’s heritage of landed aristocracy is dying of its own vices. In the urban setting of the New South, class is determined by power and wealth. Stanley will triumph because he has the will to succeed, as Stella understands. He is a type of crude new immigrant, who has no taste for the heritage of the Old South. (ibid.)Thus, one more point of confrontation of Blanche and Stanley between sex is the cultural one. The opposition of “the rich cultural traditions of the Southern heritage” and “the crude, but vital, modern setting” (Tischler 50) drives the play towards its climax, the total collapse of the cultural embodiment or living signifier, Blanche.One, though, may say that the opposition is not structured exclusively between cultural and non-cultural concepts. Kernan suggests the presence of realism and romanticism opposition. The researcher states that William’s model of realism and symbolism in A Streetcar is more complicated than in the earlier playwrights.[…] there is a “real” world outside and inside each of us which is actively hostile to any belief in the goodness of man and the validity of moral values. His realism gives expression to this aspect of the world, and A Streetcar Named Desire is his clearest treatment of the human dilemma which entails the dramatic dilemma. We are presented in Streetcar with two polar ways of looking at experience: the realistic view of Stanley Kowalski and the “non-realistic” view of his sister-in-law, Blanche DuBois. Williams brings the two views into conflict immediately. (17)Whatever conceptualization is made of the conflict between the main personages of the play, the coda of the drama erases the distinctions between the participants as the right and the wrong side. Stanley wants to prove his masculinity on behalf of Blanche and enjoys triumph. Blanche wants to oppose the seductive sexual power of her brother-in-law and fails. It puts her on the brink of self-denigration. Stanley in his opposition to Blanche pursues the goals of territorial protection derived from “the very human hunger for a secure home” (Tischler 48). Blanche after all shifts the category of home onto Stanley: “maybe (Stanley)’s what we need to mix with our blood now that we’ve lost Belle Reve and have to go on without Belle Reve to protect us” (Williams 45), she says to Stella. Blanche after all wants to ruin Stanley’s world to assert the one of her own.In the very end, Stanley is left with his wife and a new-born baby being exhibited altogether to vague family and social perspectives. Blanche is ushered to a mental asylum. Stanley seems to be the winner and Blanche seems to be a loser. However, the defeated and raped side appears to celebrate victory in the end.Tischler states Blanche’s “moral victory in the face of a physical defeat” (44). DuBois’ lover dreamed about turns into a psychiatrist but she never cares. She is free and beautiful again at her best with violets on her bosom and a doctor on the arm. After all it does not matter whether Stanley would feel regret after Blanche; or whether Blanche would recover mentally. What matters is that different cultural backgrounds have proved the urgency to exist in different modes. Instead of justifying urban and rural, or realistic and symbolic mode of behaviour, one may turn to think about truth as beauty as Tischler proposes.Although we are determined to understand the “real” world, to look clearly at life, we also have a perennial hunger for romance, which relies on exaggeration and imagination. We want human relations to be more than sexual need, we want human life to be something more than animal existence. (Tischler 51)One cannot say that culture is defeated in Blanche’s representation. Instead one thinks about finding new goals in life full of peril and aggression.The need today is not for a hero who seems to be a rebel while really conforming to an established pattern, but for a hero who, without rejecting language, tradition, education, and art – without finding consolation in the impulsive anarchy of Stanley Kowalski – can express the nonconformism which stems from a long, hard, individualistic look at the world. (Brustein 16)Evaluating A Streetcar by Williams a contemporary reader and viewer defines the conflict between the main personages of the drama as extending its complexity far beyond the sexual underpinning. The opposition of home and alien space, simple and complex system of values and judgements, realism and symbolization, and, finally, of culture and simple instincts makes the play still luring and suggestive for modern audience. Blanche serves an embodiment of culture with all its difficult and perilous consequences such as perversity, frustration, disillusionment and aggression. The same aggression yet grown from other motives and settings is seen in the type of modern urban hero which is represented by Stanley. Despite the physical and mental breakdown, Blanche is far from being defeated. She teaches everybody a moral lesson of keeping the cultural treasury of poetry, magic, nobility and exuberant palette of motives and values. Culture is not defeated by simpletons. It adjusts itself to reality in this form of other. This lesson seems to be one of the gifts Williams continues to grant audience with through his creative ancestry. 

Post Author: admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


I'm Tamara!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out