Commentary: A Streetcar Named Desire

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Commentary on ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

In the novel ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by Tennessee Williams, a scene that often catches the attention of readers is the poker scene. It begins when Blanche and Stella return from seeing a show too early, not wanting to have been a distraction or a nuisance while the men played poker. Stanley rudely dismisses the ladies making sure they know they aren’t welcome to join in, the tension escalates as does the banter and Stanley whacks Stella’s thigh to end the discussion. Mitch and Blanche then meet for the first time as he exits the bathroom and they are both immediately taken with each other. The poker games continues to progress and the ladies listen to the radio and gossip about the men, Stanley becomes unnecessarily agitated by the music and insists that they turn it off. Mitch then deals a hand and leaves to talk to Blanche, he offers a cigarette from a silver case, which he then continues on to explain the significance behind it, being from a girl whom he was once involved with that passed away. They continue to talk and Blanche explains how she was an English teacher and enjoyed her job even though the majority of her students didn’t retain much interest in the English curriculum.

Then, the real action begins to unfold; Blanche turns the radio back on, not aware of what her actions will lead up to. Stanley was already at his wits end by the first time he ordered the radio turned off and a second provocation would only lead to trouble. The music begins to play ‘Wein, Wein, nur du allein’ which translates to ‘Wine, Wine, and you alone’ giving the reader auditory imagery. I find this ironic, as I believe Blanche is an in denial alcoholic, perhaps the song suggests that the only think she can really rely on for comfort is alcohol. She then begins to dance, waltzing ‘with romantic hand gestures’, this gives proof of her aristocratic and privileged upbringing for few of lower standing would know how to waltz. As for the romantic hand gestures, Blanche is utilizing her means of coquettish seduction on Mitch (who seems all too happy to be at the receiving end to her tryst) as she desperately clings to the idea of a stable and supportive relationship with a husband (as well as a source of income and roof over her head).

This course of action has Stanley very riled up, even more so then before. The first time I read this passage I believed his anger to be unwarranted and simply unnecessary, but by putting yourself in his shoes it is possible to visualize where he’s coming from. Stanley sees himself as a ‘manly man’ completely sure of himself and filled to the brim with testosterone. Now combine that with whiskey, more testosterone, a little friendly competition and the fact that he’s losing, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Stanley prides himself on his authority and control of his friends, so when his winnings start to go south and he begins to loose face among them; something he prides himself upon. Its logical to say that his reaction will be harsh to any form of provocation using it as an outlet to his frustration and anger, no matter how unconscionable it was.

As Stanley reacts to the radio being played the visual imagery and his disposition becomes wild, animalistic and primal. He ‘stalks fiercely’ to the radio, snatches it up, shouts an oath and then throws it out the window. In my opinion Stanley gives off a strong sense of Neanderthal attitudes because his actions are so primal and savage. In the next line Stella even accuses him of being such stating ‘Drunk – drunk – animal thing, you!’ I think it is this accusation from Stella that makes Stanley snap, taking his anger and need for violence past the point of no return. Stella was the last string in his anger coming to be so severe, because after his friends winning more then he, taking some authority and control away form him, his wife then blatantly insulting him in front of his friends on top of that had...
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