Dr. Russell Carter
English 279 – LO1
Old South Verses New South
A Streetcar Named Desire, a play by Tennessee Williams, takes place in New Orleans in the mid-1940s. It follows the lives of Stanley Kowalski, Stella Kowalski, and Blanche DuBois and the story about a woman coming to visit her sister, which ends up going just as bad as any family reunion has ever gone. From the moment Blanche got to Elysium Fields, her and Stanley, Stella’s husband, appear as polar opposites and are constantly at war with each other. They never can agree on anything, are always arguing and shouting at one another, and want the loyalty of Stella all for themselves. Their constant power struggle can only end with one character the victor and the other leaving defeated. One of the main themes about conflict is that Stanley and Blanche are in a battle to win Stella and neither of them will give her up. However, Stanley and Blanche represent something bigger than two conflicting characters. Blanche represents the old south, with dying traditions whilst Stanley represents the new south where chivalry no longer exists and it's every man for themselves and just like in real life, the old south is overcome by the new south.
Blanche and Stanley come from two very different upbringings. Blanche comes from a very wealthy upbringing, being raised in a giant Southern plantation. Stanley grew up with the poor, immigrant family who had to work for everything they had. Blanche often uses the derogatory term ‘Pollack’ for describing Stanley to refer to him as common or inferior. She then contradicts herself when she says “We are French by extraction. Our first American ancestors were French Huguenots” (Williams 31). Blanche seems to think her ethnic origins make her better than others, and uses it as a point of pride. She often during the play is seen showing her self-proclaimed superiority towards all of the other characters. In the film, Blanche is attracted to Mitch because she is actually attracted to more sensitive, gentleman qualities, whereas Stella is all about Stanley’s aggressive masculinity. Even when she goes on the date with Mitch, she is seen in the film laughing at him. When Mitch asks her angrily why she is laughing at him, she replies that ‘she does it to everyone”, meaning that she views everyone as inferior to her, and laughs at their primitive habits. This is the quality Stanley dislikes most about Blanche, and also represents the current social status struggle of the country at the time. Blanche tries to seduce people with her artificial sense of refinement by putting on a mask of elegance to make herself seem more desirable, while Stanley is more rooted in the real world, and attracts Stella with his masculinity and raw sexuality.
The scene where the character’s conflict becomes first evident is when Stanley confronts Blanche about losing the Belle Reve. He becomes suspicious when Blanche cannot produce any paperwork on how she in fact lost it. Stanley becomes upset, shouting at Stella “Well, what in the hell was it then, give away? To charity?” (Williams 16). He talks about a ‘Napoleonic Code’, in which a husband gets a part of whatever the wife owns and vice-versa. In a way, that estate was partly owned by Stanley himself. This is important when looking at the first instance of the societal differences of the two characters. It didn’t seem as if Blanche put up much of a fight when her childhood home was being repossessed. She didn’t even keep track of the papers regarding the loss of the estate. This shows that her upbringing in wealth has caused her to become almost indifferent to losing monetary items. Stanley on the other hand, who grew up not having much, is enraged to find out something he didn’t even know he owned until a short time before that has been lost. He is seen in the movie literally tearing through Blanche’s belongings, searching for documentation on how Belle Reve was lost. Stanley keeps a...
Cited: "Conflict Between Blanche And Stanley In A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Feb 2015 .
A Streetcar Named Desire. Dir. Elia Kazan. Perf. Marlon Brando. Warner Brothers, 1951. Film.
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. Great Plays of the 20th Century. Ed. Llewellyn Sinclair. Springfield: Random House, 2000. 10-42. Print.
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