Stanley In A Streetcar Named Desire Streetcar Named Desire Character Analysis of Stanley Kowalski A Streetcar Named Desire revolves around the association of Blanche with Stanley, who represents contemporary social values driven by male dominance. He is violent and barbaric throughout the play, both in costuming (an element of spectacle) and in dialog (in this case, an expression of both diction and character). As the play progresses, Stanley uses every possible tool available to him to subjugate Blanche, including destroying any possible healthy relationship, ostracizing her, and finally raping her. In his first encounter with Blanche, Stanley is irritated because he knows she has been drinking his liquor. He senses an invasion of his territory by Blanche, who has taken something that belongs to him. Stanley welcomes her into the Kowalski home; however, that acceptance requires that Blanche acknowledge his authority. When he removes his shirt in this scene, it is not so much to titillate Blanche as to demonstrate his masculinity.
Stanley’s desire to dominate everyone around him finds its ultimate expression in his relationship to Blanche. That desire ignited in Act I. During their first confrontation, Stanley attempts repeatedly to intimidate Blanche into giving him the information he wants concerning the loss of Belle Reve. Initially however, Blanche responds only with flirtation and laughter and ultimately, with a long diatribe relieving her of responsibility for the loss, and bestowing all the legalities on to him. During the next scene, when Stanley physically intimidates Stella, showing his own physical prowess, Blanche attempts to take her away from him.
In the course of the play he appears obsessed with finding Blanche’s weakness; when he discovers that she has committed sexual indiscretions in Laurel and senses her feelings of guilt concerning them, he acts immediately. In the second confrontation between Blanche and Stanley we see another territorial dispute. Ignoring Blanche’s attempt to change the subject by flirting with him–and this is clearly her intention when she asks him to help button her dress, and when she takes a drag on his cigarette–Stanley interrogates her about the loss of Belle Reve. His anger is founded on his interpretation of the Napoleonic Code, according to which whatever belongs to my wife is also mine (41). The implication is clear; although Stanley has never seen Belle Reve it belongs to him, through his wife.
He suspects that Blanche’s extravagant lifestyle has caused the loss of the family estate; to verify the truth of his suspicions (and, at the same time, offend Blanche) he rummages through her trunk. Stanley finds a bundle of letters from Blanche’s deceased husband; he appears unconcerned when this distresses Blanche, and does not admit to understanding why his touching the letters might make her want to burn them. The third confrontation occurs during the famous Poker Night in Scene Three; Stella and Mitch are the subjects of Stanley’s territorial aggression. In the previous scene we find that Stella has prepared a cold plate for Stanley, so she can take Blanche out of the apartment during his poker game (20). When the women return at two in the morning, they attempt to break up the game. As Mitch passes through the bedroom on the way to the bath, Blanche engages him in a conversation that takes him away from Stanley’s poker game. After he returns to the game, the women begin to gossip and to play the radio.
Stanley turns off their radio; Blanche turns it back on. Enraged, Stanley throws the radio out of the window and attacks Stella, striking her. When the couple continues to fight, the men restrain Stanley and drag him into the bedroom. Again Blanche defies Stanley, taking Stella to a neighbor’s apartment. When Stanley discovers Stella is gone, he exhibits emotions that are inconsistent with the image Williams has built–that Stanley is the epitome of the insensitive modern male. He sobs, whining into the phone in an attempt to persuade Eunice to let him speak to Stella.
Then, regaining control of himself, he begins to bellow his wife’s name (42). That ends the poker game. From Stanley’s point of view, Blanche has simultaneously robbed him of his wife and his best friend. Although Stella returns to her husband that night, we find in the next scene the foundation for the fourth confrontation between Stanley and Blanche. Arriving unexpectedly, he overhears Blanche talking to Stella about him: Blanche: Suppose! You can’t have forgotten that much of our bringing up, Stella, that you just suppose that any part of a gentleman’s in his nature! Not one particle, no! Oh, if he was just ordinary! Just plain but good and wholesome, but No . There’s something downright bestial–about him! .
. . He acts like aan animal, has an animals habits! Theres even something sub-human something not quite at the stage of humanity yet! Maybe we are a long way from being made in God’s image, but Stella–my sister–there has been some progress since then! In some kinds of people some tenderer feelings have had some little beginning! That we have got to make grow! And cling to, and hold as our flag! In this dark march toward whatever it is we’re approaching…Don’t–don’t hang back with the brutes! (50) Stanley chooses to conceal the fact that he has overheard Blanche. He exacts his revenge in Scene Five, when he reveals what he has learned about Blanche’s sexual indiscretions. Just as Blanche had robbed him of his wife and his best friend, Stanley seeks to damage Blanche’s relationship with her sister and her prospective husband.
By informing Mitch of Blanche’s active sexual past, he convinces him not to marry her, as he had previously intended, thereby ruining any chance for either of them at happiness. Stanley’s territorial drive pushes him to greater and greater excess. When he discovers that his attempts to dominate Blanche both physically and emotionally have failed to drive the sisters apart, he investigates Blanche’s indiscretions and reveals them to Stella in Scene Seven. In an amazing display of hypocrisy, Stanley, who abuses and sexually dominates his wife, uses Blanche’s sexual misconduct as an excuse to throw her out of the apartment. He tells Stella that he has purchased a bus ticket for Blanche; it is not until Scene Eight, however, that we discover that the bus ticket is from New Orleans to Laurel, Mississippi–absolutely useless to Blanche, who has been told never to return to that town.
This cannot help but exacerbate the guilt she feels about the death of her husband and about her sexual indiscretions. Still, Stanley’s more detailed revelation of Blanche’s misconduct does not separate her from Stella. After painfully eliminating Mitch from Blanches life, the audience becomes prepared for the final confrontation in Scene TenStanleys violent rape of the hysterical Blanche. Stanley, having driven Blanche to the brink of insanity, having ruined her reputation in New Orleans and with her sister, finds himself still unable to destroy the relationship between Blanche and Stella. He takes the only remaining course to maintain his territory; by raping Blanche he establishes the physical domination he attempted, unsuccessfully, early in the play, and the psychological domination he attempted, later, by using Blanches own guilt against her.
From our first introduction to Stanley, when he tosses the bloody package to Stella, to our last, when he rips the lantern off the light just before the doctor and nurse take Blanche away, we see this man as an expression of animalistic territoriality. He uses every tactic possible to exert his power over a fragile, but threatening woman. Finally, using brute force and sexual dominance, he appears to win. In fact however, the winner is ambiguous if even in existence. A rift has developed in the only relationship that Stanley values that between him and his wife, with no promise of a better future.