A Streetcar Named Desire


Block 5
Peter Purino, Vrajkumar Patel, Angel Pelaez, Muhammed Syed

Characters:
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Stanley Kowalski

Stanley plays the role of the antagonist in the play. He is the driving force of the play as he attempts to return his household to the way it was before Blanche arrives. Husband of Stella, Stanley is very aggressive and dominant towards his wife. Also head of the household, Stanley has a close relationship with his friends. Ultimately we discover that he is driven by sex, has animalistic behavior towards his wife but also a subtle soft side towards her. Such soft side may be his weakness which is evident after he beats Stella and later begs her to come back. His strong side has to be his strong sense of masculinity that drives his relationship with friends, Stella and Blanche. As head of the household, Stanley expects to be treated as royalty, goes out bowling and drinking with his friends and is impulsed to find the truth about Blanche in order to return his home to its original state of “peace”.

STELLA

He was as good as a lamb when I came back and he’s really very, very ashamed of himself.


After being heavily drunk and violently beating Stella, Stanley goes after her. He begs Stella to return with cries like “My baby doll’s left me!” and almost sobbing. This quote demonstrates Stanley’s soft side after being extremely aggressive and agitated.



Stella Kowalski
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Stella Kowalski is a protagonist and she is a tremendous character of significance in this play. Stella married the violent antagonist of a lower class, Stanley. She left her home and wealth to be in the bittersweet marriage she was in. Stella is also the younger sister of the flawed and affection-seeking, Blanche. Stella is the mediator that kept Stanley and Blanche under the same roof even though they hated each other. Stella’s strength is that she was very loyal. Although, it became a weakness because she ran back to Stanley even though he beat her and treated her wrong. She was even thrilled by Stanley’s aggressive nature. Because of Stella, readers get to see both sides of the story when we see how torn she is. Blanche wanted to Stella to divorce Stanley because of the way he acted like an animal towards her. Stanley wanted Blanche to leave because she lied about why she was there and he knew about her affair with the student. Stella wanted her husband and her sister so she tried to hold on to both until she stayed with her man after giving birth to his their child. Stella refused to believe that Stanley raped Blanche and watched her sister leave because she was too blinded by her love.

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Harold Mitchell

Harold Mitchell, or “Mitch”, was one of the prominent characters of the play, “Streetcar Named Desire”. Throughout this play, although he had a rough southerner voice and took pride in his tough, masculine body, he was portrayed as an awkward person, and sometimes as an overgrown boy. He lived with his dying mother and was often called “mama’s boy” for the same reason, often criticized by those he would play poker with. Although lasting throughout most of the play, he had somewhat of a temporary or non-successful relationship with Blanche DuBois, another one of the main characters of the play. He used to see similarities within himself and she, and thought that not only will his mother be proud of bringing Blanche home, he will also be able to satiate his manly physical desires. Overall, after finding out the truth and failing at trying to have an intimate relationship with Blanche, their relationship fell apart.



Blanche DuBois

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Blanche DuBois is the protagonist and one of the main characters in this play. She is the 30 year old sister of Stella Kowalski. After losing her plantation and forced to “quit” from her job as a high school teacher, Blanche moves in with her sister. At first, Blanche appears as an attractive and innocent southern woman. Stella also sees her sister as an innocent and naive woman. However, Stanley dislikes her and unveils her dark past and the real reason she came to stay with them. Throughout the play, Blanche’s personality becomes more clear. One of the strengths of Blanche is that she is a great liar. With this skill, she is also very manipulative and gains sympathy from her lies. However, Blanche is emotionally unstable and it is clearly evident towards the end of the play. Her lying ways also serve as a weakness and it reveals her insecurity. Also, Blanche’s actions in the play demonstrate her flirtatious nature. For example:

“Well, you do, honey lamb! Come here, I want to kiss you, just once, softly and sweetly on your mouth!”--Blanche

This quote is from scene 5. Blanche is going on a date with Mitch. While she waits, she sees the young man and kisses him. This demonstrates her lustful and flirtatious personality.


Themes & Vocabulary:

Drugs:

Although Blanche claims that one is her limit, she drinks often as a means of escape. She drinks so much that she almost ends up finishing Stanley’s bottle that is kept in the closet. It must be noted that she drinks whenever she’s being confronted/feels comfortable. Alcohol allows Blanche to continue to live in a lie, other than reality, eventually creating a distraction. Alcohol also alter’s Stanley’s behavior as he becomes aggressive, ultimately leading him to beat Stella.

“The rapid feverish polka tune, the "Varsouviana," is heard. The music is in her mind; she is drinking to escape”.

(Stage Directions for scene nine)


Insanity

A reoccurring theme throughout the play is insanity. There are many instances of insanity that take place, however, I would like to focus one of the main types of insanity that occur. For example, we can take Blanche into consideration. Losing her husband, being in a financial crisis and to top it all off, the cruelty she has experienced from many others were key factors which ultimately led to Blanche’s seemingly unstable mental state. She had developed a need to always be with someone; never alone, justifying her multiple sexual relationships in the past and her recent bonds as well.

Blanche: “I want to be near you, got to be with somebody, I can’t be alone! Because - as you must have noticed - I’m - not very…” (Her voice drops and her look is frightened.)


Around the end of the play when Mitch gets drunk and breaks up with her, Blanche's insanity became distinctly clear.


Male Dominance and Superiority:

“Blanche: Poker is so fascinating. Could I kibitz?

Stanley: You could not. Why don’t you women go up and sit with Eunice?

Stella: Because it is nearly two-thirty. Couldn’t you call it quits after one more more hand?

[A chair scrapes. Stanley gives a loud whack of his hand on her thigh]

Stella [sharply]: That’s not funny, Stanley.

[The men laugh. Stella goes into the bedroom.]” (pg. 48, Scene Three)

In this scene, Stanley and his friends are playing poker. Stanley’s actions in this scene demonstrate one of the key themes in this novel. He rejects Blanche in her offer to stay and watch them play and tries to make them leave. This shows that Stanley does not respect women and think of them as worthy enough to let them sit with the men. Then, Stanley slaps Stella’s thigh to make Stella look inferior to him. Stanley tries to be an alpha male and assert dominance in front of his friends.


Desire
Desire is an exceedingly crucial theme in the play. Desire is in our human nature because it’s the passion that takes us to places. There are good desires that will take you to better places. On the other hand, there are bad desires that if you don't learn to control, it will take you to Elysium Fields- a part of Hell in Greek mythology. Blanche loses her career and home when she was found having an affair with one of her students. Blanche is a very sexual woman that chases men. When she couldn’t have one at her sister’s place, she created a man in her imagination. She made believe a rich man that she had a past with was going to get her to join him on a cruise. Blanche just can’t control her desire for men. In the climax, Stanley fails to control his desire and rapes Blanche while his wife is in labor at the hospital. When Stella heard what her own husband did to her sister, she refuses to believe it and stays with her husband because of her deep desire that she has for him. It is also her desire that keeps her going back to him after treating her like property all the time. In the end of the play, Blanche’s car named “desire” takes her to Elysium Fields. That symbolizes that her filthy desires had drove her to her downfall.

Scenes 1-3 Vocabulary

1. Bodice- (noun) The part of a woman’s dress covering the body between the neck or shoulders and the waist… pg. 15

2.Vivacity- (noun) liveliness; animation; sprightliness… pg. 18

3.Absconding- (verb) to depart in a sudden and secret manner… pg. 41

4.Antiquity-(noun) something belonging to or remaining from ancient times, as monuments, relics, or customs… pg.41

5.Improvident-(adjective) neglecting to provide for future needs...pg. 43

6.Peruse-(verb) to read through with thoroughness or care… pg. 43

7.Dissonant-(adjective) out of harmony; disagreeing or harsh in sound… pg. 59

8. Overwrought-(adjective) extremely or excessively excited or agitated…. pg. 23

9. Lunacy-(noun) extreme foolishness or an instance of it…. pg. 21

10. Gallantry-(noun) dashing courage….pg. 56.

Scenes 4-6 Vocabulary

1. Measly- adj. contemptibly small, meager, or slight (p68)

2. Stealthily-adj. Marked by or acting with quiet, caution, and secrecy intended to avoid notice. (p72)

3. Morbid- adj. suggesting an unhealthy mental state or attitude (p79)

4. Shrilly-adj. high-pitched and piercing in sound quality (p80)

5. Twine- verb. cause to wind or spiral round something. (p82)

6. Neurasthenic- adj. suffering from nervous exhaustion (p850

7. dismal- adj. depressing; dreary. (p85)

8. Demureness- adj. characterized by shyness and modesty; reserved (p91)

9. Effeminate- adj. (of a man) having or showing characteristics regarded as typical of a woman; unmanly (p95)

10. Feebly-adj. physically weak, as from age or sickness; frail (p82)

Scenes 7-9 Vocabulary

1. Contemptible - adj. deserving of contempt or scorn (p99)

2. Ordinance - noun. an authoritative rule (p101)

3. Degenerate - adj. noun. a person whose behavior deviates from what is acceptable, especially in sexual behavior (p102)

4. Portiere - noun. A curtain hung in a doorway (p105)

5. Repertoire - noun. a collection of works (plays, songs, operas, ballets) that an artist or company can perform and do perform for short intervals on a regular schedule (p106)

6. Reproachfully - adv. Disappointingly (p108)

7. Tumbler - noun. a glass with a flat bottom but no handle or stem (p110)

8. Cavalier - adj. a gallant or courtly gentleman (p113)

9. Obscure - adj. not clearly understood or expressed (p116)

10. Compulsion - noun. an urge to do or say something that might be better left not done(p118)


Scenes 10-12 Vocabulary

1. transitory- (adj) not permanent...pg. 126

2. destitute- (adj) without the basic necessities of life…pg. 126

3. lurid- (adj) very vivid in color, especially so as to create an unpleasantly harsh or unnatural effect...pg. 128

4. grotesque- (adj) comically or repulsively ugly or distorted…pg. 128

5. sinuously- (adj) curving, meandering, twining, twisting, coiled, curved, serpentine.

6. protrudes- (verb) extend beyond or above a surface...pg. 129

7. portrieres-(noun) a curtain hung over a door or doorway...pg. 131

8. rutting- (noun) a furrow or track in the ground, especially one made by the passage of a vehicle or vehicles…pg. 131

9. lapel- (noun) the part on each side of a coat or jacket immediately below the collar that is folded back on either side of the front opening...pg. 132

10. reverberated- (verb) (of a loud noise) be repeated several times as an echo...pg. 139


Significant Scenes:

Scene 3:

In scene three, Stanley and his friends are playing poker. Stanley is annoyed of their presence throughout the scene. Blanche turns on the radio and Stanley, who is under the influence of alcohol, angrily throws the radio out of the window. Stella comes to her sister’s aid and yells at Stanley. Stanley becomes even more aggressive and attacks Stella. The men pull Stanley away and try to calm him down. The women go upstairs to Eunice’s apartment. This scene is very significant to the plot. Stanley’s actions in this scene reveal his aggressive and abusive nature. Stanley’s attack also demonstrates the theme of male dominance and superiority. Towards the end of the scene, Mitch tells Blanche to not take the fight seriously. This indicates that incidences like these between Stanley and Stella have occurred in the past.

Scene 5:

Stanley reveals that he knows something concerning Blanche’s past. He asks Blanche is she knows anyone by the name of “Shaw” to she denies. After her conversation with Stanley, she nervously proceeds to ask Stella if she’s heard any “unkind gossip” about her. Blanche reveals that she wasn’t “so good” the last two years and for that reason people may have started talking badly about her. During the conversation, it is evident she’d hiding something. The fact that she asks for a shot in her glass of Coke is a sign that she feels uncomfortable. As her drink is being poured, her hand shakes and it spills on her skirt, indicating her nervousness and emphasizes the fact she may be hiding something.


Scene 9:

In this chapter, Blanche confesses about all the intimacies she has had with strangers, and how that was all she was able to do in order to fill "the empty void" in her heart left from the death of Allan, her deceased husband. However, it was not much of a confession since she covered up most of what happened with excuses and lies. Mitch confronts Blanche about all her lies, but Blanche proceeds to carry on the conversation and bring it off track. It doesn't work. This ends with Mitch deciding not to marry her. Mitch: "You're not clean enough to bring into the house with my mother." This was one of the first scenes where Mitch witnesses Blanche's mildly psychotic side. Blanche: "Go away, then. (He stares at her.) Get out of here quick before I start screaming fire!! (Her throat is tightening with hysteria) Get out of here quick before I start screaming fire. (He still remains staring. She suddenly rushes to the big window and with its pale blue square of the soft summer light and cries wildly.) Fire! Fire! Fire! (With a startled gasp, Mitch turns and goes out the outer door.)"


scene 10:
Alone at the apartment, Blanche is dressed up because she is pretending that she will see one of her admirers in his yacht. It is most likely because of the alcohol and her mental instability. Stanley comes home intoxicated as well with beer in his hands. Stella was to give birth the following morning so he went home to get some sleep. With alcohol in his system, he was in a good mood so they were able to talk without it becoming arguing. Later on, Blanche calls Mitch and Stanley swine and kills his good mood. Stanley catches a mistake in her lie about Mitch coming over to apologize because he was with Mitch. He points out everything wrong about her lies and the atmosphere grows thick and intense. As Stanley is not in the room, Blanche decides to call for help but Stanley comes in with his special silk pajamas and hangs the phone up. He then blocks the door and grabs her arm wrist when she tries to use a bottle to protect herself. He takes her away as he rapes her. This scene is significant because throughout the play, we have been expecting a climax between these two characters because of their hatred between each other and Stanley’s violent actions. They were also very sexual people and this scene is the result of all the tension that has built up throughout the course of the story.

Significant Quotes:

“...And then the searchlight which had been turned on the world was turned off again and never for one moment since has there been any light that’s stronger than this-kitchen-candle…”

This quote, found in scene six, is significant in that it allows the audience to understand Blanche’s past considering her suspicious and anxious personality. Her entire statement about the boy she loved reveals her desire for an intimate relationship revealed later in the play. Blanche’s confession also allows the audience to judge her better and question whether she acts the way she does because she’s been through a hard time or whether she’s simply “insane”.

“I have told you I love him” -- Stella (pg.71)

In scene four, Blanche tries to persuade Stella to get out of her relationship with Stanley after being attacked. However, Stella does not seem interested in getting out of her marriage and rejects Blanche’s idea. This quote demonstrates Stella’s true love for Stanley despite his abusive nature. Stella seems convinced that the abuse is part of a normal relationship and forgives Stanley.


"I don't think I want to marry you any more." - Mitch (p120)


Although not mentioned previously, this significant quote comes from what I thought was the most significant scene - scene nine. These words marked the visible start of Blanche's mental state. Even though she was already portrayed as abnormal, this is where she breaks into an uncontrollable outburst of emotion leading to irrational behavior. Although lonely yet again, this is also where Mitchell had realized that she was truly a case he was grateful he did not end up getting married with. In the following scene, Blanche still holds delusions that Mitch had came begging and running back to her.


__Blanche DuBois__: What you are talking about is desire - just brutal Desire. The name of that rattle-trap streetcar that bangs through the Quarter, up one old narrow street and down another.
__Stella__: Haven't you ever ridden on that streetcar?
__Blanche DuBois__: It brought me here. Where I'm not wanted and where I'm ashamed to be.


Social Issues:

Women Roles

Blanche, the protagonist, can also be viewed as an anti hero in how she lacks values and nobility. She plays the role of a woman who is a heavy drinker and is rumored to have slept with many men. Rather than becoming a portrayal of a strong, independent woman that was common during the 1940s, Blanche’s character is weak and vulnerable. Her excessive drinking and risque freedom alters the perception of women. Especially the fact that she does not come out victorious in the end, challenges the audience’s expectations of women.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence occurs when one spouses abuses the other. One of the main events in this novel was the altercation between Stella and Stanley. Stanley abusing Stella is an example of domestic violence. Stanley’s friends and Blanche were able to witness this abuse firsthand and able to stop him. Approximately 7.7 million people suffer domestic violence each year and about 4.8 million of them are women. Domestic violence is a major issue and it can happen to anyone. However, these abusive relationships can be kept in the dark and appear completely normal. People can be completely unaware of abusive relationships until clear physical signs begin to develop. This type of abuse can take an immense toll on the emotional, physical, and psychological aspects of the victim's life. Despite being abused, Stella did not want to leave Stanley.


Immorality

There have been uncountable instances of immorality throughout this play. All the adultery, the lies, the cruelty, and so on. Leaving Blanche's affairs to the side, we can take Stanley as an example. During Blanche's party, he gives a ticket to go back to Lauren as a present, despite being aware of her traumatic experiences and her current situation. Later on in the story, despite knowing Blanche's psychological state at the time and her being drunk, accompanied with the fact that he was expecting his baby with Stella to be born the following day, Stanley takes advantage of any chance he got to shoot down Blanche's fictional world which was but a safeguard her brain had developed as a self defense mechanism to escape reality, and to avoid being traumatized. He then watches and enjoys himself as she panics, and then proceeds to pin her down and molest her. This is a perfect illustration of the foul and unethical social issue of immorality. Such Issues still exist today. Although they may work in public, laws and enactments cannot force the nefarious human mind to think as a good Samaritan or restrict any wrong doings when there are no direct consequences.


Casual sex
A social issue in America today is the growth of casual sex. decades ago, men and women dressed more modest. Women did not reveal their body and showing their legs was unheard of. As years passed, we became more rebellious and we decided to have more freedom in showing off our bodies. Not only have we changed in the way we dressed, it also perverted the way we act. Abstinence is slowly vanishing as the statistics of teen pregnancies grow. Sex was meant to be for marriage but the media has influenced our youth and made virginity seem like something to be embarrassed of. Now, most teens have done it and if they haven’t yet, they are most likely running towards it. It affect the way other countries look at America because all our teenage movies all have to with crazy parties, drugs, and sex. Many people from other countries call us pigs because of the way sex is so easy to get in America. That is the reason more and more people are getting STDs. This is significant in the story because it lead to the downfall of Blanche. At first, Mitch wasn't looking for sex when he saw Blanche. After he found out about her affair and downfalls, he immediately asks to have sex. Knowing that someone is into casual sex, will take away the respect that they want. Because Mitch found out about her stories, he looked at her as an object that will satisfy his sexual needs rather than a woman. Casual sex is a major problem today because now women don’t receive the respect that they deserve. We display half naked women for advertisement and the more we do that, the more we treat them like objects.