‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by Tennessee Williams Essay
‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ by Tennessee Williams
Look at scene IV of ‘Streetcar’ What does the scene tell us about the relationship between Stella and Stanley, and how does Williams portray this?
In order to analyse this scene, there needs to be a clear understanding of what has happened prier to it.
Scene three is set at Stanley’s poker game, when Mitch leaves the game, to chat to Blanche, Stanley becomes more and more annoyed, and smashes a radio. Stella yells at him, and he starts to beat her. The men pull him off. Blanche takes Stella and some clothes to Eunice’s apartment upstairs. Stanley goes limp and seems confused, but when the men try to force him into the shower to sober him up he fights them off. They grab their winnings and leave.
Stanley stumbles out of the bathroom, calling for Stella. He phones upstairs, then phones again, before hurling the phone to the floor. Half-dressed he stumbles out to the street and calls for her again and again: “STELL-LAHHHHH!” Eunice gives him a piece of her mind, but to no avail. Finally, Stella slips out of the apartment and down to where Stanley is. They stare at each other and then rush together with “animal moans.” He falls to his knees, caresses her face and belly, then lifts her up and carries her into their flat.
Scene four occurs early the next morning, Stella lies serenely in the bedroom, her face aglow. She is described as having a “narcotised tranquillity that is in the faces of Eastern idols”. Colour and light are huge themes here, Stella holds “coloured comics” there are “Gaudy pyjamas” on the floor and “summer brilliance” in the window. The colours theme within the play, is Williams’s way of telling us that the romance in Stella and Stanley’s relationship is pushed in favour of the couples sexual relations. This being 1949, Williams cannot express this outright.
Blanche, who has not slept, enters the apartment the complete opposite of Stella’s serenity. She is worried and demands to know how Stella could go back and spend the night with Stanley after what he did to her. Stella feels Blanche is making a big issue out of nothing. “You’re making an awful fuss of this”
Yet Blanche goes on about how she must figure out a way to get them both out of this situation, how she recently ran into an old friend who struck it rich in oil, and perhaps he would be able to help them. Stella pays little attention to what Blanche says; she has no desire to leave. She says that Blanche merely saw Stanley at his worst. Blanche feels she saw him at his most characteristic-and this is what terrifies her.
Blanche simply cannot understand how a woman raised in Belle Reve could choose to live her life with a man who has “not one particle” of a gentleman in him, about whom there is “something downright–bestial…” Stella’s reply is that “there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark–that sort of make everything else seem–unimportant.” This is just desire, says Blanche, and not a basis for marriage.
A train approaches, a signal for an emotional outburst, and while it roars past Stanley enters the flat unheard. Not knowing that Stanley is listening, Blanche holds nothing back. She describes him as common, an animal, ape-like, a primitive brute, and in part this is true. Stella listens coldly. Under cover of another passing train, Stanley slips out of the apartment, then enters it noisily. Stella runs to Stanley and embraces him fiercely. Stanley grins at Blanche.
This fierce embrace is a clear rejection by Stella of everything Blanche has just said about Stanley–she does not believe her at all. By Stanley’s grin it also shows he has the upper hand, for all his “ape-like” qualities he is seen as the master here.
If the bond between Stella and Stanley is animal, it is also spiritual. These are the flip sides of the ‘primitive’ coin–the dual world of instinct and the supernatural. Stella in this scene offers a glimpse at the mystical side of attraction and desire. She glows transcendently; as mentioned her face is likened to that of an Eastern idol. Her calm is anomalous, as if she has just taken part in something holy.
Blanche fails to see the magic in what to her seems an abusive and dangerous relationship, because she has never reconciled her identity with her own profound desire. The divide is too great between her aristocratic sense of self and the “animal” urges that have at times controlled her. Blanche herself invokes the streetcar named Desire as a metaphor of what she believes Stella feels. Stella throws the metaphor back at her: “Haven’t you ever ridden on that streetcar?” Blanche’s answer, “It brought me here,” is truer than Stella knows.