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11. The question implies that Stanley and Blanche are symbolic figures. Your task is to determine what each stands for.
You know that Stanley is lusty and animalistic. He rages and grunts, but isn't he more than just an uncaged ape? Outside the house, he holds a responsible job at a factory. He travels a good deal and apparently earns enough money to provide for Stella and even to feed and support Blanche for several months. What does Stanley like to do? He bowls, plays cards, and drinks. If television had been in use in the 1940s, he probably would watch ballgames and sitcoms. Except for his violent streak, he's probably not very much different from millions of other middle-class urban men.
Does Williams mean to imply that Stanley symbolizes middle-class America? Or do Stanley's actions merely suggest that life in that level of society brings out men's basest, most animal-like instincts?
Stanley's adversary, Blanche, represents another stratum of society altogether. Her people used to be wealthy landowners. In the early days, the DuBois family probably owned slaves. Blanche herself is well-educated and appreciates poetry and music. During much of the play she tries to maintain the illusion that traditional values are alive and well. In the end, she is destroyed.
What conclusion might be drawn? That Stanley's world now dominates Blanche's? That Blanche stands for a faded and useless way of life? That man's bestial instincts, repressed by civilization, will again reign supreme? Obviously, the conflict between Stanley and Blanche may be interpreted in many ways. Regardless of how you see it, you can feel certain that it is more than just a misunderstanding between two people who don't see eye to eye.
12. Before you tackle this question, decide what moods you found in the play. "Mood" is an elusive term. A piece of literature as complex as Streetcar might contain several moods simultaneously.
Here are some possibilities: (1) violent, angry, and tense; (2) sad and sentimental; (3) sexual and animalistic; (4) morbid and tragic; (5) grotesquely comical. Williams creates such moods using characters' words and actions as well as music, lighting and stage directions. The "Characters" section of this Book Notes provides numerous examples of how dialogue and action shape the mood of the play. For example, Stanley's bellowing into the night for Stella to return to him creates a sense of savagery that hangs in the air throughout the play.
If you examine Williams' stage directions, you'll discover prescriptions for mood-enhancing sound effects (trains, voices in the background, gunshots) and music (a waltz for romance, a faint polka to convey the feeling of lost happiness). Similarly, the stage lighting, from the dim glow of Blanche's lanterns to the oppressive glare around the poker table, helps to set the mood of each scene. Williams leaves little to chance. He knows how to create moods and gives play directors plenty of help.
13. It takes skill to mediate between two people who detest each other. If you've ever tried, you can appreciate the problem Stella faces throughout the play. She employs various tactics to force Stanley and Blanche into peaceful coexistence. None of her methods work, however.
From the beginning she pleads for understanding. To keep Blanche from being shocked, Stella prepares her sister to meet Stanley. She explains that Stanley may be different from the sort of men Blanche may be accustomed to. Later, Stella points out Stanley's attractiveness, especially in bed, but her words fall on deaf ears.
Similarly, Stella can't convince Stanley to accept Blanche. He is unmoved by Blanche's delicate condition and the tragic loss of her husband. He distrusts Blanche the moment he meets her. Once he's made up his mind, nothing can sway him.
During most of the play Stella acts as a buffer between the adversaries. Gradually, she drifts toward Blanche's side. Her sister needs help. But if Stella isn't careful, she stands to antagonize Stanley.
Ultimately she sends her sister away. Why Stella sides with Stanley in the end is worth exploring. What has Stella realized about her sister, about Stanley, and about herself? Why can't she simply continue to serve as intermediary? What might Williams be saying by having Stella and Stanley reunited at the end of the play?