When one refers to the legendary play by Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire, one would think of the blatant contrast between the two main characters, Stanley and Blanche. Their blazing differences are partly to blame for the explosive and dramatic impact the audience would experience. Blanche and Stanley are about as different as night and day. Williams way of writing isnt exactly the bombastic kind, but the guy writes DEEP. Every little thing has its own significance. In the first scene, where the curtain opens to reveal the essence of New Orleans and the prominent characters in it, there is already much to say about the two main characters. The audience would be able to get a feel of what exactly the kind of characters they would see on stage in this thrilling, dark play.
Now, in the introduction of the first scene, Williams had described New Orleans in a manner such that the audience would feel the vividness of the old American city. He had used eloquent phrases that would, as we are taken deeper into the drama, signify a little bit of Stanley and Blanche. Now, in the phrase, The section is poor but unlike corresponding sections in other American cities, it has a raffish charm. It would most probably make one think of Stanley. Stanley, the tough, street-wise man that he is, provokes desire, and appears dangerously charming to women. Sexually, that is. In the aforementioned description, Williams had also included imagery of quaint, weathered buildings in white or grey accents. In the following bit, it can be said that Williams had hauntingly revealed a part of Blanche DuBois which the audience is to realize as they delve deeper into this production: The sky that shows around the dim white building is a peculiarly tender blue, almost turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay. As an audience, they are soon to find out about Blanches fading sanity. That excerpt sort of accented Blanches constant need for fantasy and delusion to cover the sad reality that she is losing her mind. It also depicted the slow death of genteel, Southern qualities. Williams had also written This blue piano expresses the spirit of life which goes on here. That excerpt is quite significant to Stanleys character, as the sound of a blue piano playing will be played whenever it was his moment of triumph and dominance.
Two white men in work clothes were written to come around the corner and into the scene. Neither of them is over thirty, and they arent too young either. One of them, the obviously dominant one, is Stanley Kowalski and the other would be his friend, Mitch. Later on in the play, the audience would learn that Stanley has a certain degree of care for Mitch, further precipitated by Blanches involvement in their lives. Despite his brusqueness and he lashing out at Mitch at the poker table during the infamous Poker Night, he does watch out for Mitch. Perhaps it has something to do with the Mens Code of Honor. Both of them are not as refined as people like Blanche and Stella, yet they arent exactly the same either. Stanley is the more virile of the two, and in their relationship, it makes him the dominant one. This can be seen in the following piece of dialogue:
STANLEY [to MITCH]: Well, what did he say?
MITCH: He said hed give us even money.
STANLEY: Naw! We gotta have odds!
Stanley is obviously a man who always gets what he wants. From the dialogue, it seems that hes the type of man who wouldnt think twice to push and shove to get things going his way.
Heres an excerpt from the stage directions: Stanley carries his bowling jacket and a red-stained package from a butchers. This shows that hes the typical manly husband who brings home food for the household. The package being stained with blood shows that hes not squeamish about such things, and emphasizes his virility. He then bellowed for his wife Stella, instead of doing the gentlemanly thing to do, which is to go up to her. The stage directions also stated: STELLA comes out on the first-floor landing, a gentle young woman, about twenty-five, and of a background obviously quite different from her husbands. From that the audience can assume Stanleys rougher and less-refined nature. Stanley then heaves the package at her and started back around the corner without waiting for his wife. Again, he is quite blatantly not the warm, doting husband. If youre looking at it carnally, thats a whole different story of course.
In the following excerpt, Blanche Dubois finally makes her first appearance in the play: BLANCHE comes around the corner, carrying a valise. She looks at a slip of paper, then at the building, then again at the slip and again at the building. Her expression is one of shocked disbelief. Her appearance is incongruous to this settinglooking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden districther delicate beauty must avoid a strong lightthere is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggests a moth. Quite obviously, Blanche sticks out like a sore thumb. . She is also quite stunned that her sister could live in a place she deemed as an extremely commonplace building. This shows that she is a lady of much finer taste. She is obviously not in a place where she is used to and is comfortable with. The audience would get the feeling of her fragility and delicate nature. Her uncertainty, and the comparison to a moth, suggests that the tiniest hint of harsh reality could drive her away. Like a moth too, she is attracted to light, or in this case, danger. The said comparison is something the audience would be able to relate to as the play goes on, seeing as how Blanche messes about with the Kowalski household is daring and has undesirable consequences, like the rape. Wearing a demure, white ensemble, very much different to the Negro woman and Eunice, she lives up to her name, Blanche.
When the Negro woman was nice enough to ask her what the matter was, Blanche responded, with faintly hysterical humour. Elysian Fields is obviously an unknown place to her. Blanche was also unable to hide her disgust, judging from Eunice, who defensively, noticing BLANCHEs look defended the Kowalski residence. She is not used to such common and weathered property, and was so troubled by it, that she dismissed Eunice rather rudely after she was kind enough to let Blanche into the Kowalskis apartment. She, wanting to get rid of her (EUNICE) responded to Eunices queries rather abruptly. To further emphasize her discomfort at the prospect of living in such dinky quarters, BLANCHE sits in a chair very stiffly with her shoulders slightly hunched and her legs pressed closed together and her hands tightly clutching her purse as if she were quite cold. Shes also quite easily surprised when she catches her breath out of her reverie when a cats screech was heard. The audience would also be exposed to her sneaky and dishonest nature from the following excerpt from the stage directions: she pours half a tumbler of whisky and tosses it down. She carefully replaces the bottle and washes out the tumbler at the sinkShe even pretended to not have seen the alcohol when Stella offered her some later on.
Now, when Stella came into view, Blanche had a hysterical reaction, which is suspiciously laced with a tinge of insanity. She gushes over her sister incessantly until it was bordering on overdone. From STELLA:[She laughs but her glance at BLANCHE is a little anxious.], it is suggested that Blanche was behaving in an absurd manner. She was also rude to Stella by commenting rudely on her sisters home and appearance and later covered it by gaiety. From BLANCHE: No, ones my limit. it is so obvious that she is a liar. She was also causing Stella some discomfort. Blanche is also a shameless compliment-fisher. She degrades her own appearance just to garner some compliments from Stella. The audience would also get to see her racist side, from the reference she made to Stanley in her moment of hysterical insanity, in which she called him a Polack like it was something so unpleasant to be.
Speaking of her moment of hysterical insanity, the audience would get a clearer picture as to why she behaves in such a detrimental fashion. All those deaths she mentioned mustve gone to her poor mind. She was quick to be ludicrously defensive that she gave the audience a look at her insane side when Stella asked her mere questions. She also gave them cause to think that she has something to hide.
When Stella went into the bathroom, Stanley entered the apartment in all his testosterone-filled glory. From the description, the centre of his life had been pleasure with womenhe sizes up women up at a glancewith sexual classifications, crude images flashing into his mind and determining the way he smile at them. Stanley is, quite simply put, a very sexual man. He is very comfortable with his body, and status as a richly feathered male bird. Again, he is a man who is used to getting what he wants. Blanche was taken aback by his hazardous and thrilling virility and sexual confidence, as could be seen from her awkward conversational exchanges with Stanley. When he asked her if he could take his shirt off, to get comfortable, she responded quite hastily with a Please, please do. The repetition of the word please might signify that shes taken aback by how sexually attractive he is. The audience would be able to witness how hot and bothered prim and proper Blanche is becoming in Stanleys presence. The chemistry between them is so strong that the audience would just intuitively sense that the fate of these two characters would be intertwined, or clash, dramatically. The carnal desire that is just waiting to burst out between them would leave the audience waiting in anticipation, dread and all those emotions one would feel when faced with such an explosive, and incompatible pair of complete opposites.
Stanley and Blanche are about as different to each other as they come. That is what makes this play exquisitely and darkly stunning. (And keep the audience glued to their seats in hopeless anticipation and suspense too.)