It is the complexity of the main characters and their interactions that make A Streetcar Named Desire such a successful and challenging play.
The play A Streetcar Named Desire made playwright Tennessee William’s name and has deservedly since had over half a century of success. This remarkable success can be credited to the intricate characters and their interactions with each other.
Sisters, Stella and Blanche have had an enjoyable upbringing on the family plantation, “Belle Reve”. As the name suggests Stella and Blanche’s time at “Belle Reve” was near perfect. Like all things perfect it had to come to an end. While Stella did the logical thing and left the ‘beautiful dream’ and married Stan, Blanche hung on to it unable to move on and face reality. Blanche comes to Stella in an unbalanced state of mind in need of her sister’s aid. The impression is given that this isn’t the first time Stella has been there to help Blanche through a time of trouble. As much as she needs her help and as much as she respects her, Blanche strongly disapproves of her sister’s new life. Stella tolerates Blanche’s continual criticism of her husband, home and friends very well. From this and many other incidents throughout the play we see what a tolerant and adaptable person Stella is.
Stan and Stella’s relationship is far from ideal. Stan is a violent man. On occasions he hits Stella, but comes after her to satisfy his sexual needs. This is not to say that Stella is unhappy in her marriage to Stan. She has adapted to the way of life in “Elysian Fields” where it’s accepted that women have arguments with their husbands and as a result are hit by them. Eunice and Steve have a similar relationship it is normal. Despite their violent relationship Stella relies on Stan as much as he does on her. Stella really does need Stan and the security he provides, especially with a baby on the way. Even if she weren’t expecting a child Stella would have a lot of trouble leaving Stan. She admits to Blanche that, “I can hardly stand it when he is away for a nightand when he comes back I cry on his lap like a baby”.
From the moment Blanche first came to stay at Stella and Stan’s home she posed a threat to Stan. He was used to being the only one Stella cared for, the one who ruled her. He wasn’t happy that somebody he had never met could move into his own territory and while residing there, treat him as an inferior and call him “a survivor of the Stone Age”. He felt so threatened by her presence that he competed for dominance over Stella, unfairly. He overstepped the boundaries on several occasions. He went through Blanche’s personal belongings, he spread malicious gossip about Blanche’s past ruining any hopes she had for a future with Mitch and in one last final act to ensure he had won he raped her. Stan appears not to feel any guilt whatsoever for his acts that led to the complete mental destruction of Blanche.
Stella had to choose between her sister and her husband. There is no way that two people as incompatible as Stan and Blanche could live comfortably around each other. For a considerable amount of time Stella did her best to support both Blanche and Stan, negotiating middle ground. However, this couldn’t last for long because they were forever competing with each other, the ultimate prize being Stella. Stella chooses to ignore the truth about Stan’s sexual assault on Blanche. This could either be a result of his incredible power over her, or the fact that she sees the future would be a lot easier for her, her child and Blanche should she stay with Stan and let Blanche be committed to a mental asylum.
A Streetcar Named Desire would hardly have a story if the characters weren’t so complex and didn’t interact with each other in the way in which they do. It’s the intriguing fragile character of Blanche, the amazing tolerant, adaptable Stella and the power and sex driven Stanley that makes the play so