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Analysis of Stanley Kowalski’s Role in Tennesee Williams’ Book, A Streetcar Named Desire

Ambur Dumais

Using the first three scenes of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, it is safe to use certain words to describe Stanley Kowalski: animalistic, dominance-driven, and hotheaded. Stanley has grown up as a city-boy who developed a behavior that would drive most people into the opposite direction. Growing up in the city causes the mistrust towards others. This is presented as Stanley disapproves Blanche’s wardrobe, pointing out all the supposed expensive items. “Here’s your plantation, or what was left of it, here!”(35). He doesn’t trust the story Blanche told Stella about the loss of the plantation, this is due to the society he grew up in; the streets are not the place to be gullible.

Stanley’s personality is transparent through his rough exterior from the first moment the audience meets him. As him and Mitch come around the corner, the narrator gives a detailed description of Stanley’s current wardrobe and attitude. “They are about twenty-eight or thirty years old, roughly dressed in blue denim work clothes, Stanley carries his bowling jacket and a red-stained package from the butcher’s.”(4) His clothing choice expresses his daring attitude; he isn’t concerned about what other people have to say regarding his looks or behavior. This first impression includes him carrying a bloody piece of raw meat from the butcher’s. The raw meat package represents his unsophisticated manner; almost barbaric when he throws the meat to Stella while laughing. The description of Stanley from page 24-25 also gives the audience an insight into Stanley’s character. First including his body type, “He is of medium height, about five feet eight or nine, and strongly, compactly built”; giving the audience a chance to observe his physical outline. This narration also presents insight into Stanley’s crude nature towards women, “Since his earliest manhood the center of his life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependently, but with the power and pride of richly feathered male bird among hens.” As most men fall into the beauty and mystery of women in a curious manner, Stanley enjoys wanting women to impress him instead of vice versa. He feels superior to the “hens”; as if he is being gracious allowing them to be around his presence. As the narrator lists his likes and dislikes, it is the stereotypical rough-and-tough nature a city man would have. Also containing his overall view of women, “He sizes women up at a glance, with sexual classifications, crude images flashing into his mind and determining the way he smiles at them.” He is mentally insulting to women, which ties into how he acts openly to them. He views himself as someone who doesn’t have to follow the unwritten rules of public behavior. Sexually classifying women meanwhile, having a wife and an unborn child.

Stanley’s personality directs relates to how he treats other people. He is disrespectful to the past and current women in his life and is insensitive to people’s personal lives. As he and Blanche stumble upon the dead boy’s letters, the topic of admiration rises and Stanley describes one of his past relationships. “I never met a woman that didn’t know if she was good-looking or not without being told, and some of them give themselves credit for more than they’ve got. I once went out with a doll who said to me, ‘I am the glamorous type, I am the glamorous type!’ I said, ‘So what?’”(38) He thinks complimenting women is pointless and women should just know how they look without being told; and women also think too highly of themselves, this having to do with the fact that he feels superior in a relationship. Instead of helping this girlfriend have a higher confidence in herself, he “shut her up like a clam” (39); completely expressing his rude nature. When Stanley hits Stella at the end of Scene Three, it is a prime example of his forceful nature in a relationship, “She backs out of sight. He advances and disappears. There is the sound of a blow. Stella cries out. Blanche screams and runs into the kitchen. The men rush forward and there is grappling and cursing. Something is overturned with a crash.”(63). It isn’t directly said that Stanley beats Stella throughout their relationship, but after this “blow” it is mentioned by Eunice,” I hope they do haul you in and turn the hose on you, same as the last time!”(66) Inferring that this has happened previously.

Stanley’s need to have ultimate authority directly motivates him to commit the acts that he does. As he starts the ‘Napoleonic Code’ speech to Stella, Stanley takes advantage of knowing something that Stella is oblivious to. “Let me enlighten you on a point or two, baby.” (32). Not only is he being overly confident, but he adds in “baby” which involves she is naive to this supposed general knowledge. He is taking upon the position of a ‘classic American’ by being the superior person in the relationship, which back then was automatically the male. Another slight action by Stanley is when he slaps her thigh at the poker table, “A chair scrapes. Stanley gives a loud whack of his hand to her thigh.” (50); presenting his dominance over her. He will take advantage of any situation to prove his dominance over someone else, especially his wife. Stanley knows she definitely can’t leave him now that she is pregnant, but the dominance drives him to take power over her on a daily basis.

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