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Published: 22-09-2019

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How the relationship between Blanche and Stella adds to the dramatic effect in A Streetcar Named Desire

Since the focal theme of “A Streetcar Named Desire” is that of integration and adaptation, the connection amongst Blanche and Stella is important and its function evident: Williams establishes a contrast among them. For example, when Stella says, in Scene 1, that ‘the ideal I could do was make my own living, Blanche’, Williams invites his audience to interpret the social transformation which Stella has undergone. This quite base image of having to earn a living contrasts significantly with the image of ‘columns’, which Stanley introduces in Scene Eight. Stella has been forced to adapt her lifestyle in order to integrate in this modern, male-dominated society. Blanche, on the other hand, is self-immersed in a planet of fantasy – or ‘make-believe’ as she suggests herself in Scene Seven – where she clings on to her past of wealth and comfort. Consequently, Blanche can't integrate: she does not understand this society, in which she can't fit, for she is ‘incongruous’, an adjectival selection by Williams which enhances this sense of disconnection from the brutal actual globe. Slight tension is visible in the connection due to the fact of this contrast, for instance in Scene Four, where Blanche appeals to her sister that she have to have ‘sufficient memory’ of their dreamy (‘Reve’) previous in order to uncover ‘these poker players impossible to reside with’. The adjective ‘impossible’ is forceful here, and enhances this sense of incongruity which characterises Blanche her sister does certainly remember her previous, and demonstrates a slight flicker of hope to return to it when she says that waiting on Blanche feels ‘more like home’. Even so, she has moved-on from it in order to turn out to be a working member of her new community. This conflict of ideals creates dramatic tension and irony virtually, because the audience knows well that Blanche can't and by no means will be a welcomed, and understood, figure in society.

Nonetheless, Stella has a privileged access to her sister’s individual heritage: she can sympathise with Blanche’s previous and as a result tends to make allowances for her, as she encourages Stanley to do, also. This is essential in dramatic terms as Williams encourages his audience to take comfort in this sympathetic connection, which is tested and shattered by the finish of the play. For instance, in response to Stanley’s revelation of Blanche’s somewhat shameful previous, Stella is fast to defend her. Blanche, Stella argues, ‘had an encounter that – killed her illusions’. The violent verb ‘killed’ is suggestive of the devastating ordeal which Blanche went via and for that reason conveys Stella’s understanding of it. Her affection for Blanche is also communicated by way of her reaction to the birthday celebration, to which Mitch does not come. Stella describes how upsetting she identified ‘looking at the girl’s face and the empty chair’. The noun ‘girl’ serves as a reminder of Blanche’s youngster-like innocence, but also suggests a motherly understanding and connection. However, Williams sets-up area for Stella’s betrayal, when she says to Stanley, ‘there are things about my sister I don’t approve of’. The verb ‘approve’ sounds vague and ambiguous, suggesting an uncertain, almost unstable, good quality to their partnership. The dramatic effect of this is that Stella is presented as a character who does not often comprehend or sympathise with Blanche. This, if the ending of this play can be noticed as tragic, renders Stella’s choice to side with Stanley over Blanche relating to the rape much more predictable and, in a sense, much more shocking for the audience.

Williams presents Stella as a platform on which the conflict in between Blanche and Stanley takes place. This is effective drastically because Stella appears not only as a character in the narrative of the play, but also as a symbol of tension and fighting: As Blanche and Stanley’s battleground of sorts, Stella becomes the particular person on whom they each rely and depend. For instance, Stanley’s expression in Scene 1, ‘not in my territory’, suggests that Stella is currently in his possession, as though she had been the prize of the competitive energy-struggle amongst him and Blanche. This assertion on Stanley’s component poses an initial threat to the connection among Stella and Blanche, since Stanley phrases it in such a way that intimidates Blanche. He forces her to feel that her sister is, in truth, not so much her sister as Stanley’s wife, to the whole arrangement of which Blanche is very unaccustomed, thus highlighting her isolation. Later on, Williams shifts the balance of energy: in Scene 3, the stage path ‘Blanche guides her’ suggests that Blanche is now winning the figurative competition against Stanley. The verb ‘guides’ connotes kindness and sisterly help the visual image on-stage, presumably with Blanche wrapping her arms about Stella, would depict closeness and human intimacy, which contrasts with the image of the a lot more bestial nature of Stanley’s partnership with Stella, vivified theatrically by their coming with each other ‘with low, animal moans’. The end of the play leaves the outcome of this power-struggle questionable, with Stella holding her ‘sobbingly…crying now that her sister is gone’. She appears to lastly show remorse for her act of betrayal against Blanche, and so the fact that she is crying locations her figuratively back in Blanche’s possession. Nonetheless, the play ends ironically with Stanley embracing her again, murmuring ‘now love’, where ‘love’ sounds possessive and territorial, as well as comforting. This is successful substantially due to the fact any impact which Blanche has had on their connection appears to have disappeared and this modern day society which Blanche has temporarily invaded returns to its dysfunctional state.
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