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To what extent is it possible for an audience to have sympathy for the character of Stanley?

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Modern Tragedy ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ Word Count: 1479 To what extent is it possible for an audience to have sympathy for the character of Stanley? The conventions of Classical Tragedies such as those of Euripides and Shakespeare, manipulate an audience by giving characters clear traits. Deducing a tragic hero and villain in a play was quite simple. As society has evolved however, so has tragedy. In reality, people are not purely good or bad and this is reflected in modern tragedies such as ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ in which Tennessee Williams leaves the roles of each character open to interpretation. Stanley’s character is seemingly the tragic villain; he is abusive, violent and rapes Blanche but there are various times where the audience can feel sympathy for him. In order to suppress her own insecurities, Blanche manipulates and belittles Stella and Stanley through her dialogue, openly expressing her disapproval of their lifestyle and thus allowing sympathy for Stanley’s actions; she could be seen as the tragic aggressor. She criticises Stella’s appearance describing her as “plump as a partridge” and “messy” like a child whilst saying how she has remained beautiful and slim due to staying at Belle Reve. Blanche describes Stella as “baby” frequently and Williams does this to show her view that Stella is young, naïve and unintelligent and thus allowing Blanche to gloat in her intellect. In a similar way she refers to Stanley as a Polak and provokes him by turning up the radio when he asks them to turn it down and spending hours in the bathroom. ...read more.


These subtle hints that Stanley is not purely bad show his character to be more complex than one might think, differing from the conventions of classical tragedy. Thus reflecting real life and the fact that people make mistakes, but can still be loved by people, in this case Stella. Williams blurs boundaries of good and evil to reflect real life and the fact that people should not condemn others unfairly, this is perhaps different to classical tragedies in which tragic heroes/villains are easily distinguishable. Therefore, it allows Williams to make us feel sympathy for both characters, especially Stanley when it shows him to be somewhat caring and concerned. On the other hand, Williams makes it easy for the reader to feel unsympathetic towards Stanley and view him as the tragic villain because of how violent and abusive he is towards Stella and Blanche, perhaps to show how some relationships can be. As described by critic Christopher Inness, Stanley represents ?the norms of a soulless society, crude and ruthlessly competitive as well as uncultured? and during the 40s some of Stanley?s actions may have been socially accepted. Despite this, the audience cannot sympathise with Stanley for the simple reason that he does not/will not change. The first time his violence becomes apparent to the audience is in Scene 3 where he hits Stella after an incident with the radio, we learn from Mitch however that this is not the first time it has happened and he is not surprised when they?re back together at the end of the night. ...read more.


Stanley is disrespectful towards Blanche making the audience unsympathetic towards him. On first arrival, Stanley is suspicious of where Blanche?s money has come from and tells Stella that ?it looks to me like you have been swindled? ? he has no trust in her and is not empathetic despite Stella?s explanation that Blanche has had a rough time recently. He is set to expose her past and eventually finds out the truth about her life at hotel Flamingo. It could be argued that it is her fault for not telling Stella and Stanley what was going on, but Stanley should have understood that she was trying to escape her past life. By constantly trying to expose her, he helps to cause her downfall and the audience may be unsympathetic towards him. To conclude, an audience?s interpretation of Stanley and therefore their sympathy towards him can vary. As readers, we hold the advantage of stage directions, for example when we first meet Stanley as the confident womaniser and bread winner; we may feel unsympathetic towards him and sympathetic more so towards Blanche as it explains her moth-like tendencies, emphasising that tragedy for her is inevitable. However, an actor may choose to make him more vulnerable and so evoke more sympathy. Some may say that Blanche holds traits of a tragic aggressor and provokes Stanley allowing sympathy towards him. On the other hand I think that most sympathy ought to be given to Blanche, by scene 10 she is almost completely delusion and even when told about her past Stanley does not treat her well. ________________ | Page ...read more.

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