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What are your initial impressions of Blanche and Stanley in the first three scenes of 'A Streetcar Named Desire'?

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Introduction

What are your initial impressions of Blanche and Stanley in the first three scenes of 'A Streetcar Named Desire'? The setting for, A Streetcar Named Desire is the home of Stanley and Stella in down-town New Orleans. Their house is portrayed as simple and small, 'weathered grey, with rickety outside stairs'. The surrounding area is alive with both white and black, American and non-American, situated next to the 'brown river' and in close proximity with a busy railway line. It is in this multi-cultural area that Stanley Kowalski is resident male. Stanley is very much a product of his society, comparable to his surroundings; his living section is described as having a 'raffish charm' - this could very well be a description of Stanley himself. The first impression we gain of Stanley is of the primeval male; he is at the peak of physical fitness, a man in his late thirties. His outlook is evident from the very start; his purpose is to be the protector and the provider. The very first action of the play involves Stanley 'heaving' a package of meat at his wife Stella, and the use of this verb in the stage directions emphasises his raw quality, he is the hunter, the American all-male figure. ...read more.

Middle

This abundance of punctuation illustrates Blanche's insecurity and theatrical personality; she has become so disillusioned and dissatisfied with the world of reality that she engineers her own world, a world in which she can regain the control she so desires. Blanche's attitude is summed up by one sentence in her vast speech as she admits, 'A woman's charm is fifty percent illusion'. Tennessee Williams explores human insecurity and the desire to stay in the past in his character Laura, (from his 1943 play, 'The Glass Menagerie') Laura has spent her life unable to move on from high school after failing there. At almost twenty four years of age, all she can be proud of is, 'my-glass collection'. She looks after her glass with the utmost care, 'Oh, be careful - if you breathe, it breaks!' She is extremely fragile, as is Blanche - they are similarly stuck in their past lives. Blanche's speech is crammed with hyperbole, 'all the burden descended my on my shoulders' and it is lengthy. Blanche has by far the majority of the speech during the play as she desperately seeks attention in a world that is falling from her grasp, 'I want you to look at my figure! ...read more.

Conclusion

Stanley is different to other characters in the play in that he has 'drive', he will be the one to succeed and make something of his life, and this is a very positive quality. Stanley's language is another form of contrast between himself and Blanche. His speeches tend to be short, he is abrupt and direct, often using monosyllabic words and colloquialisms, 'Let me enlighten you on a point or two baby'. Stanley is a very physical character and this is seen particularly in scene three, the poker scene. During the scene Stanley is extremely destructive. From tossing 'melon rinds on the floor' to throwing the radio out of the window and finally hitting Stella we see this destructiveness. This is due to his absolute need for control; he has not got the articulacy to control them verbally, so he uses physical action. At the end of the scene we see Stanley diminished, he is alive with self-pity and apology, his language exaggerated and still violent, '[with heaven-splitting violence] STELL-LAHHHH!' It is at this point that we understand Stanley best, particularly in his relationship with Stella, when we see just how physical Stanley is as Stella's eyes, 'go blind with tenderness' and he 'bears her into the flat' - almost bestial imagery. ...read more.

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