essay on the oppositions between Stanley and Blanche
Due to the contrasting natures of both the characters
Tennessee Williams has created in Stanley and Blanche, there are many
oppositions and conflicts that arise in the first 4 scenes. The conflicting
identities are evident in everything that they have together, for example in
the dialogue, body language, tone, stage directions and all other dramatic
devices. These devices help to create dramatic tension which keeps the audience
interested. Each individual’s characteristics have been moulded
by there past experiences. Stanley
is accustomed to being dominant, this is prominent in the manner in which he
conducts himself in all situations, for example “I
don’t care if she hears me.” Whereas Blanche appears to be more dainty and
delicate, but the audience can eventually see the harsher side of Blanche, only
when she feels threatened and her ‘survival instincts’ take over. There
defensive instincts are mainly what fuel or ignite the conflict.
The stage directions show how Blanche and Stanley are
opposing characters through the descriptions. As Blanche first enters, her
outfit is completely “incongruous” to the setting, therefore she stands out.
Her appearance and sophisticated mannerisms are very different from all others
around her. This difference shows she is an outsider and doesn’t belong or come
from New Orleans.
Instead of coming to visit her sister after some years dressed casually, she
enters “looking as if she were arriving to a summer tea or cocktail party.” The
first appearance of Stanley
is when he and his friends are coming back from bowling one night. He is
carrying “a red stained package from the butchers” — this is bloody, raw, fresh
meat straight from the butchers. This immediately gives the audience an image
that Stanley is
a scruffy man, not clean and neat but dirty and untidy looking not caring about
what he holds and where it came from.
Blanche is also described as wearing “white gloves and a
hat.” This symbolises how pure she is. A pure white
colour signifies her cleanliness, unlike Stanley.
He is also “roughly dressed in blue denim work clothes.” This shows that he
doesn’t work in a posh office but instead works as a labour worker. Blanche on
the other hand enters “daintly dressed in a white
suit with a fluffy bodice...” This shows she is elegantly dressed and appears
to be presentable and looking good all the time, even when coming to an old run
down town to visit family. Stanley’s second
appearance is when he enters very abruptly unexpected and aggressively — “Stanley throws the screen
door open...” The stage directions show he’s attractive when describing his
height and build, “...medium height, about five feet eight or nine, and
strongly, compactly built”, however because of his
entrance the audience see the animal side of him almost immediately. Also when
he enters he is surrounded by all things of his which he is familiar to. The
channels of his life...” such as “. . . his love of good drink and food and
games, his car, his radio...” This tells us he is not feeling out of place
because he is where he belongs — in his territory.
The language Stanley and Blanche uses contrasts as well.
Blanche is euphemistic, unlike Stanley who is direct in what he says. Stanley uses monosyllabic
utterances such as ‘Catch!’ and ‘Bowling!’ and gets straight down to the point
of what he wants to say. This shows the audience that Stanley is straight, direct and
unpretentious. Blanche on the other hand, uses expressive language. She often becomes
dramatic: ‘I, I, I took the blows in my face and my body! All of those deaths!
The long parade to the graveyard! Father, Mother! Margaret, that dreadful way!
So big with it, couldn’t be put in a coffin! But had to be burned like rubbish!’ and uses appealing words to
hide the truth. This reflects on her personality: denial of reality. On
top of this, Blanche often uses imperatives such as ‘run to the drugstore and
get me a lemon coke’ and ‘you sit down, and explain this place to me.’ She uses
imperatives frequently because she still thinks she is more superior and sophisticated
than other people even now that she lost everything. She dwells within her own
fantasy where she is better than everyone else, and again, refuses to accept
reality. Her imperious behaviour clashes with Stanley who is also imperious.
Moreover, Blanche’s vocabulary is sophisticated unlike
Stanley who has a narrow range of vocabulary. Through Blanche’s sophisticated
vocabulary, the audience understands that Blanche is a well educated woman. But
on the other hand, even though Stanley tries to pretend he is intellectual, for
example when he talks about the Napoleonic code, the audience assume Stanley
hadn’t much education because of his narrow range of vocabulary and his ‘vulgar
just pretends he is intelligent because he doesn’t want to be inferior to other
people (especially Blanche).
In Scene One, the colours
describing the street ‘Elysian Fields’ in New Orleans symbolize the opposition
between Stanley and Blanche, and the two different southern American societies.
The “white frame, weathered grey” and “faded white stairs” is representing
what’s happening to Blanche and the people with the same colonial background as
her. This is signifying Blanche’s ageing and her beauty “fading”. The “dim
white building” could be representing the already fading old American Society
being engulfed by the sky, that’s a “peculiar tender blue” that could be
representing the new southern American society. This indicates that the old
southern American values are being subdued by the new southern American values,
by the contrast between “dim white” and “tender blue”.
The colours that Stanley and
Blanche wear could be showing characteristics of their personalities. White is
an elegant colour; “she is daintily dressed in a white suit”. “Her delicate
beauty must avoid a strong light. There is something about her uncertain manner
as well as her white clothes that suggests a moth”;
this is perhaps showing her vulnerability, as when moths are exposed to “strong
light” they die. Whereas, during poker night, the men are shown wearing the
“raw colours of the childhood’s spectrum”, “solid
blues, a purple, a red-and—white check, a light green”; primary colours, showing the simplicity of the characters.
Even the names of the two characters sets up an opposing
force between them. Blanche DuBois is a French
(colonial) name which translates to ‘white woods’. We see that Blanche’s family
has been in America
for generations since they have a plot of land and a house in ‘Belle Reve’, she has obviously been brought up very well and used
to a wealthy life. In contrast to Stanley Kowalski, his name is a polish
immigrants name, we know that he has recently migrated to America and has
not had a privileged upbringing. This suggests conflict since the new America (Stanley)
is opposing the old America
(Blanche). Whilst Blanche had a good education and a privileged background, Stanley has nothing and
is forced to work hard in order to claw his way up the economic ladder.
Stanley’s use of language is also very different
to Blanche’s. This could be because of the different backgrounds that they came
from. Blanche’s use of language is very poetic and often is decorated with
metaphors. This gives certain flair to Blanche’s character and it also shows
her character through her language. A good example is when Blanche describes Stanley to Stella at the
end of scene four ‘Bearing the raw meat home from the kill of the jungle.’ Stanley on the other hand
is much more practical when he says things as compared to Blanche. An example
is when Stanley
has come home and says ‘Catch! ... Meat!’ to Stella.
This shows that he has ordered Stella to catch the meat, using imperatives. His
language is mainly short and sharp, using the minimal amount of words to get
his ideas across. This suggests that Stanley
is a man of few words and when he speaks, it usually is very powerful but in a
sense has very little deeper meaning.
Stanley uses many imperatives, for example
when he shouts ‘You hens cut out the conversation in there!’ It shows that Stanley wants to present
himself as a powerful character where everyone has to listen to him. Stanley uses language as
a practical tool to convey information / get his own way while Blanche uses
language to emphasize her meanings and her ideas. In a sense we could say that Stanley is a minimalist when it comes to language and
words while Blanche is the complete opposite of Stanley, using as much flair as possible
whenever she speaks. The language use also shows the education levels of the
two characters, where it is obvious that Blanche is more educated than Stanley. The language use
is also a symbol of the character of Stanley and Blanche and it is also
possible to say that the amount of words used per person could represent the
amount of thought going through their minds.
Music additionally plays an intricate part in the play as a
method of creating dramatic tension. When Blanche and Stella talk about their
past at Belle Reve during scene one, the ‘blue piano
music’ grows louder. Again, when Stanley
mentioned that Blanche was married, polka music began to play in the distant
background: ‘The music of the polka rises up, faint in the distance.” This
makes the audience question why the music has changed and start
to consider why Blanche is uneasy when her husband is mentioned.
In scene two, dramatic irony creates tension in the
audience. The viewers knows more than the character of
Blanche in that she is unaware that Stanley
over hears her strongly criticizing him: “he stands unseen by the women... and
overhears their following conversation.” The following extensive critical
speech adds to the tension. The audience is forced to contemplate Stanley reaction with each
The comparison between the gestures and body languages
presented by the two characters can be interpreted in many ways. Their body
language can help us classify the two different types of generations in America; Blanche representing the ‘Old America’ which
is trying to adapt to the changes made by the dominate ‘New America’ which is
represented by Stanley
and his attitudes towards life. Also by reading the gestures and body language
the audience can detect the tension between the two characters and understand what
type of personality they have.
The playwright has shown the various interactions between
Stanley and Blanche, for example Stanleys ‘request’ whe he says “My clothes’re stickin’ to me. Do you mind if I make myself comfortable?
[He starts to remove his shirt” reveals the sexual tension between Stanley and
Blanche when they first meet and indicates that sexuality is a core part of his
personality. Blanches is equally forward witness the scene when she changes
clothes in the bedroom which is only separated by drapes, she asks “Excuse me
while I slip on my pretty new dress!!” and “Many thanks! Now
the buttons”. Blanche purposefully attempts to seduce Stanley and wants him to get close to her
especially when asking for him to do up the buttons as this is the way in which
Blanche is used to dealing with men.
These various dramatic techniques working in unison indicate
the oppositions between Stanley, the new industrialised America,
and Blanche, the old colonial America.
Ultimately one of these has to win and at the beginning of the play both
characters seem to give as good as they get. Stanley is strong but Blanche
successfully establishes a foothold in his house during the first third of the
play and even shames him into acting somewhat ‘sheepishly’ by the end of scene
one. However, Blanche’s ascendancy does not last long and eventually we see the
‘New America’ triumph over the ‘Old America’.