Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A streetcar named Desire

No matter how many times I look at it and how carefully I think, I can never see "A streetcar named Desire" as a clash of values between 2 systems with Blanche DuBois standing for the old South with aristocracy and classes and Stanley Kowalski standing for the new South with democracy and equality. 
All I see is a conflict between 2 individuals that have irreconcilable differences which make them unable to be on good terms with each other and which lead to destruction in the end, and of course the victim is undoubtedly Blanche because she's weaker. And perhaps that's why I notice that I and people in the Eng1304 course last semester don't look at them the same way. In Blanche DuBois, I do see her conservative thinking, I do see that she keeps talking of her past and of Stanley not being a good match for Stella, I do see her describing him as an ape, as a swine, as an animal, as a vulgar person. I think, she clings to the past, rather because she can't move forward. After everything that has happened she loses everything and has no hope and perhaps has no faith in herself any longer, and thus has to cling to the past and its system because that's the only thing that makes her feel she has something, something that makes her superior and that makes her feel better of herself. Blanche lives in her own imaginary world, where time stops and nothing changes, and such a world makes her feel secure. 
More importantly, what makes me unable to accept the interpretation that the play is about the old South and the new South is that I don't see Stanley as a representative of the new South , the real democracy, where the class system ceases to exist and everybody is equal. Vulgar, macho, violent, selfish, unsympathetic, domineering and sexist. It's a matter of course that Stanley doesn't like Blanche- for him men are superior to women and he's the king of the house, and Blanche's presence in the house threatens his position and authority as well as affects his sex life with Stella. There are people, I'm aware, who like or understand Stanley and stand on his side, but I'm not 1 of them. Though in real life I wouldn't stand a person like Blanche DuBois, I sympathise with her. In my eyes Stanley's a selfish bastard who has no understanding. Stella understands, not with reason but with her heart, but she's too weak herself to stand up for her sister. On the surface Blanche acts as a queen as though the house belongs to her and other people are her servants, but deep down inside she knows it's not right to stay there, which is the reason she wants to find a refuge in Mitch. If Stanley decides not to interfere and allows her to move on, she moves out of the house and no longer disturbs his family. But he doesn't. What he wants, right from the beginning, is to kick Blanche out of the house, he has no understanding and empathy and doesn't realise that she has nothing and struggles to live on and has only 1 way out, he destroys her last hope, destroys her last chance of peace and happiness, and worse, breaks her, pushes her over the cliff. As Blanche says it herself, deliberate cruelty is not forgiveable, something of which she's never guilty. Stanley is. His actions are deliberately cruel. It's clear right from the beginning when they 1st meet that he's not interested at all in seeing her, his attitude is not welcoming, he asks right away how long she stays. The conflict between them is inevitable, the destruction is also inevitable, they have such huge differences and Stella fails to act as a bridge, but I'm afraid, even if Blanche is a nicer person, there can still be a conflict because Stanley is such a horrible, egoistic, insensitive and domineering person. 
Also, why does he dig into her past and tell Mitch everything? Because he thinks she's immoral, unworthy of Mitch? I may have to read the play again, but if that's the case he's a hypocrite, because he rapes his sister-in-law and lies about it and thus is in no sense better. All he cares about is himself and his life with Stella when Blanche is no longer present. Nothing more. 
A bastard. A disgusting bastard. 

Concerning the ending of "A streetcar named Desire", the 1951 film has a different ending from the play. I haven't made up my mind about which one is better. I'm wavering. Personally I prefer the film ending, because Stella has been silent and passive the whole time, as the only hope for a good relationship between Stanley and Blanche she fails to do what she has to do, so in the end such a cruel, horrible action to her sister must create an immensely strong and deep impact on her that for once she decides for herself and stands up and goes away from such a person. But perhaps Tennessee Williams's ending is more meaningful and makes the play more haunting. Many times Stella can do something but doesn't, because she's weak and passive and submissive that in the play she acts the way she does, and it's these very characteristics and traits that in the end make her stay and make her now the person that lives in illusion and imagination. 

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