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Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire creates one of the most unusual antagonists in American drama. Stanley Kowalski has the perfect, happy life before his sister-in-law shows up to disturb his masculine, dominated world.
Stanley is aggressive, dominant, and sexual. He likes his life structured and simple. To Stanley, as the man of the house, he brings home the money, and Stella, his wife, shows him respect because of it.
He believes in the gender roles of the home. His plan is that he does what he wants, and Stella waits on him to come home to her. His time with his male friends is important to him. Most important is his sexual relationship with Stella. Life is good until Blanche Dubois destroys his perfect world.
Stanley is not a likeable character. His crudeness offends the reader; however, it is the abuse of his wife that is most disgusting. He hits his pregnant wife which is beyond criminal in nature. Yet, despite her best judgment, Stella goes back to Stanley finalizing his forgiveness in lusty sex.
Blanche disturbs the natural order of Stanley’s life. The Kowalskis only have a two room apartment. This is not enough room for these two volatile personalities. Stanley finds everything about Blanche offensive. He knows that she looks down on him and his primitiveness. She annoys him with her radio, laziness, and total lack of respect for him. With Stanley, the only answer to this problem is Blanche has to go.
Stella starts ordering him around in and telling him to clean up the table after dinner and stop eating so messily. Stanley will not tolerate Stella stepping into his domain—he orders her; she does not tell him what to do.
Life with Blanche interrupts Stanley’s routine life with his buddies. He plays poker and bowls with his male friend. Blanche plays her music and Stanley cannot concentrate on his cards, and she tries to flirt with his friends. Stanley goes berserk and tosses the radio out the window and hits his wife.
When Stanley hears some gossip about Blanche, he delights in telling his wife and his friend who really likes Blanche. It ruins Blanche’s chances of finding happiness again. The final straw that sends Stanley over the edge into monster category is his rape of Blanche while Stella is giving birth in the hospital. He violates and destroys Blanche, who was already near a break down.
Stanley: I’ve been on to you from the start! Not once did you pull the wool over this boy’s eyes! You come in here and sprinkle the place with powder and spray perfume and cover the light with a paper lantern, and lo and behold the place has turned in Egypt and you are the Queen of Nile! Sitting on your throne and swilling down my liquor. I say—Ha!
Afterwards, Stanley feels no remorse about the rape and goes about his life as though nothing has ever happened. His actions send Blanche to the insane asylum. Stanley’s reaction is one of self-righteousness and happiness to have his house back the way it belongs: with Stanley in charge.
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