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How is violence characterized in A Streetcar Named Desire?

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sylvinator | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 14, 2010 at 4:23 AM via web

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How is violence characterized in A Streetcar Named Desire?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 14, 2010 at 4:52 AM (Answer #1)

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Violence is different to each character of the play A Streetcar Named Desire. This is because each character has a different experience with it, and the consequences of violence in their lives have been so diverse that each has made up their own conclusion on what it is to be violent or to be a victim of it.

Stanley, for example, is by nature a violent man. He has created a stereotypical view of women in his mind, and his wife should be the embodiment of subservience and submission. When he drinks, these ideals become more powerful and make him even more violent. When his wife does not do as he says he hits her, they fight, and then there is the post-fighting lovemaking which intends to patch all mistakes. Yet, this is to him a form of aphrodisiac and violence is a way to channel his pathological views of life.

Stella is at the receiving end of Stanley. She is the one getting the hits, surviving the fights, and then getting with him for sex after fighting. However, this to Stella is another curious form of sexual enticement and she even confesses to that much. She even expects the violence partly because of the time in history when women were treated like second class citizens, and partly because Stanley's rough nature is what attracted her to him in the first place.

However, Blanche is the opposite. She is appalled by violence, and it is because even in her life of sin and debauchery, inside of Blanche there is a lot of hurt and emotion. When she sees her sister getting hit she immediately calls for the horror of the situation and tries to get Stella out of Stanley's life. However, she gets in shock when she sees that Stella does not want to leave and looks actually glowing after she makes up with Stanley.  After the suicide of her husband, Blanche sees nothing positive in violence, and it stops her frozen. When she becomes the victim of Stanley in the end and he rapes her, she becomes insane. That is the extent to which violence is like napalm in Blanche's life.

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