Analyze the character of Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Stella Dubois Kowalski functions as the bridge between two different worlds.  She is now a part of both of them.  As a mediator between her husband Stanley and her sister Blanche, Stella struggles to keep her head above water.  In addition to the constant tug of war over her attentions, Stella is pregnant with her first child. 

This is the basis for the Pulitzer Prize winning drama, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. It is a considered a masterpiece in American literature.

Stella grew up in the same place that Blanche did.  She experienced the same culture, refinements, and training when she was growing up. She has kept her quiet elegance and learned acceptance for Stanley’s world.

Unlike Blanche, Stella lives in the real world, not one that covers and clouds the truth.  Desperately, Stella wants these two people that she loves to be able to co-exist.  It cannot happen because Stanley and Blanche are both too stubborn and unwilling to compromise. 

When Blanche arrives, she immediately begins to try to separate Stanley and Stella.  Stella is in an abusive relationship.  Yet, she does love Stanley, and she is going to have his child. There is never any doubt about the lustful love that Stella and Stanley share. 

Stella accepts Stanley for who he is until Blanche begins to wear her down about Stanley’s faults. The apartment is too small to contain these opposing worlds. There is only one bathroom and one real bedroom and the whole delta of Louisiana between them.

Blanche does not make life any easier for Stella.  When Stanley drinks, he delights in aggravating Blanche.  She will not back down or even just shut up. Snobbish and arrogant, Blanche does believe that she and her sister are better than the “Polack.”

Trying to get Blanche to see how things really are with Stanley is impossible. She still believes that a woman’s wiles will stem the tide of any male-female problem. Obviously, Blanche’s mental state is unstable, and she needs help.

Stella has to make some important decisions throughout the play. Even though she is much younger, Stella has become the caretaker of her older sister.

  • She allows Blanche to come to live in a hostile environment.
  • Stella chooses to come back to Stanley after he has hit her.
  • She decides to not believe that Stanley raped Blanche.
  • She is forced into placing Blanche in a mental institution.

When Blanche is being taken away by the doctor, Stella regrets the entire situation:

Stella: What have I done to my sister? Oh, God, what have I done to my sister? Don’t let them hurt her! Oh, God, oh, please God, don’t hurt her! What are they doing to her? What are they doing? 

Nothing will be the same for the Kowalskis or Blanche Dubois.

Read the study guide:
A Streetcar Named Desire

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