At the end of the play, it would appear the Stanley has “won.” Has he? Does harsh reality destroy illusion?

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I have the feeling that Tennessee Williams stacked the cards against Blanche. She is a fading Southern belle who has lost her home and her job. She is looking for a home and a little security. In Stanley Kowalski she is pitted against a ruthless and brutal antagonist. He could have defeated her with his raw animal power and the hold this gives him over his wife Stella, who is the bone of contention, or MacGuffin, in the play. But Stanley easily finds out that Blanche has a terribly unsavory past, that she was fired from her teaching job for immoral conduct with minor boys, and that she had the worst reputation of any woman in her town. This seems like a little bit too much. It makes Stanley's victory too easy. She was depending on marrying Mitch, but it is easy for Stanley to turn him against her too. Even Stella is disillusioned and is no longer an ally. Stanley was certainly at fault for raping Blanche, but he wouldn't have done it if he hadn't found out about her flagrantly immoral behavior.

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I suppose any answers to this question depend on the definition of "win."  The above posts each define this term in different ways.  My immediate response was to argue that Stanley did not win in the end for the reasons stated in Post #2.  However, Post #6 brings up a strong point about Stanley's claiming the weaker person and therefore "winning" the battle.  Still, I think there are no winners here, and that the end of the play shows three characters marred by their inability to give up their disillusionment about their own lives.

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In terms of Tennessee Williams's being a Naturalist and believing in social determinism, Stanley as the strongest of the species--the audience hears in Scene 10 "the inhuman jungle voices"--is the winner.  In his mind, he probably would say that Blanche deserved what has happened; in fact, he tells Blanche,

We've had this date with each other from the beginning!

Like the conquered female, Blanche moans and she sinks to her knees.  Stanley claims his victim.  A brute, he takes what is weaker without remorse.  Stella, who has spent their lifetime together excusing his behavior, does so again, refusing to accept what Blanche, a fallen woman, tells her about her husband.

 

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These are some great points.  Honestly, my opinion has changed since reading them through.  My initial reaction prior to reading these posts is that Stanley did win.  The complexities and frailties of human emotion have been wiped out in the face of the boors and brutes that have the power.  Yet, I agree with the second post in that Stanley has been seen as a rapist and loser.  Stella stays with him in order to keep her illusion intact.  The last post on Blanche was  a nice one, as well, in that perhaps Blanche has found some sanctuary in that she is alone and away from a harsh and uncaring world.  I do have to temper this with Williams' own predispositions that commitment to a mental institution was something that represented a fairly dead end, with his own experience in allowing his sister to be institutionalized.  Yet, I can see this reading of Blanche as being finally delivered some level of redemption from the challenges of society by escaping it.  These are some really great posts.

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In terms of Stella's allegiance, Stanley has won.  This is sad given that Stella is at least partly aware of what he did.  When Blanche is taken away, Stella says something to Eunice about having to believe Stanley in order to keep living with him.  If I recall correctly, she also indicates that there is no other option.  Stella is hinting that, on some level, she has made a choice.

In terms of Blanche, though, illusion has not been destroyed.  Blanche would rather retreat into herself than actually face the reality that Stanley represents.

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I believe there are no winners in this play. There are just human beings who have to face the sad realities of their lives. Blanche has been exposed as an alcoholic who has some kind of mental illness. Stanley has been exposed as a rapist and a loser. And poor Stella has to face the fact of what her husband and her sister are. I don't think Williams was trying to teach us anything; he was just showing us what reality is like for some people.

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