How is Stella Kowalski motivated by desire?

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Stella is motivated by the powerful sexual desire that she has for the hulking great brute that is her husband. But her desires run deeper than that. Though Stanley might be a vulgar, wife-beating Neanderthal, he does at least offer Stella some semblance of stability in her home life, something...

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Stella is motivated by the powerful sexual desire that she has for the hulking great brute that is her husband. But her desires run deeper than that. Though Stanley might be a vulgar, wife-beating Neanderthal, he does at least offer Stella some semblance of stability in her home life, something she was never able to experience growing up on the DuBois family plantation, Belle Reve.

Despite being brought up in an atmosphere of charm, Southern grace, and sophistication, there was little in the way of love or stability for Stella. Both of those qualities are available in abundance in her marriage, which, despite its numerous imperfections, is a strong one. It's certainly strong enough to withstand the unwelcome presence of Blanche, who tries unsuccessfully to pry her sister away from a man she considers beneath her in every respect.

They say that blood is thicker than water. But not in this case. Stella is so overwhelmed with desire for Stanley and everything that he gives her that there's no way in a million years that she'll ever allow Blanche to disrupt her marriage. Stanley and her unborn child are her family now. And it's upon them that her desire for a stable happy home life is now focused like a laserbeam.

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It's hard to deny that just about everyone in the world is motivated by one sort of desire or another. Williams, however, focuses (both here and in other plays) on a kind of desire that overrides everything else and becomes destructive. Stella is in a marriage that's clearly dysfunctional. It's not merely that her husband is abusive; though this is, of course, the worst part of it. Stella and Blanche, despite outward differences, are two sides of the same coin. They both come from a background of supposed privilege at their home Belle Rêve, their "beautiful dream" that has been lost. Stella has "married down." In comments, she reveals her own flashes of contempt for Stanley. But obviously her love for him, her "desire," overrides this. It's a somewhat stereotypical depiction of this type of marriage or relationship that cuts across social barriers, usually to the detriment of the woman, and then spills over into the victimization of another woman in this case, Stella's sister. We are made to believe that Blanche herself has this attraction-repulsion to Stanley. But in some sense, all the characters are riding this streetcar of desire, including Stanley and Mitch.

It's the universal human condition Williams is depicting, with the primary focus upon "desire" as detrimental to the women characters, as well as to Blanche's one-time boyfriend, who kills himself because of the inability to handle the fact he's gay and Blanche's rejection of him. Stella is a kind of corollary to Blanche's disturbed mental and emotional life. Obviously, the tragedy inflicted upon Blanche would not have happened without Stella's having married a predator like Stanley.

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Because Stella has moved away from Belle Reve and the limitations of rural life, she is more involved in the vital, energetic daily life of New Orleans. Although Blanche had also been married, her marriage had turned out to be a disaster; after her husband’s death, she drifted desperately from one random sexual encounter to another. At one point, Blanche states that death and desire are opposites. This opposition holds true for Stella as well, but for very different reasons. She is not trying to stave off death, but is looking forward and joyously anticipating motherhood.

Stella has already achieved some of her desires, through her marriage and escape from the constricting society back home. She considers herself fortunate to have found love and passion with Stanley. She obviously has a strong physical desire for her husband, which he reciprocates. But another part of her desire is similar to that of her sister: to forget the past. While Blanche is drowning in memories, Stella does her best to push them out of her head. She wants to live in the present and the future. These desires blind her to Stanley’s imperfections. While apparently free of that false superiority based in class status that afflicts her sister, Stella has veered very far in the other direction. As an individual, rather than the representative of his class that Blanche sees, Stanley is narrow-minded, greedy, and—as his sexual assault on Blanche proves—violent. Stella’s desires allow her only to see what she wants to see.

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I think that Stella is motivated by desire in a couple of capacities.  On one hand, there is the carnal desire of being married to Stanley.  It is evident that Stella is attracted to this primal and animal sense of magnetism that Stanley possesses:

But there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark—that sort of make everything else seem—unimportant.

This represents a physical desire, a type of descent into a carnal oblivion that she receives out of her relationship with her husband.  On another level, perhaps Stella desires a flight from the past.  She has obviously made peace with a post- Belle Reve life and this is something that she has been able to make with Stanley. There might be a part of her that desires this flight from the past, something that Blanche cannot fully embrace.  Finally, I think that Stella desires security and the sense of safety that being with Stanley provides.  Stanley does some fairly terrible things as a husband, and yet Stella does not leave him.  She desires the financial and social security of being with Stanley.  In this, there is a desire for safety and for a traditional setting, something that will always elude Blanche.

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