How would you compare the characters Stella and Blanche in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire?

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In Tennessee Williams's classic play A Streetcar Named Desire , Blanche DuBois arrives at her sister's home in New Orleans, where Stella lives with the violent, unrefined Stanley Kowalski. Blanche is diametrically opposed to Stanley, and Stella's character acts as a bridge to bring their two worlds together. In...

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In Tennessee Williams's classic play A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois arrives at her sister's home in New Orleans, where Stella lives with the violent, unrefined Stanley Kowalski. Blanche is diametrically opposed to Stanley, and Stella's character acts as a bridge to bring their two worlds together. In the play, Blanche is portrayed as a traumatized, delusional romantic who behaves like a polite, refined Southern Belle. Blanche carries herself like an aristocrat, believes that she is superior to others, and is severely critical of Stanley. In contrast, Stella is depicted as a more grounded, stable woman who is content with her life. On the surface, Stella is significantly more in touch with reality than her sister. However, Stella also demonstrates delusion by refusing to believe that Stanley raped Blanche, which makes her just as ignorant to reality as her mentally unstable sister.

Blanche is also significantly more imaginative and creative than Stella. She has the ability to create her own little world where her persona and spirit are protected. Blanche is able to suppress her traumatic past experiences for much of the play and behave like a refined, admired woman. Stella lacks imagination and is significantly more realistic. Despite their many differences, Stella also possesses a gentle, elegant personality like Blanche and can perceive Stanley as a brute at times. Both sisters also possess strong sexual urges but exercise their desires differently. For example, Blanche is infamous in Laurel for her promiscuity, while Stella cannot contain her sexual urges for Stanley. By the end of the play, Blanche completely loses touch with reality and suffers a serious mental breakdown after being raped, while Stella remains unaffected by her husband's abusive nature.

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In the beginning of Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche arrives in New Orleans to live with her younger sister Stella and her husband Stanley Kowalski. Blanche and Stella display character traits that are seemingly very different, but in the end, they share a similar struggle.

Blanche is a widow whose promiscuous sexual behavior has made her somewhat of a social pariah. In contrast, Stella is a mild-mannered married woman. Both women, however, display strong sexual behavior. For Blanche, sexuality is the only way she knows how to interact with men. Blanche criticizes Stella’s intense sexual relationship with the brutish Stanley while at the same time revealing jealousy over their relationship.

Regarding social status, Blanche fancies herself as an aristocratic southern belle. In contrast, Stella left home at a young age to live in a rundown apartment with the lower class “Polack” Stanley. Blanche’s elitism, though, is not grounded in reality. Despite depending on her sister and Stanley for support, she makes a show of being proper and frequently criticizes the Kowalskis for being vulgar and brutish.

Another area of comparison is regarding the sisters’ perceptions of reality. Early in the play, Blanche lies but is aware she is lying. Her perceptions can be seen as an idealized view of her past and fantasy of her future. Later on, however, she seems to believe her own lies, and the line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred. Stella seems to be more rational. By the end of the play, though, Stella is also delusional. She ignores evidence that her sister may be telling the truth about being raped by Stanley, saying, “I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley,” thus choosing the version of reality she wants to believe.

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Blanche is romantic and idealistic but discontented and desperate. Stella is simple, humble, realistic, and basically contented with her situation as a housewife and expectant mother. Blanche has some limited success in alienating Stella from her husband, whom Blanche hates and fears. Being the older sister, Blanche has a certain power over Stella who has always been subservient to her and who must have viewed her as a role model in their earlier days when they were both Southern belles at Belle Reve. But Stanley's influence has changed Stella. She has learned to accept lower-class values and lower-class culture--something Blanche is finding it impossible to do, even though she has been thrust into the lower class by losing her mansion, her job, her social connections, and her youthful beauty. Without the protection of money and social status, she is helpless to cope with the brutal Stanley Kowalski and all he represents. She is like the victim of a revolution, an aristocrat at the mercy of a pitiless mob.

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