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

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yscorse eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

anujumairah | Student

It's been like a month since i got this question as an assignment. ^^

Similarities :: their dependence on men, their inculcated genteel Southern etiquettes from Belle Reve

Differences :: different notions of sex, Stella being down-to-earth while Blanche dwells in fantasy (Cadillac convertible and Stella bartering her sister to the mental asylum for their love-making episodes to Stanley. 

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A Streetcar Named Desire

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