Why does Stella stay in the abusive marriage with Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams portrays Stella as a woman who loves her husband despite his abusive nature. There are times that the audience hopes that Stella is ready to leave Stanley, but she never goes through with it. For instance, when he hits her and she...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams portrays Stella as a woman who loves her husband despite his abusive nature. There are times that the audience hopes that Stella is ready to leave Stanley, but she never goes through with it. For instance, when he hits her and she seeks refuge with the neighbors, she returns to Stanley when he calls to her. “Her eyes go blind with tenderness.” Stella can endure being a victim because she is blinded by her love for her husband. She will always forgive him and make excuses for him, no matter what he does. She tells her sister that “there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark—that sort of make everything else seem—unimportant.” She places passion above all.

Stella is not emotionally strong enough to leave Stanley. She seems to be very dependent on him and cannot entertain the thought of being without him. In the end, she must make a choice between Stanley and Blanche—and she chooses her husband. Although she loves her sister, she refuses to consider that Blanche might be telling the truth about Stanley. She tells her sister that she does not want to hear the truth and explains to Eunice that she could not believe Blanche’s accusation “and go on living with Stanley.” Stella chooses to be blind.

During the 1940’s, women were not raised to be independent. Stella and Blanche have been raised to be dependent on men. So, if Stella gathered the strength to leave Stanley, she would not know what to do next. She does not display any characteristics that give us hope for her survival on her own. She would also be endangering her child’s future, with both Stella’s uncertainty and Stanley’s cruel tendencies. To be sure, if she left, Stanley would come after her. To Stella, her only option is to stay and close her eyes to truth.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One reason Stella chooses to remain in an abusive marriage with Stanley is her borderline hero-worship for him. Stella is completely in love with Stanley and even tells her sister that she goes mad if he is out of town for a week. Stella's adoration for Stanley seems to blind her to the abuse she suffers on a weekly basis. Essentially, Stella's extreme affection for her husband distracts her from seriously examining her relationship and leaving him.

Stella is also sexually attracted to Stanley, who is portrayed as a primitive, masculine man. Stella's relationship with her husband is primarily physical, and Stanley fulfills her sensual desires. Stanley is also Stella's ticket out of Belle Reve. Without Stanley, Stella would still be in her home town and forced to deal with her family's terrible financial situation and delusional sister. Overall, Stella chooses to remain in an abusive relationship with Stanley because he fulfills her sensual desires and she is completely in love with him. Stella seems to embrace her submissive role and worships her primitive, "uncivilized" husband.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In A Streetcar Named Desire, Stella seems to be in an abusive relationship with her husband, Stanley. He is prone to fits of blind rage during which he becomes physically violent with Stella, throwing things at her from across the room and even hitting her. However, when Blanche implores Stella to leave Stanley, Stella states that she's not in a situation that she doesn't want to be in.

Stella stays with Stanley simply because she is in love with the aspects of his character that make him abusive in the first place. She is, on a fundamental level, deeply attracted to his animal and impulsive nature. This creates a devotion to his flawed character that ultimately leads to the horrifically tragic ending of the play.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Throughout the play, Tennessee Williams makes it clear that Stella is crazy about Stanley even though, or because, he has such a violent and animalistic nature. She is in love with him. She expresses her feelings clearly in scene 4 when Blanche tries to persuade her to leave Stanley.

BLANCHE:

But you've given in. And that isn't right, you're not old! You've got to get out.

STELLA:

I'm not in anything I want to get out of.

Earlier, in Scene One, Stella makes such statements as:

I can hardly stand it when he is away for a night . . .

And:

When he's away for a week I nearly go wild!

Obviously Stella is willing to put up with a certain amount of crudeness and physical abuse from a man who gives her such sensual pleasure and genuine love. There is no question of her leaving Stanley. If he has her in his power, she enjoys it. It would appear that Stella has him in her power too, as exemplified in that famous scene where Stanley shouts, "HEY, STELLA!" This is something Blanche could never understand.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team