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Thomas Conn
Dr. Agnew
American Literature
14 October 2011
Major Conflicts in A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire, a play written by Tennessee Williams, revolves around
Blanche Dubois and the struggles she faces trying to come to terms with herself and the people
around her. In the beginning of the play, Blanche shows up outside of her sister’s apartment. She
has left her hometown in a last-ditch attempt to make an honest life for herself. Blanche
constantly tries to outrun her troubles and her past, but she never succeeds as she moves from
one disaster to another. Even with the help of her sister, Stella Kowalski, Blanche cannot shake
the past or the sadistic nature of her sister’s husband, Stanley Kowalski. A Streetcar Named
Desire is filled with many conflicts which define the characters within the book, but the three
most important conflicts are between Blanche and Stanley, Stella and Blanche, and Blanche and
The most powerful and vicious conflict that defines the play is between Blanche and
Stanley. Stanley’s dislike for Blanche begins when he learns of the loss of Belle Reve, Blanche
and Stella’s plantation. Stanley’s belief that Blanche sold the plantation and spent all of the
money on clothes and jewelry is evident when he says to Stella, “It looks to me like you have
been swindled, baby, and when you’re swindled…I’m swindled too (35).” Even when Blanche
explains that Belle Reve was lost on a mortgage, Stanley does not fully believe her. The loss of
Belle Reve is the beginning of a long conflict between Stanley and Blanche that only escalates
with time. Blanche’s disapproval of Stanley becomes comparable to Stanley’s dislike of her as
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his true personality is revealed. After Stanley beats Stella, Blanche compares him to an animal
that is not worthy of Stella. When Stanley hears what Blanche thinks of him it only serves to
deepen his resentment of her (72). Eventually, Stanley grows so angry at Blanche he destroys her
reputation and brutally rapes her. The conflict between Stanley and Blanche is critical to the
play’s outcome and other conflicts between characters.
The conflict between Blanche and Stella is a direct result of Stanley’s violent behavior.
When Stanley beats Stella, Blanche is horrified and confused as to why Stella went back to him.
Stella responds to Blanche’s questions by saying, “You’re making much too much fuss about
this (63). Stella is attracted by Stanley’s aggressiveness and she does not want to see Stanley as a
bad person, so she justifies the beatings he gives her. After Stanley rapes Blanche, Stella is
forced to choose between the two. Her choice becomes obvious when she says, “I couldn’t
believe her story and go on living with Stanley (133).” Stella is so attached to Stanley
emotionally, financially, and physically that she refuses to see the truth. The birth of her baby
only strengthens the attachment Stella has to Stanley because she needs to provide for her child
and she cannot do so without Stanley’s financial support. The connection she feels to Stanley
blinds Stella to reality and allows her to put her sister in an insane asylum when she is actually
telling the truth. The conflict between the two sisters emphasizes just how similar they actually
Throughout the play and Blanche’s life, the biggest obstacle she faces is herself. She can
never achieve happiness because she can never accept herself. Blanche expresses the issues she
has with herself when she says, “… It isn’t enough to be soft. You’ve got to be soft and
attractive. And I- I’m fading now! (79).” Blanche values purity, youth, and beauty above all else
and she cannot overcome the fact that she is no longer a young woman. Rather than accepting
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herself as she truly is, Blanche seeks solace in delusions of what she wants her life to be. Blanche
even goes so far as to lie to others in order to keep the illusion alive. Blanche can never escape
her shady past no matter where she goes. When Stanley unearths the truth about Blanche and her
promiscuity in the past, it spells the end of Blanche’s web of lies (98-99). When everyone finally
sees past the illusion she has created, Blanche is shattered. She slips in and out of reality as she
desperately clings to her fake illusion. Blanche never fully overcomes her internal problems and
the conflict she has with herself eventually leads to her being placed in an insane asylum.
A Streetcar Named Desire is a play defined by conflict and struggle. The three main
conflicts of the play create more conflicts which, in turn, strengthen the main conflicts. Abuse,
alcoholism, and an inability to face the truth inevitably lead to disaster. As Blanche learns, hiding
from the past does not work as the past always catches up and creates more problems if not dealt
with. If anyone can be blamed for the tragic outcome of the play it is Stanley. He is a perfect
representation of how destructive and damaging abuse can be in the lives of others. A Streetcar
Named Desire shows how ineffective illusions are in making people happy and solving
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Work Cited
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: Signet, 1974. Print.