Conn 1 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 herself. 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 Conn 2 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 are. 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 Conn 3 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 problems. Conn 4 Work Cited Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: Signet, 1974. Print.