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The Values In Streetcar Named Desire English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1258 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The loss of traditional values can be seen at the beginning of the play by the portrayal of the fading Southern beauty, Blanche, in Laurel, Mississippi. Her home, Belle Reve, and family fortune were gone. It reveals that she is having a financial difficulty. Since she lost her young husband to suicide years earlier, she has a strong need for human affection. Later, she was fired from her job as an English teacher because she had an affair with a teenage student. Finally, she has no choice but to move to New Orleans at the Kowalski apartment. It triggers the conflicts and forces between traditional values and modern beliefs.

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Blanche is an upper-class woman whose social status is higher than that of Stanley who is a lower-class working man. Blanche’s superiority can be seen from her appearances and attitudes. She is dressed in a fine white suit when she arrives at the Kowalski apartment and is carrying a suitcase with a look of disbelief at a piece of paper in her hand and then at the building (pg. 1142). She does not feel comfortable living in the shabby and crowded Kowalski’s two-room apartment and she is annoyed with the noisy and working-class neighborhood. It shows that she is out of place in the neighbourhood. She is surprised to learn that Stella has no maid. She criticizes the place and social environment where Stella lives and convinces her to leave Stanley for a better man whose social status equals Stella’s. Blanche is an educated and civilized woman. Her knowledge of literature can be seen from her talk of the poetic inscription of Mitch’s cigarette case (pg. 1160).

On the other hand, Stanley is the representation of the modern and industrial world which suggests realism. He is a man who represents the new American and the lower-class. Stanley’s lower-class status is evident in Blanche’s comment. She describes Stanley as an “apelike” creature from the Stone Age and a primitive man who has not yet come to “the stage of humanity” and does not know how to appreciate art such as poetry and music (pg. 1169). Stanley says that he is a “social leveller” and it is evident in his hatred of Blanche as a person with a more prestigious family name. The different beliefs Blanche and Stanley hold and the fact that the latter wins the former one show the loss of traditional values in a modern and industrial world.

The loss of traditional values is evident in Stanley’s rude insults to Blanche’s good manner. Stanley is impolite and brutal, “He sizes women up at a glance, with sexual classifications” (pg. 1149) even at his wife’s sister. He offends Blanche by changing his sweaty T-shirt in front of her and rudely asks what happened to Blanche’s marriage. During the card game, Stanley, storming into Blanche’s bedroom, throws the radio out of the window and beats his pregnant wife (pg. 1162). He pulls all of Blanche’s belongings out of her trunk and looks for anything valuable for sale (pg. 1152). Stanley snatches up Blanche’s papers, which are old letters and love poems from her young husband, from her trunk and begins to read them (pg. 1155). His cruelty can also be seen in his investigation of Blanche’s past, the one-way bus ticket back to Laurel for her birthday present and his disclosure of Blanche’s secrets to Mitch (pg. 1188).

Moreover, the loss of traditional values can even be proved by Blanche’ words. She comments that mixing their old and aristocratic blood with Stanley’s immigrant blood may be the only way to insure the survival of their lineage in the world, “Oh, I guess he’s just not the type that goes for jasmine perfume, but maybe he’s what we need to mix with our blood now that we’ve lost Belle Reve” (pg. 1156).

Another proof is that Blanche’s love of idealism is destroyed by Stanley’s love of realism. Blanche hates reality and prefers imagination and romance. She tells Mitch to pretend that they are on a date at an artists’ café in Paris (pg. 1176). She dances beautifully and speaks French. She has “old-fashioned ideals” (pg. 1178). Later, she begs Mitch not to turn the light on and cries that “I don’t want realism. I want magic” and believes what “ought” to be true rather that what the world really is (pg. 1191). A contradiction to Blanche’s fantasy world is brought in by Stanley’s realism. Stanley criticises Blanche’s baths because he wants to urinate. It indicates his rejection of her idealistic world. There is a contrast between Stanley’s primitivism, urination, and Blanche’s idealism, hot baths. Blanche stills imagines that Shep Huntleigh, a gentleman, would come and rescue her after the brutal rape by Stanley (pg. 1194).

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Stanley’s love of realism can be seen from his belief of practicality and his lack of ideals and imaginations. Stanley is primitive and animal-like. His animalistic physical strength is evident in his love of work, fighting and sex. Stella and Stanley’s marriage is tied with sexual attraction. Stella calls him an “animal thing” and is beaten by Stanley. He bellows “STELLA!” into the night like a wounded beast calling for the return of his mate. Their reunion is also described in terms of animal noises, “They stare at each other. Then they come together with low, animal moans.” (pg. 1163, 1164). Stanley gets angry at the word “greasy” and “swine”. Blanche says that “what such a man has to offer is animal force” and it is impossible for her to live with such a man. Blanche says that sheer desire is no basis for a marriage.

Stanley’s various qualities contribute to the destruction of Blanche, symbolizing the loss of traditional values. Stanley is uncivilized man. His interests are drinking, food, gambling, bowling and sex. He reaches across the table for meat and eats it with his fingers. Stella scolds him for having greasy fingers and orders him to help clean up. He smashes his plate, his cup and saucer. He yells that he has cleared his place, and storms out onto the porch (pg. 1186). The action of Stanley raping Blanche symbolizes that in the modern and industrial world, realism and practicality wins out over the old traditional values which suggest idealism and romance.

In conclusion, Stanley lacks Blanche’s civility and he represents the new America where reward is based on merit and good work but not on birth by destiny. It shows that in order to survive in the modern and industrial world, one should be realistic and practical. The fact that Stanley’s physical strength wins over Blanche’s spiritual ideals indicates the loss of traditional values in a modern and industrial world. However, the reality which is represented by the rape at the end is too cruel that one may consider the world of dreams and fantasies as a better alternative. Although the play portrays Blanche as a dishonest woman, she feels regrets and talks about spiritual ideas, death, after her secrets are disclosed. She says that “the opposite [of death] is desire” (pg. 1192), but Stanley is not ashamed of his brutal actions. Therefore, it stimulates more sympathetic feelings for Blanche and may suggest the idea that the old traditional values should be retained.


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