Stanley: His Character



In the play, A Streetcar Named Desire, author Tennessee Williams does a

wonderful job developing the character of Stanley Kowalski. To me, his character

seemed most like that of a true person. On the other hand, Stella, Stanley's wife,

is mainly displayed as being the loving type, and because that is basically the only

character trait she displays, it is difficult to really understand her as a person. The

character of Stanley Kowalski is developed much like a real person, having

numerous personality traits.One characteristic of Stanley is his rudeness and cruelty towards Blanche,

Stella's sister. It is very apparent that Stanley does not care for Blanche. Scene

eight mentions Blanche's birthday party, and surprisingly, she receives a gift from

Stanley. This gift, however, is not one that most people would appreciate.

Blanche is very surprised to get a gift from Stanley, and as she opens it she says,

"Why,why-Why, it's a-" (Williams 111). This is the first indication that there is

something the matter. Because Blanche can't finish her sentence, Stanley lets

everyone know that it's a "Ticket! Back to Laurel! On the Greyhound!

Tuesday!" (Williams 111). Blanche obviously couldn't finish her sentence because

she was insulted that her birthday present implied that she was not welcome by

Stanley. Even Stella knew how rude and cruel Stanley had acted towards Blanche.

Stella lets Stanley know, "You needn't have been so cruel..." (Williams 111). In

scene ten, Stanley says to Blanche, "Take a look at yourself in that worn-out

Mardi Gras outfit, rented for fifty cents from some rag-picker! And with the crazy

crown on! What queen do you think you are?" (Williams 127). This quote shows

that Blanche's physical appearance has also been insulted and put down by

Stanley. Although Stanley may not like Blanche, and may be cruel toward her, he

still has a very loving and caring side. A very apparent character trait of Stanley is his love for his wife, Stella. In

scene two, Stella and Stanley notice all the very nice things that Blanche has in her

trunk. For Blanche being a poor girl, Stanley knows that she shouldn't have so

many nice things. Stanley expresses his concern to Stella as he says, "It looks like

you have been swindled, baby..." (Williams 35). This shows that Stanley only

wants for Stella what she deserves, and if Blanche is not sharing what money is

also Stella's, then it upsets him. Normand Berlin, author of "Complementarity in A

Streetcar Named Desire" also agrees that Stanley is much in love for Stella. He

states that "Stanley, himself a garish sun, claims Stella, the star" (100). As much

as Stanley loves and cares for Stella, he has a tendency to act the other way, not so

loving. The aggressiveness of Stanley is probably his most evident character trait

expressed through out the play. One might not think that a simple game of poker

with the boys could turn so violent when a couple women walk in the room.

Stanley's poker game must be very important to him in order for him to lose

complete control and get physical with Stella. At the start of his outrage, the other

men playing poker try to calm him down, "Take it easy, Stanley. Easy fellow"

(Williams 57). However, Stanley does not listen, and instead causes Stella to

threaten Stanley as her own defense, by saying, "You lay your hands on me and

I'll-" (Williams 57). Stanley's anger is now out of control. While no one can see

what is going on with Stanley and Stella, the stage direction mentions "There is

the sound of a blow. Stella cries out" (Williams 57). Stanley is not only

aggressive with Stella, but Blanche as well. In scene ten, Stanley and Blanche get

into a quarrel. Blanche breaks a bottle and threatens Stanley by saying, "So I

could twist the broken end in your face!" (Williams 130). Stanley's strength is

much more than that of Blanche, and therefore was able to grab her wrist and

cause her to drop the bottle. As all of this is going on, Stanley says, "Oh! So you

want some rough-house! All right, let's have some rough-house!" (Williams 130).

This evidence points directly toward the fact that Stanley is a very aggressive

person. Through out the play, Tennessee Williams does a great job keeping the

reader questioning the character of Stanley Kowalski. As a whole character,

Stanley cannot be described with one character trait. In A Theater Divided: The

Postwar American Stage, Martin Gottfried also shares that Stanley has many

character traits. Gottfried states, "He is brutal and stupid, operating almost

entirely on animal reflex, but his vitality is the energy of life and his love for Stella

is absolute and real" (252). He is, in my mind, the most developed character to

represent a real person.


Berlin, Normand. "Complementarity in A Streetcar Named Desire." Tennessee

Williams: A Tribute. Ed. Jac Tharpe. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1997. 97-103.

Gottfried, Martin. A Theater Divided: The Postwar American Stage. Boston:

Little, Brown, 1967.

Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: First Signet

Printing, 1951.

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