Tennessee Williams establishes the interrelationship of Blanche Dubois and Stella Kowalski flawlessly as polar opposites. While it can be assumed that Stella and Blanche share certain similar character features, which are common for their gender, they come from completely different walks of life, have been born and raised in completely different environment and disposed to strikingly different factors and obstacles. As a result, the two women are the exact opposite of each other.
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Blanche Dubois and Stella Kowalski have fewer similarities than differences in terms of character, e.g. they both depend on their sexuality and depend on men around them, but the two women differ in their attitude towards reality, their ability to adjust to circumstances, their capacity to remain strong, and Tennessee Williams’ play, simply illustrates these features.
Blanche and Stella are less similar than most we know. Blanche and Stella mainly share emotions such as sexual needs and urges, as well as their attraction to men.
It would be wrong to assume that Stella and Blanche have no common points of contact; however, when it comes to defining the latter, one must admit that they are mostly restricted to the area of physiology. Indeed, as women, Stella and Blanche have similar urges that are predisposed by their biological nature. Consequently, some of their behavioural specifics stem from the fact of their being women. The aspects of sexuality, as well as Blanche and Stella’s gender roles, are strongly dependent on their gender, which the play shows clearly.
Both women often yield to sexual temptations and enjoy their sexuality, though Blanche is forced to change her attitude towards physical pleasures.
There is no need to stress that both Blanche and Stella are yearning for physical pleasures and do not conceal the fact that they need physical contact with men. However, differences crawl even in this aspect of the characters’ lives. Stella being more stable and preferring long-term relationships to something more flighty, Blanche seems very light-headed to say the least. Her constant change of life partners in search for the one who will appreciate her is truly heartbreaking: “Deliberate cruelty is unforgivable” (Tennessee 175).
It seems that Blanche, unlike Stella, is looking for something more than just physical pleasure – she is in an unceasing search for safety and love instead of violence and lust, which she hopes to find in the arms of her next partner: “Physical beauty is passing – a transitory possession – but beauty of the mind, richness of the spirit, tenderness of the heart – I have all these things – aren’t taken away but grow!”(Tennessee 156).
Blanche and Stella have been dependant on men around them, e.g. Blanche strives for men’s attention (her husband, students, suitors) and Stella continues rather complicated relationship based on sexual chemistry
As it follows from Blanche and Stella’s background described above, they are used to depend on men in equal proportions, although the given dependency manifests itself in different ways in the two women. Unlike Blanche, though, Stella clearly strives for something more than being noticed and appreciated solely for her beauty.
Having defined her goal in life as a wife and a mother, Stella wants to be appreciated for what she gives to people. As a result, Stella tends to build long-term relationships with people rather than vanish without a trace after striking them with her beauty, as Blanche prefers to.
The given strategy makes Stella’s life much more predictable than Blanche’s one and, thus, less exciting in Blanche’s opinion. However, Stella definitely prefers being more confident about her relationships with the rest of the world in general and men in particular. In other words, Stella already knows what she needs and, more importantly, she knows how she can pay for what she wants, i.e., getting into a relationship that she can enjoy: “I know I fib a good deal” (Tennessee 41).
However, she also claims to be pure in that she has never betrayed her husband: “After all, a woman’s charm is fifty per cent illusion, but when a thing is important I tell the truth, and this is the truth: I haven’t cheated my sister or you or anyone else as long as I have lived” (Tennessee 41). Meanwhile, Blanche is in perpetual search for a big romantic feeling that she has never experienced yet which she hopes to experience someday, unable to understand that she also has to give something in return.
Differences: Mental Strength
As it has been stressed above, the two women are strikingly different; apart from gender, they have little to no features in common, and it shows incredibly in the setting of the suburbs of a small town, with people like Stanley Kowalski and at the time like the mid-forties.
Blanche is mentally weak and incapable of properly addressing issues, while Stella manages to remain strong and make sound judgments about major decisions
On the one hand, Stella seems much less driven and self-assured than Blanche; coming from a much more humble background and leading the life in which the is given the role of a humble wife of Stanley Kowalski and the keeper of the house, she might be considered the weak type.
Stella clearly has less room to evolve as a person and as an individual, with her husband taking the leading part and being the key decision-maker in the family. However, when it comes to comparing the two women, one must admit that Stella is much more down-to-earth and, therefore, more objective in her judgments than romantic and dreamy Blanche: “I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! […]. And it that’s sinful, then let me be damned for it” (Tennessee 144).
A mentally stronger person, Stella is capable of surviving in the world that she and her husband live in – and, more to the point, sacrificing the truth to preserve that world, even at the cost of Blanche’s sanity: “I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley” (Tennessee 165).
Stella is able to live her life and develop proper relationships with the community she lives in, though she has problems with her husband, whereas Blanche is unable to adjust to changing circumstances and chooses to flee rather than try to fix everything
Apart from having a clear idea about her life purpose, though the latter might seem rather simplistic, Stella is also very down-to-the-ground, which helps her survive in a much harsher environment than Blanche is used to live in. The objective approach helps Stella put up with her husband’s violence and ignorance.
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With a specific idea of her purpose in life and the feeling that she is working on fulfilling that purpose, Stella can deal with the harsh environment and even find the ways to enjoy her life, while Blanche is clearly shocked by the new rules and new lifestyle.
Blanche tries to change the world around her instead of getting used to it, which begs the question whether she is as meek as she seems to be. After all, taking actions is what a strong person would do. Therefore, it is rather Blanche’s naivety and straightforwardness together with the inability to keep her thoughts to herself that gets her in trouble.
Stella is always critical and realistic while Blanche lives in the world of her illusions
When comparing Stella to Blanche, one might think of a much more simple and unsophisticated character – and, in a way, such manner of describing Stella will be correct. Stella is simpler, since she leads a much simpler and less glamorous life, which is focused on her husband and the ways to keep him satisfied.
Nevertheless, as it has been stressed above, Stella appears to be more cunning and faking than Blanche. The latter obviously wears her heart on her sleeve, stating whatever she thinks is right – and inevitably getting hurt by crude Stanley, who wants to see women subdued to him: “There he is –Stanley Kowalski – survivor of the stone age! Bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle! And you – you here – waiting for him!” (Tennessee 83).
Stella, on the contrary, uses a much more sophisticated strategy, which allows her to both abstain from conflicting with her husband and retain her point of view: “Don’t be such an idiot, Stanley!” (Tennessee 34).
Ironically enough, Stella does not need the latter, being up to her nose in the household issues; however, such attitude helps her retain her sanity within the coarse environment. Stella can also be considered much more critical than Blanche. The latter is incredibly romantic, while Stella always keeps her feet on the ground.
Blanche covers her negative and harmful thoughts by attempting to act politely while Stella shows her true welcoming and she is really innocent
As it has been made clear above, it would be wrong to consider Blanche a weak person in the full meaning of the word. She is not weak by default; much like Stella, she has a lot of strength that comes from within, i.e., from her vision of the world and concept of herself: “He was a boy, just a boy, when I was a very young girl” (Tennessee 114).
The fact that Blanche is not going to survive in the new environment becomes obvious when she fails to find a common language with the new people surrounding her. By far the most striking example of Blanche’s failure is every single scene of her talking to Stanley, whose rude and straightforward speech appears the exact opposite of Blanche’s careful tiptoeing around her opponent: “You’re simple, straightforward and honest, a little bit on the primitive side, I should think” (Tennessee 39).
Therefore, Blanche’s weakness as the key difference from Stella comes from Blanche’s unwillingness to learn and to part with her illusions; after seeing how low people can fall and how mundane and meagre their lives can get, she refuses to accept the new style of life and, therefore, becomes highly vulnerable to the objective reality, which Stella has grown immune to long before.
Blanche Dubois and Stella Kowalski have some minor similarities as they both depend on their sexuality and men around them but they are eventually completely different since Stella is strong and able to address issues while Blanche is mentally weak and lives in the world of her illusions. Weirdly enough, Stella, the woman who has been living her entire life in the suburbs, seems to know more about life and its merciless rules more than Blanche, the woman of the fashion and the city elite.
Tennessee, Williams. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York, NY: New Directions Publishing Corporation. 2004. Web.