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Blanche and Stanley are at juxtaposition towards each other, there is a conflict between them that goes beyond simply disliking one another. One of the explanations for this is that Blanche comes from a very different world to Stanley. In many ways Stanley’s represents new America whereas Blanche represents the old, America.
This contrast of hard working, manual labour against well mannered, chivalrous and delicate is one of the very first conflicts of culture. In a way Blanche represents the old south, which in history supported slavery.
We can see Blanche representing the confederacy, the posh upper class slave owners and Stanley as the would-be slave, resentful of his treatment from the South and by Blanche. Another contrast is the animalistic natures of the two characters. In many ways Blanche is like a moth.
Her delicate nature and fragility invoke images of the cover of the book. Stanley is more like a bear, a heavily territorial creature that will fiercely protect its mate. Further evidence that Blanche is like a moth can be seen in her behaviour. Moths never really stay in one place; they flit from place to place, and in Blanches case from one danger to another.
The cover shows a harsh light bulb, which is the harsh reality of the world in a sense.
Blanche often seeks out the light because of what she lost, even though it hurts her. The flamingo hotel is one example of this; the ‘young man’ is another. She seeks to find that spotlight that will light up her world again and risk herself in the process. Stanley on the other hand does not have the capacity for those feelings. He wears bold, primary colours such as red and green and purple, which convey his animalistic passion whereas Blanche is not motivated in this way. Relying often on the ethereal illusions of the mind.
This is perhaps what frustrates Stanley; Blanche is nothing substantial, she is almost devoid of reason. This goes against Stanley’s perceptions about the world, that everything is black and white and that you are either friend or foe. Much like in nature. In many ways Blanches character is something of a contradiction, she seeks out new love in order to find what was lost, and yet she has not looked inwards at herself to question her own actions much. She regrets telling Alan that he disgusted her and she defends her picture of him in an act of defiance against Stanley.
This contradicts my point earlier about her only believing in the ethereal. Because in order to counter Stanley’s passion you have to fight fire with fire and be passionate yourself. So perhaps deep down Blanche is more like Stanley. She is heavily territorial regarding Alan and protective of his memory. Something which reflects in the name of the book ‘A streetcar named desire’ Blanche in effect believes the world is illusionary, but her desire forces her to accept some things are real and like a streetcar she has no choice abut changing course.
The things she accepts as real [IE Her love for Alan] she will defend fiercely. Stanley on the other hand has formed a very hunter-gatherer relationship with Stella. She is like a trophy, a symbol of something he has conquered with his passionate tendencies. They fall out and fight it seems on a regular basis, but they are inexplicably attracted back to each other. The contrast then can be seen in Stella as well as Blanche. Stella is more down-to-earth, more like Stanley than her sister. She accepts certain facts whereas Blanche fabricates ways around them.
Stanley also resents Blanche because of her reliance of the imaginary. His perception of the world puts him as the alpha male, women should be attracted to him and in return he can control them through force. Blanche seems to be immune to this, looking down her nose at him and not succumbing to lust. I imagine Stanley has not encountered this from women before. Stanley not only believes in reality, he is reality. He is the hard knuckled, nature driven man and Blanche is the white, ethereal spectre, which fades in and out of reality.
In that respect the characters are very much in two different worlds with two different beliefs. Going back to the moth idea, Blanche moves from place to place on impulse. Impulse can be described as the single track, single path nature of a streetcar carriage. She talks about fabricating lies to attract men she has had previous relations with, she does not wish to lose face despite already having lost most of it in her hometown of Laurel. Quite clearly Blanche has not got quite a sound mind, because it seems to fabricate reality to what suits her.
She still believes she is a lady of upper-class nature, but she has essentially tainted herself through her activities at the flamingo. She bathes a lot, and this frustrates Stanley. He works in the grease and muck and does not see it necessary to clean himself as often as Blanche, and yet she washes herself constantly. Blanche characteristically dresses in white, the purest form of light. When she bathes she is cleansing herself. I think that she might be trying to cleanse the blood of her dead husband from herself.
Stanley does not seem to have been through the emotional trauma that she has, and so cannot understand how she feels. When you murder someone, directly or otherwise, it sticks in your mind and Blanche has convinced herself of her responsibility towards his death. In summer then, Blanche shares a few passionate similarities with Stanley. Her perception of reality is similar to Stanley’s when it comes to love. However she surrounds herself with the false and the fake, to comfort herself and to try and cleanse her body of the taint that surrounds it.