Tennessee Williams’ views of relationships between men and women are portrayed throughout the play. Williams himself came from a troubled background where his parents’ relationship was tense and volatile, all the couples in the play reflect this view in their personalities and behaviour. It has even been suggested that Williams’ own parents Cornelius and Edwina inspired the basis for Stella and Stanley’s marriage and the way they live their lives.
The first relationship I am going to examine is that of the Kowalski’s, Stella and Stanley’s personalities do not compliment each other they are in discord. Stella originates from an upper class background and is reasonably well educated, before opting for a life with Stanley she lived in a big house in the country and never had to worry over the issue of money. It is obvious however that perhaps Stella was never really as infatuated with this existence as her sister Blanche.
The surroundings and way in which she lives her life with Stanley may be different but she admits that it ‘thrills’ her. Stanley has been used to the Elysian Fields way of living throughout his life, he is a common ‘Polack’ and has originated from a working class background as displayed by his views and personality and his attitudes towards women. His animal instincts surface in the way he ‘sizes women up’ and treat them as ‘meat’ or sexual toys. Sex is Stanley’s strength and his weapon to conquer his conflicts with his wife Stella and eventually his battle with her sister Blanche.
Stanley feels that a man should be ‘King’ of the relationship with his ‘little woman’ to attend to his every whim. This is portrayed in Scene 3 at the poker night when he refers to the women as ‘hens’ and also when he belittles Stella in front of his poker buddies by giving her a hard slap on the thigh. Although this behaviour is carried out in mock playfulness, Stanley is really reminding Stella just who is in charge and she accepts this by not retaliating only complaining when he cannot hear by saying to Blanche ‘I hate when he does that.
‘ In the early scenes of the play Stanley and Stella appear to be affectionate towards each other and have a loving relationship, after all Stella gave up everything to elope with Stanley so the audience will obviously want to be reassured of why when taking the surroundings into consideration. Scene three opens up our eyes to the real relationship that Stella shares with her husband and we see Stella drifting further and further into unhappiness as Stanley’s obsession with Blanche’s past reaches its dramatic climax.
It is painfully obvious from the actions of the couple that their relationship is based on physical attraction, ‘desire’ and sex as opposed to mutual love and respect. After Stanley has hit Stella she runs away but is soon reunited with a whimpering, tattered man on his knees. I feel that this part of the play is difficult to interpret but I have come to two different conclusions. The first is that throughout the rest of the play we do not see any more violent action towards Stella from her husband, this only occurs when he is drunk.
Stanley’s behaviour and dismay when he realises his ‘baby doll’ has left him would lead the audience to believe that Stanley cannot comprehend what he has done and is truly genuinely sorry for hurting Stella. The action ‘of pressing his face against her belly’ shows that he has emotions towards his unborn child and as he descends onto his knees this is truly an act of submission as opposed to confrontation. These ideas would lead me to think that Stanley just has anger management issues and was ‘at his worst’ due to drink.