A Streetcar Named Desire

by: Tennessee Williams

Stanley Kowalski

It looks to me like you have been swindled, baby, and when you’re swindled under the Napoleonic code I’m swindled too. And I don’t like to be swindled.

Stanley talks to Stella about the family property that Blanche has lost. He has just complained to Stella that Blanche doesn’t seem to have any documents that show a sale or transfer of the property. He is accusing Blanche of cheating them out of money that should rightfully be shared by the three of them. This belief is the seed of Stanley’s resentment of Blanche—that she is dishonest and has spent their money on clothes and jewelry for herself.

Some men are took in by this Hollywood glamor stuff and some men are not.

Stanley has just told Blanche the story of going out with a woman who claimed to be the “glamorous type,” to which Stanley replied, “So what?” He makes clear that he is not interested in women who need to be complimented about their looks, something that Blanche needs very much. Stanley’s contempt toward women such as Blanche lays the foundation for his violent attack later in the play.

Blanche: You’re simple, straightforward, and honest, a little on the primitive side I should think. To interest you a woman would have to—[She pauses with an indefinite gesture.] Stanley: [slowly] Lay . . . her cards on the table.

This exchange between Blanche and Stanley reveals they are opposites, as indicated by the list of qualities noted by Blanche. There is also a dangerous miscommunication occurring. While Blanche believes she is flirting the way she does with most men, Stanley’s words reveal he has something more than flirting in mind.

Stell-lahhhh! . . . I want my baby down here. Stella, Stella!

After Stella leaves Stanley and goes to Eunice’s, Stanley stumbles onto the sidewalk, drunk, soaking wet, and half dressed, and screams this line, perhaps the most famous line of the play, toward Eunice’s apartment window. His emotional outburst epitomizes the psychological hold he has on Stella. Stanley realizes that he has temporarily lost Stella, but he knows that if he begs, she will return to him. Stella can’t help herself, and Stanley knows it.

Oh, well, it’s his pleasure, like mine is movies and bridge. People have got to tolerate each other’s habits, I guess.

Stella speaks to Blanche about Stanley’s poker games and drinking as she cleans up the mess the next morning. She shares her philosophy of marriage: Tolerance is the key to happiness and security. Blanche accuses her sister of being indifferent to Stanley’s abusive behavior and treatment of her, and she soon suggests that they need to get hold of some money so they can escape their situations.

There’s even something—sub-human—something not quite to the stage of humanity yet! Yes, something ape-like about him, like one of those pictures I’ve seen in—anthropological studies.

After the poker party mayhem, Blanche launches into a tirade to Stella, contrasting Stanley’s behavior with that of a gentleman’s. She invokes their shared southern upbringing that does not allow for such animalistic conduct—or so she suggests. However, we soon learn that Blanche is just as bestial as Stanley, just as driven by impulses and desires that are less than tender and formal. Again and again, Blanche protests too much. She is both appalled and attracted by Stanley’s brutishness.

I bet you were born under Aries. Aries people are forceful and dynamic. They dote on noise! They love to bang things around! You must have had lots of banging around in the army and now that you’re out, you make up for it be treating inanimate objects with such a fury!

Blanche is describing her understanding of Stanley. While she is mistaken about his astrological sign, she is not mistaken about his personality, or his propensity for noise and violence. Over the course of the play, Stanley smashes a radio, a bottle, and a dish; hits Stella; and eventually assaults Blanche. Blanche’s lines indirectly supports the theme of sexuality and the idea that Stanley is a brute.

Don’t ever talk that way to me! “Pig—Polak—disgusting—vulgar—greasy!”—them kind of words have been on your tongue and your sister’s too much around here. What do you two think you are? A pair of queens? Remember what Huey Long said—“Every man is a King!” And I am the king around here, so don’t forget it!

Blanche’s birthday party has been ruined by Mitch not showing up and Stanley is strutting his ego around at the evening’s end, hurling plates onto the floor as he yells at Stella and Blanche. He accuses them of disrespecting him because of his heritage and manners. He wants to ensure they understand that he is the master of his house. Stanley is right, they do not respect him, and the eruption of raw emotions creates fear in the sisters and suspense for the audience.

Ha-ha! Rain from heaven! [He extends the bottle toward her] Shall we bury the hatchet and make it a loving-cup? Huh?

Stanley and Blanche are alone in Scene Ten because Stella is in the hospital. He has just opened a bottle of beer and a “geyser of foam” shoots up, a sexual image foreshadowing the action to follow. Stanley has just become a father, so he wants to celebrate. Stanley’s invitation is loaded with double entendre, a verbal jousting that he and Blanche have demonstrated throughout the play.

I’ve been on to you from the start! Not once did you pull any wool over this boy’s eyes. You come in here and sprinkle the place with powder and spray perfume and cover the light-bulb with a paper lantern, and lo and behold the place has turned into Egypt and you and the Queen of the Nile!

Fueled by alcohol, the excitement of the new baby, and finally being alone with Blanche, Stanley is beginning to let Blanche hear what he truly thinks of her. Immediately after these lines, Stanley laughs cruelly at Blanche. The stage directions indicate that the shadows are “of a grotesque and menacing form.” Stanley’s laughter is the beginning of the rape.