A Streetcar Named Desire

by: Tennessee Williams

Stella Kowalski

You never did give me a chance to say much, Blanche. So I just got in the habit of being quiet around you.

In Scene One, Stella honestly shares her experience growing up with Blanche on the plantation called Belle Reve. In fact, Stella is always honest with Blanche. The personalities of Stella and Blanche are in sharp contrast with each other throughout the play. Blanche, the more talkative of the two, is the sister of words, while Stella is the sister of action.

I’m going to try to keep Blanche out till the party breaks up because I don’t know how she would take it. So we’ll go out to one of the little places in the Quarter afterwards and you’d better give me some money.

Stella is trying to protect her fragile sister from the roughness of the night’s poker game. She’s taking her out to dinner and then to a show. Stanley is not happy about it because he has to eat a cold dinner alone. He is already beginning to resent Blanche’s presence in their household and doesn't trust her delicate persona.

You have no idea how stupid and horrid you’re being! Now close that trunk before she comes out of the bathroom!

Stella is shocked to find Stanley rifling through Blanche’s trunk, and she criticizes him for his suspicions and his invasion of her privacy. In one of the first examples of Stella taking Blanche’s side over Stanley’s, Stella lays the groundwork for one of the play’s major themes: personal integrity. Stella is the most thoughtful and compassionate of the main characters. She often takes the high road while Blanche and Stanley seem to vie for places on the low road.

This is my house and I’ll talk as much as I want to!

In a rare moment of dominance, Stella reminds her husband that he can’t tell her what or what not to do. Stanley has just ordered Stella and Blanche to stop talking while the men play poker, but Stella makes clear that she is her own boss in her own home.

Drunk—drunk—animal thing, you! [She rushes through to the poker table] All of you—please go home! If any of you have a spark of decency in you—

Stella is losing her temper with her husband, his friends, and their drinking. Stanley has just thrown the radio out the window in a fit of rage and soon turns his violent temper on Stella until his friends pull him away and pin him down. Stella leaves with Blanche to go to Eunice’s upstairs. Unfortunately, Stella soon returns to Stanley, revealing he has her in his firm psychological grasp.

He didn’t know what he was doing . . . He was as good as a lamb when I came back and he’s really very, very ashamed of himself.

Stella makes excuses for Stanley’s abusive behavior the night before as she talks to Blanche. Blanche criticizes her for returning home and sleeping with Stanley after such violent behavior. For Stella as for Stanley, the line between sexuality and physical violence blurs and Stella admits that Stanley has always been volatile. Blanche acts appalled but secretly feels attracted. As usual, her reaction is dramatic but dishonest.

You take it for granted that I am in something that I want to get out of.

Stella says this more than once to Blanche when Blanche suggests that they need to find a way to “get us both out.” This is the main point of contention between the sisters. Blanche considers Stella’s life and marriage intolerable or pretends to. Stella defends and clings to her marriage. She is satisfied with her home and her marriage, no matter how both appear to others. Stella is comfortable in her own skin and life, while Blanche is not.

But there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark—that sort of make everything else seem—unimportant.

Stella defends her relationship with Stanley as she argues with Blanche. Blanche has just suggested that Stella fell in love with Stanley in uniform but fails to look at the reality of what he truly is: a violent brute. Stella, like her husband, is driven by her sexuality and considers it paramount to a good life and a good marriage. These lines reveal Stella’s true feelings and explain her loyalty in the face of physical abuse.

What have I done to my sister? Oh, God, what have I done to my sister?

These are among Stella’s final words in the play, spoken to Eunice as the doctor and matron lead Blanche out of the apartment to be taken to a mental institution. She is afraid that her and Stanley’s actions are hurting Blanche and feels responsible for the mental breakdown her sister has experienced.