* To what extent is “A Streetcar Named Desire” a tragedy?
“A Streetcar Named Desire” written by T. Williams is the tragedy of Blanche DuBois, a fading Southern belle. Coming from a rich aristocratic family, Blanche clearly has a noble past. The death of Allan, her first and deepest love, is the start of her downfall and the cause of herinsanity, which is later strengthened by the loss of her possessions and her fate.
Blanche undergoes a great change in the course of the play. At the beginning of the play, she believes that inner beauty can cover her past sins and give her a clean reputation. Since her soul was not "in" her brief sexual encounters, she believes that she is still pure in heart. But at the end of the play, sherealizes that most of the people in this world are unable to make distinctions. In their opinion, when a person falls at the physical level, there is a moral fall as well. "You know as well as I do that a single girl, a girl alone in the world, has got to keep a firm hold on her emotions or she'll be lost!" When Blanche comes to the French Quarter, she still has hope of finding a life for herself,including a suitable husband; at the end of the play, she has recognized the painful truth that she cannot even get support or sympathy from her own sister and brother-in-law, and because of them, she will never find a husband. She has learned that Stella and Stanley, characteristic of the modern age and in contrast to Old Southern tradition, are totally selfish; they have their own lives to lead andcannot be bothered with her problems. In fact, they simply want her to get out of their life. In contrast, Blanche, the symbol of the Old South, she has made extreme sacrifice for the family, having “duty” before pleasure. Now she recognizes the futility of her own existence in this modern age, and the knowledge literally drives her crazy. “I guess it's just that I have - old-fashioned ideals!".She thinks Stanley is not good enough for her noble sister, Stella, and tries to turn her against him by pointing out different faults of character. "He acts like an animal, has an animal's habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! There's something even sub-human, something not quite to the stage of humanity yet! Yes, something - ape-like about him.....Thousands and thousands ofyears have passed him right by, and there he is - Stanley Kowalski - survivor of the stone age!...And you - you here - waiting for him!” The fact that she can’t understand how Stella accepts Stanley for what he really is emphasizes the great background difference between the DuBois and the Kowalski family with Stella in the middle for which both sides are fighting.
In the play Blanche also suffersgreat pain, both mental and physical. During the course of the drama, she realizes that the Kowalskis find her an inconvenience and really do not want to help her. This is made painfully clear to her when Stanley, for her birthday, gives her bus ticket back to Laurel (where she is no longer welcome). His rude and crude action caused her mental torture. While Stella is at the hospital giving birth totheir first child, Stanley brutally rapes Blanche. He could not stand the fact that he could not possess her, the way he possessed Stella and everything else around him; since he could not have her by agreement, he used violence, which literally pushes Blanche over the edge. Then, he convinces Stella to send Blanche to a mental hospital.
In this play, Blanche is the protagonist and Stanley isher villain, causing her downfall and tragic end. By exposing Blanche's past and raping her, he is also “ignoring” her aristocratic upbringing, of which she is very proud of. The conflict, therefore, is bigger than Stanley vs. Blanche; it is the Old South vs. the new, uncaring industrial age, the aristocratic life vs. the “common life”, and the French gentleness vs. the Polish roughness.