Character Analysis Stanley Kowalski


Stanley Kowalski lives in a basic, fundamental world which allows for no subtleties and no refinements. He is the man who likes to lay his cards on the table. He can understand no relationship between man and woman except a sexual one, where he sees the man's role as giving and taking pleasure from this relationship. He possesses no quality that would not be considered manly in the most basic sense. By more sensitive people, he is seen as common, crude, and vulgar. Certainly, his frankness will allow for no deviation from the straightforward truth. His dress is loud and gaudy. He relishes in loud noises, and his voice rings out like a loud bellow.

To Blanche, Stanley represents a holdover from the Stone Age. He is bestial and brutal and determined to destroy that which is not his. He is like the Stone Age savage bringing home the meat from the kill. He is animal-like and his actions are such. He eats like an animal and grunts his approval or disapproval. When aroused to anger, he strikes back by throwing things, like the radio. Or he breaks dishes or strikes his wife. He is the man of physical action.

Even the symbols connected with Stanley support his brutal, animal-like approach to life. In the first scene, he is seen bringing home the raw meat. His clothes are loud and gaudy. His language is rough and crude. His outside pleasures are bowling and poker. When he is losing at poker, he is unpleasant and demanding. When he is winning, he is happy as a little boy.

He is, then, "the gaudy seed-bearer," who takes pleasure in his masculinity. "Animal joy in his being is implicit," and he enjoys mainly those things that are his — his wife, his apartment, his liquor, "his car, his radio, everything that is his, that bears his emblem of the gaudy seed-bearer."

With the appearance of Blanche, Stanley feels an uncomfortable threat to those things that are his. Blanche becomes a threat to his way of life; she is a foreign element, a hostile force, a superior being whom he can't understand. She is a challenge and a threat. He feels most strongly that she is a threat to his marriage. Thus when the basic man, such as Stanley, feels threatened, he must strike back. It is a survival of the fittest.

Stanley first feels the threat when he finds out that Belle Reve has been lost. He does not care for Belle Reve as a bit of ancestral property, but, instead, he feels that a part of it is his. If his wife has been swindled, he has been swindled. He has lost property, something that belonged to him. He probes into the problem without tact or diplomacy. He goes straight to the truth without any shortcuts. His only concern is to discover whether he has been cheated. He does not concern himself with the feelings of Blanche. He wants only to force the issue to its completion.

Stanley feels the first threat to his marriage after the big fight he has with Stella after the poker game. He knows that this would not have occurred if Blanche had not been present. It is her presence which is causing the dissension between him and his wife. Then the following morning when he overhears himself being referred to as bestial, common, brutal, and a survivor of the Stone Age, he is enraged against Blanche. He resents her superior attitude and bides his time.

Throughout Blanche's stay at his house, he feels that she has drunk his liquor, eaten his food, used his house, but still has belittled him and has opposed him. She has never conceded to him his right to be the "king" in his own house. Thus, he must sit idly by and see his marriage and home destroyed, and himself belittled, or else he must strike back. His attack is slow and calculated. He begins to compile information about Blanche's past life. He must present her past life to his wife so that she can determine who is the superior person. When he has his information accumulated, he is convinced that however common he is, his life and his past are far superior to Blanche's. Now that he feels his superiority again, he begins to act. He feels that having proved how degenerate Blanche actually is, he is now justified in punishing her directly for all the indirect insults he has had to suffer from her. Thus he buys her the bus ticket back to Laurel and reveals her past to Mitch.

Stanley perceives Blanche as having made him endure too much. In his mind, she has never been sympathetic toward him, she has ridiculed him, and earlier she had even flirted with him but has never been his. When he finds out that she has slept so indiscriminately with so many men, he cannot understand why she should object to one more. Thus, he rapes her partly out of revenge, and also so that she will be his in the only way he fully understands.

Stanley, then, is the hard, brutal man who does not understand the refinements of life. He is controlled by natural instincts untouched by the advances of civilization. Thus, when something threatens him, he must strike back in order to preserve his own threatened existence. If someone gets destroyed, that is the price that must be paid.