Williams uses the relationship of Stanley and Stella to
depict the destructive nature of desire
The driving force of sexuality is behind every point of conflict and every exchange of words in a Streetcar Named Desire. Williams explores how sexual attraction, flirtation, and even sexual violence underlie relationships. The play presents the idea that a person’s sexual nature cannot be denied, and to attempt to deflect its course or deny its existence is to deny any part of what makes us human. The play is immediately set up as involving the destructive nature of desire when ‘They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at – Elysian Fields!’. Here, Williams takes real streetcar stops in New Orleans and connects them to each other to illustrate the link between death and desire. The implication of death from the use of ‘cemeteries’, is used to forebode Blanche’s downfall at the end of the play.
Williams presents Stanley and Stella’s relationship as destructive due to their intense desire for their sexual connection. This is demonstrated in Blanche’s comment that ‘the only way to live with such a man is to – go to bed with him! And that’s your job – not mine!’ This shows how Blanche believes the new generation of men only care for sex and hence, she commodifies the purpose of Stella. To Blanche, sex is a service and she presents Stella as something to be consumed by Stanley rather than it being pleasure which ultimately presents Stella and Blanche’s views as opposing. Furthermore, the relationship of Stanley and Stella has a cyclical structure in which desire acts as a magnet that continuously draws Stella back to her husband and back into a monotonous cycle of passion to pain. Therefore, their relationship is one based upon passion and desire but this is ultimately destructive to Stella due to the violence she endures.
Again, Williams presents their relationship as destructive by showing their desire as unstoppable, and almost uncontrollable. The noise of the train has a symbolic meaning since it is constant and unstoppable. This could indicate an association between Stanley and the train: it illustrates the unstoppable nature of Stella’s desire for him. This takes on a dangerous element when Blanche is destroyed both psychologically and physically by her attempt to intrude in their relationship. Here, the unstoppable nature of their desire leads to Blanche’s insanity. Contextually, Williams may be relating this to his own life since his father was an alcoholic and so he may have shown these uncontrollable tendencies. Similarly, Blanche is cynical of their passion as she only understands it of an ‘electrical thing’ which highlights how she doesn’t believe in a combination of desire and love. Here, Blanche is degrading to their relationship simply because she hasn’t been able to reciprocate these feelings in her own life. Equally, desire is presented as a...