According to Charles Darwin, the father of the modern theory of evolution, “it is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” Based on the example set forth in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, the principle that adaptability is the key to survival holds true in modern society. Streetcar chronicles the bitter struggle for survival between Blanche Dubois, a sophisticated but fading southern beauty, and Stanley Kowalski, her brutish brother-in-law. In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams uses Stanley to represent an organism perfect adapted to life in the French Quarter. By showing that a person with primitive and animalistic traits can triumph over a more refined, intelligent individual, Williams demonstrates the idea of environment-specific adaptations being more important to survival than one’s place in the evolutionary line.
Before any discussion of survival of the fittest or natural selection in the context of Streetcar, it is important to lay a defining framework for these two terms. In the strictest definition, survival of the fittest states that organisms with traits that fit their environments will be more likely to survive than organisms without similar traits. While accurate, the strictest definition is incomplete; survival of the fittest also implies that the organisms which can most readily change and adapt to their present situation will be the most able to survive in any environment. In addition, environment-specific adaptations can prove superior to overall advancements in the evolutionary chain. For example, humans are widely considered to be further along in the evolutionary chain than most other organisms; they are poorly suited to life on the ocean floor, but primitive microorganisms have environment-specific adaptations that allow them to survive on the ocean floor where more evolved humans cannot.
Natural selection is simply an extension of survival of the fittest; when an organism is adapted to fit its environment better than other members of its species, it is more likely to survive and reproduce than its poorly adapted kin. Over time, the effects of only the best-adapted organisms surviving and reproducing can combine to create a new species. For an entirely new species to be created, an immense amount of time is typically required; however, some changes can occur in the short run. Changes that occur in the short run are known as natural selection and are the result of survival of the fittest, while changes that occur over massive periods of time are known as evolution and are the result of repeated natural selection. Given the amount of time that passes from the beginning to the end of Streetcar, survival of the fittest is most likely to be observed, and natural selection may be seen as well, but observing evolution would be all but impossible, unless the evolutionary differences existed from the start of the play.
In the French Quarter of New...