English Lit A Level Streetcar Essay Help!Watch this thread
In A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams does indeed explore two cultures rather than two individuals to a great extent. Throughout the play, the audience witnesses the clash between ‘Old South’ culture which is embodied by our protagonist Blanche who comes from a plantation owning, aristocratic family and the ‘New South’ culture which is embodied by our working-class immigrant antagonist, Stanley. The struggle for these two characters to co-exist is manipulated by Williams to fulfil his intention to explore the cultural evolution in post-war America and to examine whether these same cultures with opposing convictions and ideologies can harmoniously survive, or if one will ultimately prevail. Irrespective of this, a few audience members may argue that indeed the play explores the clash between two individuals and their demeanour and actions that have been caused not due to a cultural clash, but desire.
The aforementioned paradigm alongside many other scenes evoking conflict between Blanche and Stanley means that it shouldn’t come as a surprise to the audience when in scene 10 Stanley declares “We had this date from the beginning”, insinuating that the rape was fated all along. The euphemistic metaphor ‘date’ suggests a loving and consensual affair which is ironic as Stanley’s ultimate act of cruelty symbolises the final destruction of Blanche, hence the Old South’s genteel and fantasy. Alternatively, some may believe that the rape was the result of Stanley’s desire of maintaining power and dominance over Blanche in his house as well as desire to put Blanche in her place.
Stella also plays a massive role in Williams’ exploration of the clash between cultures. For instance, in scene 3 after Stanley abused Stella and their later reconciliation ‘with low, animal moans’, Blanche comments: “There’s so much- so much confusion in the world”. A so-called ‘Southern Belle’, a relic of the past, is unable to comprehend the world of the ‘New South’ and the values that Stanley and Stella hold; she is a representation of the ‘Old South’ which was being replaced by an increasingly industrialising, emerging ‘New South’ whose values almost juxtaposed those of the ‘Old South’, thus creating conflict between the two cultures. In the early 1940s, American society expected men to adhere to specific characteristics that define masculinity such as aggression, stoicism and toughness which wouldn't shock a modern audience however it would shock a Southern Belle like Blanche because she's used to a more gentlemanlike treatment from men who would try to woo her and court her in the ‘Old South’, Alternatively, it is arguable that this phenomenon was not due to the values of the ‘New South’ but because of the raw desire that dominates Stanley and Stella’s relationship. This interpretation is strengthened even in the final scene; Stella is crying due to her sister’s departure but it is written within the stage directions that Stanley ‘finds the opening of her blouse’ where again we see the pair reconcile on a non-verbal level, underscoring the physical desire and nature of their relationship. Stella and Stanley’s relationship is that of extreme libido to the point where Stella decided to trade her sister for sexual gratification in scene 11, sending to a mental hospital, her betrayal forever being the reason of the two sister’s conflict. Whereas this argument may be valid, others may also believe that she didn’t have any choice. She chooses to follow Blanche’s example and forces herself to live in an illusion rather than in reality so that she can continue to live with Stanley, who will provide a life and financial security and stability for her as well as her newborn child, as contextually she wouldn't have the facilities to do it herself.
Therefore, it seems that while some audiences may prefer to interpret Williams'*exploration of the clash between the two individuals a result of desire between individuals, the argument that the play focuses on the cultural clash prevails as most events of the play have subtly or not been influenced by the clash between ‘Old South’ and ‘New South’ values and culture.
I handwrote it and edited it a bit but this is the gist.