T. Williams’ novel A Streetcar Named Desire portrays three unstable characters whose reality is not the American Dream. Blanche, Stella, and Stanley approach life hoping for different outcomes in their lives. But what is the American Dream they were striving for? Simply put, by looking at the principles of America, the primary dream for everyone is to have a well-lived life.
This might include a family, money, success, love, independence, and happiness. If these are T. Williams’ constructs of the American Dream, then Stella and Stanley Kowalski may never find their American Dream because Stella is only with Stanley due to her belief that she cannot survive without him and would rather live her life consumed by ignorance.
The Kowalskis do in some way love each other and want to be together; however, this could be a form of naturalism. Naturalism is defined as survival of the fittest and this is why Stella settled for a man who is the direct opposite of her previous life. This is because Stella, like everyone else in the world, is striving for the American Dream and a well-lived life that includes love and a family. Furthermore, with Stella’s baby on the way she and Stanley may be lucky enough to experience a small version of the American Dream. Yet, there is little that is cultured or refined about Stanley, he was even caught saying, “What’s rhinestone?” on page 36 of T. Williams’ novel A Streetcar Named Desire.
This further shows Stanley’s ignorance and brings the many differences Stanley and Stella have to light, confirming the fact that Stella is only with Stanley to increase her chances of having some form of the American Dream. Furthermore, Stanley is loud, chaotic, rude, selfish, crude, and often beats Stella with complete disregard for their child she is carrying. As Blanche puts it, “Maybe he’all strike you or maybe grunt and kiss you!” (Williams, pg. 72).
However, no matter what Blanche says Stella remains with Stanley. This is what must be remembered about Stella—she knew Blanche when they were both girls. It goes a long way in helping us understand her loyalty and kindness to her sister.
However, it makes it considerably more difficult for us to understand her decision at the end of the play to disbelieve her sister, send her off to a mental institution, and side with Stanley. Stella justifies herself by saying, “I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley.” (Williams, pg. 133).
Stella says she “can’t” believe the story “if” she wants to go on living with Stanley. She doesn’t say that she thinks Blanche is lying; rather she’s consciously choosing to think Blanche is lying so her life can continue to resemble her own American Dream without interruption. Stella has many reasons to suspect that the reason Blanche was driven to the brink of insanity was undoubtedly the fact that her husband, Stanley, had raped Blanche; However, Stella is pretending it never happened.
Stella isn’t doing this out of incompetence or disregard for her sister but because she truly believes she doesn’t have another option. (Even more interesting is the fact that Blanche used this same argument to defend her own self-delusion.) Or, as Stella’s neighbor Eunice says, “Don’t ever believe it. Life has got to go on. No matter what happens, you’ve got to keep on going” (Williams, pg. 133). This line in particular is fascinating because it so much sounds like survival instinct. These words, “survival” and “instinct,” should ring a bell for the reader.
They should send the reader back to Blanche’s tirade against Stanley in Scene Four, when she tells her sister that Stanley represents ape-like primitivity, the law of the jungle, and that Stella should move forward and progress with the world out of sub-human darkness. She begs her sister, “Don’t hang back with the brutes!” (Williams, pg. 72). Yet, Stella ignores all logic in hopes of achieving some form of the American Dream which Stella feels she needs to live a happy and acceptable life. In fact, by obeying a primitive survival instinct instead of considering morality or loyalty or even logic, Stella has done just that. She hangs back with the brutes not just by staying with Stanley, but by catering to the animal impulse of survival over all else.
The reason Stella has stayed with Stanley is because she believes she needs to stay with Stanley in order to survive in American and achieve some form of the American Dream, it is instinctual. Stella is convinced she needs Stanley in her life and no logic can change her thoughts on the subject. Stella is grasping for her American Dream because she believes that is the only way to achieve happiness in life.