of Incomprehension: A Streetcar
Named Desire Reconsidered
Much of the criticism of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire seems to me to miss the point in speaking unqualifiedly of Stanley Kowalski as the destroyer of Blanche DuBois. Harold Clurman, in what otherwise has to be one of the most perceptive commentaries on the play and its original Broadway production, writes misleadingly of a Stanley who, "drunk the night of his wife's labor, . . . settles his account [italics mine] with Blanche by raping her," and of a Blanche who "is ordered out of Stella's house." John Gassner, insisting on applying the terms of Aristotelian tragedy to Streetcar from without and seeing how well it conforms to them, instead of judging the play on its own terms with their specific implications, concludes that Stanley is a "brutal executioner [who] performs the act of destruction that Blanche should have [italics mine] performed for herself, having had within her the seeds of her own destruction." The list goes on and on, from Nancy Tischler's "moth beauty" of Blanche destroyed by the "brute ugliness" of Stanley to Jordan Y. Miller's and Signi Falk's bestial Stanley using the "ultimate weapon," rape, to take out his "revenge" on the sensitive Blanche.
Stanley Kowalski may perform the act which seals Blanche DuBois's doom once and for all, but, clearly, he has not consciously plotted to destroy her throughout the play. Convinced that Blanche was not a heroine of tragic proportions, critics over the years have looked outside what they have concluded to be a hopelessly demented character to find the agent of____________________