Myrtle: Sooooo, A Streetcar Named Desire. I’ve read it before, but made a LOT of notes and put little tab things on the pages during this re-read. There is just so much here!
Pearl: I’m glad you have a lot of notes because I only have a few things jotted down!
Myrtle: This is one of those works where you can recognize the skill involved in pulling it off, and still maybe not love it. I would maybe worry about a person who casually mentioned that this was his favorite thing he’d ever read.
Pearl: Very true. I liked it, but it’s hard to say you love something this sad.
Myrtle: Let’s start with Stanley. Good lord! Tennessee Williams wasn’t going to leave it up to subtlety and nuance with this guy. Literally one of the first things he does onstage is holler “Meat!” and then THROWS SOME MEAT to his wife. If that’s not a metaphor, I don’t know what is.
Pearl: The meat throwing was weird. I was like, “Was that supposed to be cute? Look how carefree they are! Throwing meats!”
Myrtle: I think it was supposed to be a forceful manly meat moment if you catch my drift. The stage direction even says this: “He heaves the package at her. She cries out in protest but manages to catch it: then she laughs breathlessly.” Oh boy.
Pearl: Haha! I don’t want to get to into the heaving meat at people, but it does turn out to be a thing Stanley does. (Cough: rape)
Myrtle: You’re right — it’s definitely a deliberate choice by the author. If Stanley threw a friendly beach ball at his wife it would mean something else entirely. Haha…I’m now imagining what the play would be like. Like one of those 60s surfer movies.
Pearl: There are parts about Stanley that you think Blanche would approve of. He’s stereotypically masculine and you know he’d defend his wife, but she hates him all the way around. I mean, I guess the fact that he isn’t a millionaire (which seems to be her number one criteria for her imaginary men) is what does him in for her right off the bat.
Myrtle: I think it’s less the actual money than it is his class. He’s a coarse meat-thrower and Blanche feels that she and her sister are classier than that. Even though Blanche has fallen on hard times (ahem), she sees herself as high class. Seeing the reality that Stella lives in just crushes Blanche. There’s a scene where Stella is telling Blanche about their wedding night when Stanley went nuts and smashed all the light bulbs with her slipper. Blanche is totally horrified (ps: I would be, too!) and says, “And you — you let him? Didn’t run, didn’t scream?” And Stella says, “I was–sort of–thrilled by it.” Come on, Stella!
Pearl: Yeah. The only real note I have about Stella is that she seems naive. And I think that is the perfect example of it. She didn’t think about his potential for violence towards her in that moment, she was just “thrilled.” Girl. What.
Myrtle: Stella is such a disappointment. What Blanche sees as Stanley’s caveman-ness, Stella sees as something admirable. Later in that same scene with the thrilling lightbulb smashing, Blanche describes Stanley as an animal (#meat) and is so disappointed that Stella is drawn to that. She says, “[t]here he is — Stanley Kowalski — survivor of the stone age! Bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle! And you — you here — waiting for him! Maybe he’ll strike you or maybe grunt and kiss you! That is if kisses have been discovered yet!”
You have to give it to Blanche: for someone so invested in creating illusions, she’s pretty blunt here.
Pearl: My thing about Blanche is that I agree with her here, but she’s also no love guru. And her life is a MESS. I hate Blanche almost as much as I dislike Stella. You can sort of pity naive people a little easier than people who act like they know everything, but their life is in shambles. You know what I mean?
Myrtle: I do, but I think Blanche is spot on here. And then Stanley pretty much proves her point that he IS an animal.
Pearl: Yeah. There’s no doubt about that.
Myrtle: I have a lot of tender feelings for Blanche. There’s something about her particular brand of exaggeration, omission, and flat-out lying that feels very familiar to me! And she has experienced her own major disappointments — her marriage, and her husband’s suicide. To me, Stanley is a monster with zero redeeming qualities. Stella is blind, and then when she does realize what she’s married, it’s too late — she already has a baby with him and has betrayed her sister. So she is a 32% monster. Blanche gets all my sympathy and her monster rating is 9%.
Pearl: Blanche’s monster rating is a little higher in my book, haha. I have no sympathy for Stanley. I’m with you on that one. My problem with Blanche is that she is constantly shaming Stella for things like how she lives, who she’s in a relationship with, etc. But Blanche literally has NEITHER of those things. A home, a relationship, anything. That bothers me. I’m also not into the way she (in my opinion) tries to manipulate people into pitying her.
Myrtle: I’m going to side with team Blanche here and say that being in a relationship with a lightbulb smashing meat-thrower is nothing to brag about. But if she was interested in actually changing Stella’s mind and getting her out of that marriage, just shaming Stella is only going to make her cling to Stanley more.
I wish she’d take her own advice — later in the play, right before Mitch sees her in full light (and sees them wrankles) Mitch is saying that he wants realism. And Blanche says she doesn’t. She says, “I’ll tell you what I want. Magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it!” Girl, magic is great and all but sometimes you gotta let a man know how old you are without tricks. However, I may try skulking around in the dark next time I go on a date and see how that goes!
Pearl: Haha! That’s what I’m saying is one of my major issues with her. She’s a manipulator! Girl, you can’t be devastated when your lies didn’t get you what you want.
Myrtle: She’s kind of terrible at manipulation. That’s gotta be rough. She never gets what she wants in the end.
Pearl: I will admit, I did almost shed a little tear for Blanche in the end when she gets carted off to the loony bin. She got tricked into it and that’s super sad. Did you think she deserved that/needed to go there?
Myrtle: I think Blanche needs a rest. I wish she had a better place to go in order to get that rest and therapy, and maybe some nice drugs, but she has officially run out of options. I admire Blanche for not just totally losing it at the end and trying in her not-quite-reality way to make the best of it. Or at least just to roll with it.
Pearl: I’m with you on that. She handled it a lot better than I would in that situation.
Myrtle: What do you think happened next? Five years later, where are these characters?
Pearl: Honestly, I think Stella is in the same place. I don’t see her growing a backbone on her own and leaving Stanley. She probably has a few more kids. I like to think maybe Blanche meets a nice man while she’s “away” and maybe carries on being Blanche. I sort of hope Stanley is dead (oops), but he probably won’t be. What about you?
Myrtle: In five years, I think you’re right that Stella probably has a few more kids and hasn’t left Stanley. I also think that Stanley’s behavior has escalated, so I hope that he gets run over by a streetcar. For Blanche, I hope she finds a good therapist, works through her issues of guilt about her dead husband, learns to value herself, listens to “The Greatest Love of All” on repeat, and is ok. But you’re right: Blanche would consider it more of a success if she met a man. I think she’d think she won.
I was going to say let’s put the Tennessee Williams characters in order from worst to best (or least bad), but Stanley kind of takes the cake for awfulness and then everyone else kind of hovers in the middle.
Pearl: Stanley is definitely the worst. Then I think Gooper and Mae or the closest second. Everyone else is about the same to me. I don’t think I honestly LIKED anyone. Thanks, Tennessee.
Myrtle: Haha. I’d put Big Daddy next to Stanley, and then Gooper and Mae. Maybe Big Mama is the only character we’ve met who isn’t a 100% terrible person (but then again she clearly preferred Brick to Gooper, and also gave her children such stupid names). From the two plays, I like Blanche the best. I think it would be fun to hang out with her. She could tell me all the ways my life is terrible AND give me style tips.
Pearl: I do think Blanche would be entertaining in small doses. I’d tag along some of the times y’all got together. I maybe disliked Big Mama the least. She reminds me of one of my grandmothers. And I don’t think she deserves all the verbal abuse Big Daddy hurls her way.
Myrtle: We’ll definitely invite you. But Blanche is going to talk about you when you’re not there.
Pearl: That’s fine. I’ll be talking about her too. Haha!
Myrtle: It’s a date!