Class conflict is represented throughout the play, A Streetcar Named Desire in various ways through characters, symbols, ideas and language. Characters such as Blanche, Stella, Mitch and Stanley are used to represent the aristocracy and working class.
The Dubois clan, embodied by Blanche, represents the genteel society of the Southern plantation owners that presided through the 19th century.
Stanley Kowalski, the son of Polish immigrants, descends from new Southerners, works in a factory of the industrialized South, which contributed to the demise of the agrarian society in which Blanche and Stella were raised.
A particularly evident section of conflict in the play is over Belle Reve and Stanley’s “Napoleonic code”. Blanche has told the Kowalski’s that she had lost Belle Reve but without proof suspicions arrive with Stanley “well, what in the hell was it then, give away? To charity?”
Stella doesn’t take the fact that Blanche has no papers regarding Belle Reve as meaningful as Stanley does. Stanley from a relatively poor background compared to Stella and Blanches Belle Reve plantation and now would appreciate a slice of their assets and speaks about the Napoleonic code meaning that everything that his wife owns is also his.
After riffling through Blanche’s belongings for information Stanley subtlety confronts her with “it looks like you raided some stylish shops in Paris.”
Blanche’s language is sophisticated unlike Stanley who has a narrow range of vocabulary. Blanche’s language makes the audience understands that she is a well educated. on the other hand, even though Stanley tries to pretend he is intellectual, for example when he talks about the Napoleonic code, the audience assume Stanley hadn’t much education because of his narrow range of vocabulary and his ‘vulgar expressions’.
Blanche calls Stanley names which reflect Blanche’s view on lower people and of low class this is also an example of class conflict. Blanche thinks very lowly of Stanley. Pig, Polack, disgusting, vulgar, greasy; these words show that Blanche does not seem to accept other people’s origins.
The word pig suggests that she thinks he is greedy, vulgar means Blanche does not like Stanley’s attitude and Stanley moves in a rude way. “Greasy” immediately suggests that in Blanche’s opinion anyone who does not takes regular baths are dirty. Thereby the class conflict between Blanche and Stanley continue. Blanche criticizes Stanley that he is common, not individual.
‘He acts like and has animal habits!’ -this is Blanche’s High class attitude and also implies that both sets of classes rarely mix.
Blanche’s reference to candles is of love – guidance. Her madder side is shown thru this and how she has not been guided clearly within her life. She also refers to marriage which may have been hers showing the happiness that she confided in when she got married.
‘Oh I hope candles are going to glow in his life … his eyes are going to be like candles, like two blue candles in a white cake!’ This implies that she wanted to have children herself and lead them. But Stanley and Stella both view Blanche in different ways; Stanley believes that Blanche has made their lives miserable.
While Stella knows what has made Blanche in her current state of confusion and takes great care to her as seen when she reacts to while Stanley giving Blanche a ticket on a bus out of town. It is an evident of the conflict between the thoughts of the two opposite class.
In Scene One, the colors describing the street ‘Elysian Fields’ in New Orleans symbolize the opposition between the two different classes. The “white frame, weathered grey” and “faded white stairs” is representing what’s happening to Blanche and the people with the same colonial background as her.
The “dim white building” could be representing the already fading old American Society being engulfed by the sky, that’s a “peculiar tender blue” representing the new south. This indicates that the old southern American values are being subdued by the new southern American values.
This conflict climaxes in scene ten. In this scene Stanley begins with unenthusiastic comments such as “Swine huh?” “You did huh?” to Blanche’s speech in which she tries to redeem herself.
Stanley then proceeds to ravish Blanche. Stanley’s final line before he grabs Blanche suggests that throughout their time together Stanley believed that he would overcome her “we’ve had this date with each other from the beginning.”
The events of the play’s conclusion represent the death of the Old aristocratic South defeated by working class. Unable to find a way to support herself since the loss of Belle Reve, Blanche goes insane and departs from reality whereas Stella sustains with Stanley. Therefore, the clash between aristocracy and liberal class is obvious in this play.
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