Why Can’t Blanche and Stanley Just Get Along?
In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams uses astrology and character names to further define the two main characters, Blanche and Stanley. Blanche is a Virgo, whereas Stanley is a Capricorn. Both have very different characteristics, which cannot blend with one another. It is evident that Blanche and Stanley alienate each other further because of their astrological signs; Virgos are more sensitive while Capricorns are more realistic.
Throughout the play, Blanche expresses positive aspects that are described by her astrological sign (Virgo). A Virgo “is intellectual, critical, fussy, shrewd, logical, methodical, practical, and has teaching ability. They can lack confidence and need constant reassurance” (Signs In Detail: Virgo). This coincides with Blanche because she used to be an English teacher but was fired. Furthermore, when first entering the apartment she acts in a very critical manner; “Oh, I’m not going to be hypocritical, I’m going to be honestly critical about it… Only Mr. Edgar Allan Poe! – Could do it justice… Why didn’t you tell me… that you had to live in these conditions” (Williams 20). Blanche is also a character that always needs reassurance about her looks. She mentions to her sister, Stella, that she hasn’t put on an ounce in ten years and asks about her appearance. However, then she criticizes her sister by telling her to watch her hips and maybe do something with her hair, not knowing that Stella is pregnant. Blanche can be described as the ‘perfect’ Virgo if compared to its traditional traits.
Blanche also conveys some negative aspects of the sign Virgo. She is a character who does not show her age, another Virgo rule. In her living area, the light is made dim and before leaving the house, she applies makeup to hide her age. The Chinese paper lantern may represent her concealment. Another characteristic is that she “desires wealth but is not able to acquire it easily” (Virgo). An example of this trait is seen when Blanche makes up a story about her rich friend who will support a shop for her and Stella. This can also prove that Blanche lives in a superficial world, “her predisposition to gloss over the harsh realities of life by pretending that they are simply not there” (Cardullo). She is a perfectionist and loses trust in others and herself if anything occurs, such as when “she refuses … to forgive herself for denying Allan the compassion that would have saved and perhaps changed him, or at any rate made his burden easier to bear” (Cardullo). Blanche suggests that she is jealous of Stan and Stella; “Stan and Stella have what Blanche wants. Their intimacy involves a degree of humility, spirited affection, and overt need, certainly, as well as the working out of a pattern of living generally suitable for them both” (Berkman). Blanche’s desire is to feel needed. These flaws may have caused her inability to relate to Stanley.
Stanley conveys some of the traditional Capricorn traits. On the positive side, his reasoning ability is outstanding. He is also socially oriented; his poker pals look out for him such as, when he took his anger out on Stella and the guys made him cool off. Stanley is also a character who is willing to work hard for anything that he wants and is very cautious. Capricorns are untrusting and often investigate. When Stella told him that Blanche lost Belle Reve, he wanted to examine all of her belongings and the bank papers. Also, he was the one that found out why Blanche retired during the school year. On the negative aspect of this astrological sign, they experience many mood swings. They can be calm for a while, and then suddenly have an outburst in anger such as during the poker game. They can express concern, which might turn into cruelty, and so they cannot always control their actions. Also, Capricorns do not like to be alone and are very selective in their search for a mate because they are capable of falling in love for pleasure. Williams made the “rape seem accidental, the result more of Stanley’s sudden and uncontrollable drunken lust than of his calculation and deliberate cruelty. Stanley does not rape Blanche because he knows her nervous breakdown and expulsion from his home will result. Rather, he does so because he has been physically to her from the start and has been encouraged by her on at least one occasion, and is able to fuel his desires with knowledge of her checkered past in Laurel. Too, he has probably not been sexually gratified for some time due to his wife’s growing pregnancy and the concurrent dearth of privacy created by his sister-in-law’s visit to their already cramped quarters” (Cardullo). Most of Stanley’s astrological characteristics contradict those of Blanche’s.
Williams also uses character names to further define Blanche and Stanley. The name Blanche comes from a French word meaning white. This concurs with Blanche’s character because she uses the French language to charm Mitch and seem more intelligent. White is also the color of purity. Williams might have used irony there, since Blanche is not at all pure. According to Parent Soup, Stanley’s name means “from the rocky meadow.” His life may seem rocky because his pregnant wife is not sexually gratifying him. Also, Stanley and Stella’s apartment is not very spacious or luxurious. Stanley’s name might also apply to Blanche, who had a rocky life, but denies it all throughout the play.
The character’s names and astrological signs may explain why they cannot seem to get along with each other. Blanche is a Virgo who is sensitive, unable to trust anyone, and lives in a superficial world. On the other hand, Stanley is a Capricorn who is more realistic, practical, and untrusting. They estrange one another because, “neither will tolerate the other, since each believes that the other a threat to the achievement or maintaining of intimacy in life” (Cardullo).
(20 Dec. 1999)
“Meanings and Origins.” The Parent Soup.
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“Signs in Detail: Capricorn.” http://www.astrologynow.net/caprifr.htm
(22 Dec. 1999)
“Signs in Detail: Virgo.” http://www.astrologynow.net/virgofr.htm
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