Desire vs. Love


I have never cried over a book, but after reading Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire, something hit me. I pored over the text trying to understand what it was that made me so upset but I couldn’t quite assemble the pieces, until I realized it was the unmistakable presence of desire and absence of love in the relationship of Stanley and Stella.

From the beginning, readers understand Stanley as an extremely dominant figure, meeting all the criteria of complete masculinity. He is constantly described as animalistic both in regards to his drive to win any fight or game one has challenged him to, and his tendency to sexualize every woman he meets. Such a man has very primal and simple desires in life, the main one being his sexual needs fulfilled. In class the idea of Stella and Stanley’s life before marriage was brought up and really resonated with me. As much as she has adapted to new circumstances, Stella was born and raised in the Old South, taking those ideals about a relationship between a man and woman to New Orleans. When Stanley entered her life, she was unmistakably drawn to him, but likely wouldn’t give up everything she had learned about being a lady for a common man, no matter how exciting and adventurous it was. This became a chase to Stanley, who responded in the same way any animal would- he hunted and fought until he got what he wanted. (In this case, the woman he lusted over)

Their wedding passed, but Stella and Stanley were still known by all for their sexual chemistry. Stanley had attained a wife who satisfied his needs without complaint, and this led him to become extremely possessive of her. She was now his territory, a piece of his life that he had to protect with all his being. At the end of scene three, after Stanley realizes he had hurt Stella, he calls up to Eunice and cries, “I want my baby down here….I want my girl to come down with me!” (66) I don’t see him doing this out of love; it’s more a desperate plea to regain what he has worked so hard to achieve- a life with Stella, a family, and a good home. He also refers to her as HIS baby and HIS girl, reinforcing the idea of possession.

She then proceeds to go back to him, where the stage directions say, “They stare at each other. Then they come together with low, animal moans. He falls to his knees on the steps and presses his face to her belly, curving with a little maternity.” (67) At first, I saw this as a very romantic gesture. He was showing his wife how much he cared for her and the baby they were going to have. After analyzing this again, my perception has completely shifted. Having and protecting a child is another example of something extremely primal. One of the main goals of an animal is to carry out his lifeline, and Stanley shows this same urge. It wasn’t a sign of love at all. The couple did sleep together right after this, showing how their fights usually end with them making up by having sex.

Perhaps the most important piece of evidence to support the overwhelming sense of desire in their relationship was on the last page of the play. Stella is distraught after the doctor has taken Blanche away. Stanley soothes her by saying, “Now, honey. Now, love. Now, now, love. [He kneels beside her and his fingers find the opening of her blouse] Now, now, love. Now, love….” (179) In this moment, where a husband who truly loved his wife would be more interested in her mental wellbeing rather than his wants, he decides to feel her up. This is literally happening as she holds their newborn baby. Stanley is taking away that motherhood from her and bringing the basis of their relationship back, which is lust.

I think the reason I was so upset over this was that I desperately wanted Stanley to love Stella, in an attempt to not justify but make sense of all he did to protect her and the life he had. In retrospect, I now think he was protecting himself from Blanche and all of this was simply a game to him. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully grasp the concept of this, but I took this piece as a warning of characters like Stanley, whom I tend to encounter over and over again.







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2 thoughts on “Desire vs. Love

  1. Dear Alysha,

    After hearing you talk about the relationship of Stella and Stanley, to now seeing your thoughts in writing, I have to say I’m impressed in your growth of analysis, doubly so in fact considering how attached you are to the idea of Stanley genuinely loving Stella. After all, the idea is very alluring and I believe this is one of the greatest dangers to characters like Stanley as they mask their ugliness with charisma, and such charisma does leave one in a state of desire for lack of a better word. This is why I would offer it’s so important that we read works such as A Streetcar Named Desire, as they are eyeopening in regards of what is real, and what one wants to see.

    As for this analysis, you’ve got truly solid evidence. These quotes are both vital to the piece, and vital to proving a point in regards to any essay in Streetcar. This sets you up with an ability to do a solid analysis of the work, which you have also done. However, what I would offer is that you’re still missing your ‘So What?’. You’ve presented your reader with a plethora of information, and as a writer you have built the skill of persuading your audience, however you lack a concrete idea of what you are trying to persuade them of. My challenge for you next time you are writing any sort of academic analysis or essay is to ask yourself ‘So what? Why is this relevent?’ after every single line you write. If you have more that can be said, you’re not done writing. This is a technique that has really helped me reach Matter in my writing, and once you reach this point, it will take your writing to new heights.

    I am thoroughly impressed with the growth you’ve displayed so far, and am just as excited to see you grow even more.


  2. Dear Alysha,

    I agree. Completely. And honestly, like you, I had chosen to turn away from the gross nature of how primitive and blatantly physical Stella and Stanley’s relationship truthfully is. But despite that, I think they work together, even if not well. I saw them following their roles and pasts so blindly as being one of the reasons they were together in the first place- Stella being the adaptable, sympathetic, beautiful young wife she was brought up to be, and Stanley being the hungry animal. She made him chase her: he liked the chase. He made her feel desired and needed and as if she had someone to depend on: and dependence was key to a woman’s comfort at that time.

    Throughout your piece, I could envision your voice. It was brilliant how you let your reaction regarding Stella and Stanley show through not only your words, but also through your syntax: short, definitive sentences and an overt tone.

    I could clearly see you touch on ‘matter,’ and I also clearly saw you on the verge of ‘matter’ in many places as well. I know I for one struggle with this sometimes because I’ll think I’ve gone as far in-depth as I can, but going back and asking myself “so what?” really helps to touch on all those ‘matters’ that I may have otherwise just brushed by, really evidently.

    With love,

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