STANLEY [bellowing] Hey there! Stella, Baby! (1.1)
The first thing the audience sees in Streetcar is the dynamic between Stanley and Stella – not the relationship between the two sisters or the sexual tension between Stanley and Blanche. This marriage and its foundations are at the core of the play’s conflicts.
STELLA Can I come watch? (1.8)
Mitch will later tell Blanche that Stella and Stanley are just crazy about each other, but we get a sense of this mutual adoration early on in the play. Stella dotes on her husband to the point of worship.
STELLA Yes. A different species. BLANCHE In what way; what’s he like? STELLA Oh, you can’t describe someone you’re in love with! (1.146-8)
Love blinds Stella to the social differences between herself and her husband. She doesn’t see the compatibility issues that Blanche does.
STELLA I can hardly stand it when he is away for a night… […] STELLA When he’s away for a week I nearly go wild! […] STELLA And when he comes back I cry on his lap like a baby… (1.161-6)
Stella’s feelings for Stanley are driven by an intensity bordering on madness.
STELLA …You come out with me while Blanche is getting dressed. STANLEY Since when do you give me orders? (2.70-1)
Blanche has changed the dynamic of Stanley and Stella’s relationship. This is why Stanley resents her so much.
STELLA No. Stanley’s the only one of his crowd that’s likely to get anywhere. […] STELLA It isn’t on his forehead and it isn’t genius. […] STELLA It’s a drive that he has. (3.68-76)
As we’ve seen elsewhere, Stella’s love for her husband borders on hero-worship. How accurate is her vision of Stanley?
BLANCHE I’m terrified! MITCH Ho-ho! There’s nothing to be scared of. They’re crazy about each other. (3.205-6)
Mitch is right; Stanley and Stella might have their violent altercations, but we never for a moment doubt their feelings for each other. This basic tension – between violent anger and sexual desire – drives the play.
STELLA Stanley doesn’t give me a regular allowance, he likes to pay bills himself. (4.79)
This tiny detail is rather telling about Stanley’s approach to marriage. This is no partnership between equals – he wants to be in complete control.
Stella has embraced him with both arms, fiercely, and full in the view of Blanche. He laughs and clasps her head to him. Over her head he grins through the curtains at Blanche. (4.126)
Stanley establishes power over Blanche via his marriage. They’re basically fighting for Stella as if she’s territory.
STELLA Blanche, do you want him? BLANCHE I want to rest! I want to breathe quietly again! Yes – I want Mitch… very badly! Just think! If it happens! I can leave here and not be anyone’s problem… (5.85-7)
Look at Blanche’s reasons for wanting to marry – she needs security and safety. This is so different from the passion between Stella and Stanley.