The the first scene. Therefore, Williams is

The crescendo of violence
in A Streetcar Named Desire portrays
the physical brutality of oppression. The build-up of violence begins when
Stanley “heaves the package”1
of meat at Stella in scene one. Even though this action is small and could be
seen as insignificant, it gives the reader an insight into Stanley’s character
as he appears careless but the little acts of physical violence add up to
Stanley’s ultimate act of physical brutality at the end. Another time Stanley
is physically violent is when he “gives a loud whack of his hand”1
on Stella’s thigh in scene 3. Stanley is acting as though he owns his wife by
the sexually possessive action of striking her thigh and treating her the way
he wants to. His male dominance is reinforced by Stella’s ineffective response,
she says “sharply: that’s not fun, Stanley,”1 while the laughter of
the other men at the table that follows, only serves to further emphasise the
passive role of women in the play. Yet, this was nothing compared to the
physical violence Stella faced later on in this scene. Stanley’s pent up anger
and irritation in this scene was soon released with the “sound of a blow”1
and then it was obvious to the audience that the recipient was Stella
from the fact that “Stella cries out”1 in the stage directions that
result in the blow. This act of violence not only exposes Stanley’s true
character to the audience but it also reveals the downside to the lively
vibrant life that was created by the atmosphere of the seemingly liberated New
Orleans in the first scene. Therefore, Williams is highlighting that New
Orleans is not what it seems and there are underlying problems such as the
frequent violence and this foreshadows the violence that will continue throughout the play
concluding in the rape of Blanche. However, some critics argue that Stanley is
not cruel or violent and that the rape resulted from “Blanche’s licentious
provocation”2.
This critic puts the blame on Blanche stating that she provoked Stanley to rape
her. There is clear evidence that Stanley is violent especially towards Stella
and even the rape itself is cruel and violent.

1
Williams, Tennessee, A Streetcar Named
Desire (Penguin Modern Classics,2009)

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2
Ruby Cohn in Bak, J.S. ‘Criticism on A Streetcar Named Desire: A Bibliographic
Survey, 1947 – 2003’ , www.cercles.com
Cercles 10 (2004)

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