Stanley Kowalski  

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Stanley Kowalski is a fictional character in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire. He was most famously portrayed by Marlon Brando in the play's initial Broadway performance as well as the 1951 film adaptation.

Character overview

Stanley lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans with his wife, Stella (née DuBois.) A working class construction worker, he takes special pride in having lured Stella away from her rich family, and shows her off to his friends like a trophy. He has a vicious temper, however, and the two have many fights, in which he is not averse to violence. Near the beginning of the play, Stanley announces that Stella is pregnant.

Stanley's life becomes more complicated when Stella's sister Blanche shows up at their door for a seemingly indefinite "visit". The two despise each other almost on sight; the spoiled, aristocratic Blanche openly looks down upon Stanley, whom she derides as an "ape", while Stanley is enraged at what he sees as a constant reminder that he is not good enough for Stella. His resentment grows almost unbearable when Blanche starts dating his friend, Mitch, and lets Stella briefly take refuge with her after an argument in which he hits her.

Stanley starts asking questions of a street merchant who knew Blanche in her old life, however, and finds out that Blanche is staying with Stella and him because she is homeless; her family's ancestral mansion has been mortgaged. He also learns that she was paid to leave Mississippi to quell gossip about her many affairs, which she began after her husband, a closeted homosexual, committed suicide. Overjoyed to have the upper hand, Stanley tells Mitch about Blanche's secret past, which scares Mitch into ending the relationship.

The night that Stella gives birth to their son, Stanley goes out and gets drunk in celebration, and finds a similarly drunk Blanche, lost in fantasies of better times, when he returns home. He makes a crude, drunken pass at her, which she rebuffs, disgusted. Enraged, Stanley overpowers and rapes her. This final assault on what she had left of her dignity sends Blanche over the edge into a nervous breakdown. Weeks later, Stella has Blanche committed to a mental institution at Stanley's insistence.

In Williams' original ending to A Streetcar Named Desire, Stella accepts Stanley's rape of Blanche as part of his nature, and stays with him. The original film adaptation, however, was subject to Hollywood Production Code regulations in which characters who had committed crimes needed to be seen to have been punished by the movie's end. Subsequently, an alternative ending was employed wherein Stella leaves Stanley forever.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Stanley Kowalski" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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