Stanley as a Villain in Tennessee Williams' Play 'A Streetcar Named Desire'

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Scene 3 establishes Stanley as a villain as it shows his complete aggression and anger when people do things that he doesn't agree with. During scene 3 we see that all of the men in the play are participating in a poker game, where Stanley seems to get drunk and becomes more aggressive towards Stella and Blanche.

Firstly, in the beginning of the scene Blanche enters the apartment and says, “Please don't get up” where Stanley responds with, “Nobody’s going to get up so don’t be worried”. This tells us that Stanley has become irritated by Blanche, as he didn’t have to put her down so harshly and could have told her in a more polite manner. This is one of the key moments in the play which leads to what happens at the end of the scene where Stanley eventually hits Stella, as it shows how aggravated Stanley is and how easily it is to get him to this angry state. It also shows that he is hostile and impatient especially when he thinks that Blanche is taking over his territory. This presents him as a villain because it shows us that he has an impatient, dominant and assertive nature.

Following this there are stage directions that mention how Stanley reacts to certain actions, as it shows that he gives a loud whack of his hand on her thigh, which shows either his sexual passion towards her. But could also display his aggressive and cruel way of proving to everyone that Stella is his, especially to Blanche. This shows his hostility and villainous nature as it shows to us that he sees Stella as his property and Blanche’s sudden arrival makes him feel intimidated as she questions and criticizes everything that Stanley does which infuriates him and also makes him think that his property is under threat, which was an important thing for men during the time, which shows that he is intimidated of Blanche’s dominant nature and that throughout the play he is trying to protect his territory from outsiders.

Another way Williams presents this is through the language that Stanley uses to refer to his wife and her sister as he says, “You hens cut out that conversation in there”. The word ‘hens’ could have been chosen by Williams as he has used animal imagery to describe Stanley previously in calling him the rooster. This tells us that he knows that he has a superior status over Blanche and Stella so it gives the right to treat them badly and doesn’t think he’ll receive any backlash from them as they’re intimidated. However, Stella does talk back to him which is unusual for her due to her submissive nature, and she says firmly, “You can’t hear us”, to which he replies, “Well you can hear me and I say hush up!”. This presents him as the villain as it shows how little he respects them and how he struggles with being talked back to, especially in front of his friends. However, the word ‘hush’ could represent a softness that he feels about his wife as he could have easily told her to ‘shut up’ or just ‘be quiet’, which tells us that he may be tough and brutish but he does love his wife.

Further into the chapter his aggressive nature is presented again when Blanche turns on the radio while talking to Mitch, and Stanley stalks fiercely, snatches it off the table and tosses the instrument out of the window. This is the first form of aggressive, physical behavior which he presents in the novel, which in this moment could be interpreted into him marking his territory, as it shows him asking them to turn it off, to him eventually going out of his way to throw it out of the window. This shows his villainous behavior as it tells us that he is forceful and assertive, which unfortunately for Stella, she is forced to put up with it whenever he has a drink, and also that he has no control over his brutish forces which brings him trouble throughout the novel.

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Another way Tennessee Williams portrays Stanley as the villain is during the next chapter when Stella is telling him that he is an ‘animal creature’ and demands the other men to go home. This then frustrates Stanley and results with the stage direction of Stanley charges after Stella. This shows that he is extremely angry and ruthless, especially in the scenes where he is drinking, and doesn’t hesitate to do anything bad to Stella in front of his friends as he knows that they won’t tell him to stop and will be unable to stop him. The word ‘charges’ suggests that he is pouncing at her, which could be a word which describes his animalistic nature. This is important as throughout the play Stanley is described with words like this which tells us that he has and will always be like this.

This is extremely important in proving he is the antagonist of the play as it shows us that he doesn’t care what other people will do to stop him because he is seen as a strong, dominant man in a world where women's feelings weren’t taken into account, which he takes advantage of.

Finally, Stanley snaps and it results in him hitting Stella, there is a sound of a blow, Stella cries out. This shows that Stanley is out of control when he is fixed on a certain thing and that it is hard to get him out of it. After this we see that the men are holding him back, Stanley is forced, prisoned by the two men, into the bedroom. He nearly throws them off. They speak quietly and lovingly to him. By showing him being pinned down by two other men and nearly breaking their grip shows that he is extremely strong and tough which could suggest that Stella was put into a lot of pain. Another way of looking at it is that it is like they are taming a wild animal, due to his aggressive nature and territorial behavior. It also shows that he is ruthless as he wouldn’t just give in to them without putting up a fight, which could suggest to us that his stubbornness is a reason for his downfall. However, the fact that they spoke ‘quietly and lovingly’ could suggest that they don’t see the bad in what happened and they are only pinning him down so he doesn’t lash out at them as well, which shows us that they are also intimidated by Stanley as they don’t want to get in a fight with him.

However, following this we see the sympathetic and caring aspects of his personality where he shows that both Stanley and Stella are dependent on each other, not only for their sexual desires, but also because they genuinely love each other, he breaks into sobs: “‘Steel-ahhhh!”…“I want my baby down here”. This shows us his sensitive side which is only revealed when he is at risk of losing his wife and child. This could be used to show that he could be the villain of the novel, but he is also passionate and loving to his wife, while sober, and is only really like this because Blanche had got into his head, leaving him to believe that he was losing Stella.

In conclusion, Stanley on the whole is portrayed as the main villain of the play, despite the other characters having their own faults and flaws. However, he is the strongest and most dominant character, so it is hard to not see him as the villain. He is an aggressive, easily angered and forceful character who is shown throughout to be a distrustful and controlling character who acts on passion and his own desires, which makes him highly jealous when he thinks that Blanche’s sole purpose to visit Stella was to take her away from him.

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Stanley as a Villain in Tennessee Williams’ Play ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
“Stanley as a Villain in Tennessee Williams’ Play ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
Stanley as a Villain in Tennessee Williams’ Play ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Apr. 2024].
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