GibbonsEnglish 12November 19th, 2017Psychoanalytic Critique In Tennessee Williams’s play, A Streetcar Named Desire he creates a very complex psychoanalytic plot. Freud’s most enduring and important idea was that the human psyche (personality) has more than one aspect. Freud saw the psyche structured into three parts the id, ego and superego, all developing at different stages in our lives. These are systems, not parts of the brain, or in any way physical. The three main characters in the play can each be compared with one of the three parts of the human mind. Stanley’s character corresponds with the id, Stella’s character can be compared to the ego, and Blanche’s character would represent the superego.
Looking at the play through this lens one can see Williams’s reflection of himself throughout his work with an alcoholic, abusive father of his own, a strict demanding mother, and a schizophrenic sister. Knowing this A Streetcar Named Desire brings on new bigger meanings of the inner conflict within its author (Silvio). Throughout the plot Stanley Kowalski constantly confirms his representation of the id. The id accounts for all the biological and instinctive parts of our personality, such as, sex and death. It also responds to the pleasure principle which is that every wish should be immediately satisfied regardless of the consequence. Very early in the play Williams’s paints a picture of him as aggressive, dominant, and very sexual masculine figure.
The only way of showing his wife that he loves her is through sexually pleasing her, the reader sees this in a conversation between Stella and Blanche when Stella states “there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark—that sort of make everything else seem—unimportant” justifying and excusing his abusive actions (103). He is also described “Since earliest manhood the center of Stanley’s life has been pleasure with women…
He sizes women up at a glance, with sexual classifications, rude images flashing into his mind and determining the way he smiles at them,” (205). Stanley also does many things without thinking and the reader gets a sense of this after reading Blanche’s monologue. He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! There’s even something–sub-human–something not quite to the stage of humanity yet! Yes, something–ape-like about him, like one of those pictures I’ve seen in–anthropological studies! Thousands and thousands of years have passed him right by, and there he is–Stanley Kowalski–survivor of the stone age! Bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle! And you–you here–waiting for him! Maybe he’ll strike you or maybe grunt and kiss you! (71)The author’s word choice of “sub-human”in this passage is very significant because it is a direct reference to Stanley acting subconsciously.
Also, the repetitive comparison of him to an animal or ape is the perfect image not the id as it is the instinctive part of your psyche. The way this passage leaves the reader is very powerful saying that “maybe he’ll strike you” is a good example of Stanley’s aggressive nature, and when Blanche says “or maybe grunt and kiss you” is a very good example of his sexual nature. Stella Kowalski’s character, parallels to Stanley’s and represents the ego in the play.
herself from her hometown and start a life in this vigorous world made by Stanley. she stands for the ego who wants to create a balance between desires and ideas, between body and soul, heart and mind to have a normal life. Blanche is the only one who wants to warn her of what she does.
Loving Blanche, she also dislikes her and at the same time fears her. She hopes Blanche marry Mitch for her sister’s sake and for herself too. Actually she wants to get rid of Blanche.Stella has rejected the things she belonged to – She rejected the tradition but didn’t forget it and Blanche is the symbol of those traditions. She reminds Stella of the needs for tenderness and gentility and other aspects of life which have no trace in her life with Stanley, but she always insists on not paying attention to them and hardly wants to convince them both, Stanley and Blanche, to be good together.
As she mentions in different parts while talking to Stanley about Blanche, shows this balance making condition. “When she comes in be sure to say something nice about her appearance.”(30).
At the end of the play she is completely aware of the brutal thing her husband did with Blanche, but she prefers her own sleep though deceiving herself. She wants to stay in this world “I don’t know if I did the right thing”. “I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley,”(165).
Sometimes Stella become aware of what is around her but her reactions are short and her anger always removed by Stanley’s unreal regressions. The balance, and grey zone between these two characters is Blanche’s as she can be attributed to the superego. It is evident that she would be the middle ground between the id and ego because of her sense of immense guilt. The superego controls the id’s impulses and persuades the ego into having moralistic goals. Like the superego Blanche has internalized a sense of morality based on social standards and feels guilty and invalidated when she falls short of these standards. Her preoccupation of her outward appearance and her need for male validation emphasizes the importance she places on how she is viewed in society. When she says “You haven’t said a word about my appearance” the reader sees her desperate acts for male validation (122).
Her extreme guilt is also clear when she hides in the darkness to try and cover up that she has aged and is no longer a young woman. The darkness that she tries to cover up her face with also compares to the darkness she is trying to cover up her lies with. Blanche’s character is the center point in illustrating the other character’s inner struggle because in some way she brings out their flaws and inner weaknesses. Just as the id, ego and superego work together to keep individuals functioning human beings, so does Stanley, Stella and Blanche. The characters of the play ultimately fail ironically, one could argue that Williams’s psyche eventually failed him in a similar way. Works CitedSilvio, J R. “A Streetcar Named Desire–Psychoanalytic Perspectives.
” The Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12064030.
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. Secker and Warburg, 1957.