Scene 3: how does Williams represent the relationship of Stanley and Stella?

Scene 3 contains one of Tennessee Williams’ most famous scenes where we see Stanley and Stella have a terrible row, resulting in Stella being hit.

Williams presents Stanley and Stella’s relationship as being complex. You need to think about how and why he does this. In order to think about Williams’ representation of their relationship, answer these questions in your groups.

What does Williams present as the causes of the row they have?

How is the conflict between Stanley and Stella provoked by Blanche’s presence?

How do Blanche and Mitch get to know each other in this scene? How does their burgeoning relationship contrast with Stella and Stanley’s one?

How and why does Stella return back to Stanley? What is Williams showing about their relationship here?

How do the stage directions represent their relationship?

What language is employed by the couple: what nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs do they commonly use? How do their registers differ?

Please respond for homework.

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20 thoughts on “Scene 3: how does Williams represent the relationship of Stanley and Stella?

  1. Isobel

    Group: Isobel, Annie & Alex

    Q1. What does Williams present as the causes of the row they have?
    There are various causes of the row between Stella and Stanley which eventually leads to Stanley having an outburst of violence towards Stella and hits her viciously. This argument is mostly fuelled by the alcohol intake of Stanley; throughout his poker night he has had a lot of alcohol and is now drunk and incapable of controlling himself and particularly his anger. The alcohol causes him to lash out and hit Stella. Blanche and Stella are heard bickering upstairs which may cause Stanley to become frustrated and want it to stop and the only way he sees to end the bickering in his drunken state is through violence. Blanche and Stella aren’t supposed to be at home during the poker night and then invading into the game of poker may frustrate Stanley and the other men also and is therefore another cause of the row. After previous sexual tension between Stanley and Blanche the final cause may be Stanley’s drunken attempt to show Blanche that he is in control of his relationship and perhaps to show off his masculinity in the only way he sees to do so – violence.

    Q2. How is the conflict between Stanley and Stella provoked by Blanche’s presence?
    The conflict between Stanley and Stella is provoked by Blanche’s presence perhaps as she flirts with the other men at the poker night, in particular Mitch. This may cause slight jealousy for Stanley which causes the argument between Stanley and Stella and the outburst of violence may be a desperate or unsuccessful attempt to impress Blanche by showing her that he has the power in the relationship, that he wears the trousers and could quite simply end the marriage. Despite Stella being pregnant with his child, Stanley is not afraid to put the welfare of both his wife and their unborn child in an attempt to gain back the attention of his sister-in-law, Blanche. The violence also shows masculinity which Stanley may be hoping would impress Blanche also.

    Reply
    1. talesbehindtheclassroomdoor Post author

      Yes, you’ve shown a good understanding of the text here. I think your comment about the violence is perceptive; it could well be a warning to Blanche. Now let’s think more carefully on the author’s techniques and purposes.

      Reply
  2. Chloe

    Group: Chloe, Annabelle, Tom and Abigail
    Chloe:
    3. How do Blanche and Mitch get to know each other in this scene? How does their burgeoning relationship contrast with Stella and Stanley’s?
    When Blanche first makes eye contact with Mitch, she all of a sudden turns quite posh. She says ‘’good evening’’, and he looks at her “awkwardly”, which shows he is surprised at how posh she is. It is almost as if Blanche is trying to pass off as Stella because as well as acting better-off, she treats him as if he is her husband – “Will you please?”. Blanche is already asking him to do things for her, therefore treating Mitch as he is already married to her and has to follow her commands. Two questions she asks Stella, along with many others, when she first meets Mitch are “is he married” and “what does he do”. Blanche is getting to know Mitch through Stella, because she never really asks him these questions personally. Therefore, this shows that she may only be interested in his money or having a ‘husband’ figure just like Stella, not who he really is as a person. There is a huge contrast between Stella and Stanley’s relationship and Blanche and Mitch’s. Blanche isn’t in love with Mitch purely due to the fact they have only just met, as well as only liking him for his wealth or looks. However, Stanley and Stella seem to be in love, no matter what the occasion and so far their love deems to be true.
    4. How and why does Stella return back to Stanley? What is William’s showing about their relationship here?
    Stella and Stanley’s relationship seems to be quite rocky in the first couple of scenes in the play; however as an audience we see an undertone of their true love towards each other through stage directions. Also, their contrast with Blanche and Mitch’s relationship makes their love seem even bigger for each other. However, after Stanley hits Stella she seems quite shocked as it has never happened before “I want to go away!”. This brings out her fear and highlights the fact she is so scared, so this must have never happened before. Also, Stella knew Stanley had a bit too much to drink so this was probably what persuaded her to forgive him. When they meet at the stairs, they come closer together forcing Stella to see Stanley’s sadness and regret – “Her eyes go blind with tenderness”, shows that she knows Stanley is sorry and will therefore forgive him. This shows their relationship is strong, as Stella can tell when Stanley is sorry and she believes he will never do anything like this again.

    Reply
    1. talesbehindtheclassroomdoor Post author

      I’m not sure she’s treated Mitch as if she was married to him, but certainly attempting to take “ownership” of him in a way. Yes, I feel you’ve shown an understanding of Stanley and Stella here, but let’s think more about the complexities of their relationship. We also need to focus much more on Williams’ possible purposes and his techniques.

      Reply
  3. Ross

    What does Williams present as the causes of the row they have?
    One of the causes of the row is Stanley’s frustration about how the game of poker he is playing has gone. He tells Mitch to ‘shut up’ showing that he is not in a good mood and that he may become violent at any moment. As he is getting angry at his friends, it shows that he would have been prepared to use violence against anyone, even Stella. All of the men have also been drinking alcohol, meaning that they are not completely in control of their action. This also raises the levels of anger, meaning that Stanley is more likely to become violent. In the men’s opinion, the poker night is for them only and nobody else should be there while they are playing. The intrusion may have upset Stanley in particular, causing him to lash out at Stella. Stella also says ‘couldn’t you call it quits,’ meaning that she has not only intruded but is also trying to tell the men what to do. Stanley sees this challenge to his authority, possibly pushing him over the edge and causing him to hit Stella.

    How is the conflict between Stanley and Stella provoked by Blanche’s presence?
    Blanche asks the men ‘can I kibitz?’ As Stanley had already stated that women were not allowed to play their game, this would have annoyed him and caused him to lash out at Stella. He may have hit Stella to give a warning to Blanche that he is not to be challenged. Blanche’s presence may have caused Stanley to go on the defensive and assert his authority. He has already made it clear that he does not trust Blanche and wants to send her a warning that she should not get involved in his relationship with Stella. Also Blanche originally turns the radio on, frustrating Stanley who turns it off. Stella then turns the radio on, beginning the sequence of events that leads to Stanley hitting her. Blanche may have done this deliberately to get a reaction out of Stanley, but she ended up playing a part in her sister getting hit.

    Reply
    1. Ross

      How do Blanche and Mitch get to know each other in this scene? How does their burgeoning relationship contrast with Stella and Stanley’s?
      When Blanche first sees Mitch, she remarks ‘Oh – good evening’ while ‘he stares at her.’ Their first gestures show that they are awkward around each other. It could also suggest that Mitch instantly wants to know more about her. After Mitch goes, Blanche remarks he seems ‘superior to the others,’ showing that she is instantly impressed with him, that he can have authority over Stanley’s friends. Asking Stella questions like ‘what does he do,’ shows Blanche wants to get to know him or have an idea of his background, but perhaps feels she needs to know more about his character before she gets to know him. She wants to know more about Mitch than he does about her, possibly to give her superiority over him. Stella and Stanley are deeply in love and have been for a long time. As Blanche and Mitch have only just met, their relationship is nowhere near as deep as Stanley and Stella’s. Stanley and Stella are willing to forgive each other for mistakes they have made whereas Blanche and Mitch are trying to get to know each other more and perhaps lack the levels of trust that Stella and Stanley have.
      How and why does Stella return back to Stanley? What is William’s showing about their relationship here?
      Although Stella and Stanley have conflicted in the play, culminating in Stanley hitting Stella, we see that they both truly love each other after they rejoice at the end of the scene. The surprise of Blanche that they have done this shows that even she cant believe Stella has gone back to him, showing that they truly love each other. Although Stella’s initial reaction is one of shock, saying ‘I want to go away’ she realises that she cares for Stanley too much to want to leave him. She cannot bear to think about life without Stanley and so will continue to love him no matter what he does. Stanley ‘falls to his knees’ when Stella comes down the stairs and in that moment she perhaps knows he is sorry for what he has done and is willing to forgive him. Williams leaves the reader wondering how far Stanley can push the boundaries and if Stella would ever leave him, no matter what he does.
      How do the stage directions represent their relationship?
      The stage directions in Scene 3 show that Stanley is dominating force in the relationship, albeit a violent one. He ‘charges after Stella’ before ‘there is the sound of a blow.’ Stanley wants to be the dominant force in the relationship and as Stella is disobeying him, he has to resort to violence. These stage directions show how there are problems in their relationship and how Stanley struggles to deal with problems he is having. As his friends are also there, he could be warning them not to cross him; if he is prepared to hit his wife he is prepared to do it to them. After their argument Stella’s ‘eyes go soft with tenderness.’ It shows she is willing to forgive and perhaps loves Stanley too much to ever want to leave him. It also reinforces the idea that Stanley is the dominant force of the relationship as she depends on him so much that she will never want to leave him. As Stanley ‘falls to his knees’ it shows he is truly sorry for his actions and cares for Stella, in stark contrast to the violent image of him depicted by the earlier stage directions. The stage directions give and insight into their topsy-turvy relationship and that they depend on each other too much for incidents like this to break them apart.
      What language is employed by the couple: what nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs do they commonly use? How do their registers differ?
      In scene 3, Stanley is the commanding prescience in the room. He tells Mitch to ‘shut up’ and when the radio comes on he yells ‘turn it off.’ These commands mean he forces his will on other people and tells them what he wants them to do; he then expects them to obey. He does this throughout the scene, giving the impression that everyone is fearful of him. This is in contrast to Stella who asks the men to ‘please go home.’ She has a more polite tone and is not as forceful as Stanley. It also shows she does not have the authority which Stanley has as she has to ask whereas Stanley tells people what to do. He does not waste time with niceties and this could show how different their backgrounds are. When Mitch mentions his sick mother Stanley remarks ‘for God’s sake, go home, then!’ In contrast Stella asks Mitch ‘how is your mother?’ This shows that Stella is interested in people and sympathetic to their cause, whereas Stanley perhaps only cares about himself and does not care about other people’s circumstances. The use of blasphemy also emphasizes how unsympathetic he is, even though it is his friend. Stella, on the other hand, although not being close to Mitch wants to know how he is. This reflects their differing personalities.

      Reply
  4. talesbehindtheclassroomdoor Post author

    This answer is strongest when you provide textual evidence to back up the points you make. To now improve the quality of your analysis you need to consider wider issues connected with Williams’ possible purposes and techniques. For example, why do you think did Williams set this scene during a “poker night”? How does he “ratchet” up the tension during the scene? Is he trying to say something about masculinity here? Stanley’s masculinity is threatened, isn’t it? Why? How?

    Reply
  5. Danielle

    How do the stage directions represent their relationship?

    The stage directions in Scene 3 firstly represent their relationship to be one where the man has more power and authority than the woman, as we see it says ‘Stanley whacks her on the bottom’. This suggests that he doesn’t necessarily have a great deal of respect for her and that he sexualizes her or sees her as an object. The fact that he orders her to turn off the radio also tells us that she is expected to do as he says in the relationship. This is also implied by the time period that the play is set in, a time where women have less respect from men. Also, we see that the relationship is represented to be a violent one when it says ‘Stanley charges after Stella’ and he ‘throws her off’ of him and we hear the sound of him beating her. The fact that he hits her shows his aggressive and violent nature and reveals to us that there are clearly problems within the relationship. Also, we see that there relationship is represented to be complex and to have a mixture of different feelings, as after their initial argument the stage directions show that they ‘rush together with animal moans’ and that he falls to his knees with his face on her stomach before carrying her into the flat. These stage descriptions show tender actions from Stanley who was previously so violent and aggressive, which shows that his personality, and therefore their relationship, has two very different sides.

    What language is employed by the couple: what nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs do they commonly use? How do their registers differ?

    During this scene, we see that Stanley commonly uses imperatives in his speech, such as saying ‘Turn it off!’, ‘Sit down!’ and ‘Let the rut go of me!’. This shows that his manner is demanding, straightforward and to the point; he doesn’t seem to wait time with pleasantries and just says what he thinks. Also, I noticed in this scene that he refers to women and Stella as ‘hens’, ‘baby’, ‘baby doll’ and ‘my girl.’ These phrases show Stanley’s opinion towards women and probably the general status of men and women in the time. What I also found interesting is that Stella only refers to Stanley by his name, which is more respectful that the names he calls her. Also, we see that Stanley uses his language to be more aggressive, as he calls his friends ‘sons of bitches’ when he is angry. Also, we see that Stella’s language is less assertive, as she often uses questions. For example, she says ‘Couldn’t you call it quits after one more hand?’ to Stanley. The fact that she asks him rather than tells him what to do suggests firstly that her personality is more considerate than Stanley’s, but also that she knows she has to be polite and respectful of Stanley as he is a man and also as she knows of his violent nature. We also see how Stella is less aggressive in her language than Stanley as she says to the other men ‘please go home!’ The fact that she says ‘please’ again shows that she is not as blunt and harsh with her words as Stanley is.

    Reply
  6. Annie Brett

    Group: Annie, Alex and Isobel
    Q 3&4
    Blanche and Mitch get to know each other in this scene due to Stanley’s poker night and also Stella and Stanley’s fight. Mitch comes cross as a sensitive caring man due to his comments about not wanting to leave his mother aone because she is ill. When Blanche begins to talk to him she can see this sensitive side of Mitch and almost compares it to Stanely. Once the fight is over Mitch offers Blanche a cigarette outside and is calm about the situation, trying to settle Blanche’s emotions about the occurence. This suggests that what just happened between Stanley and Stella is a normal occurence as Mitch is not fussed about it, however still tries to console Blanche showing that he care of her. Their relationship is fresh and they seem to have a deep interst for one another asking about each others pasts, whereas Stanley and Stella are just getting by in thir situation with a baby on the way and seem to disagree on their morals and way they wish to live their life. I think this could potentially be dangerous due to the fact that they may disagree on the way to bring up their child and also the way in which they treat their family members.
    Stella goes back to Stanley secretively as she knows that Blanche and Eunice think has just happened to her is wrong, howvever Stella loves Stanley and although he does not always treat her right she always goes back to him like this sort of thing happens all of the time. Willians shows that their relationship is slightly twisted and under pressure howveer they both love each other greatlyand can not bare to be without each other no matter what happens between temhIn those days women were downgraded by men and it was not shunned upon for a man to hit his wife like it is now. Stella nows that she would not be able t survive without Stanley and feels like she just has to go on with it otherwise she may be left alone with her and Stanley’s baby.

    Reply
    1. talesbehindtheclassroomdoor Post author

      I think you are showing real perception here. I think this point is strong: “Stella goes back to Stanley secretively as she knows that Blanche and Eunice think has just happened to her is wrong, howvever Stella loves Stanley and although he does not always treat her right she always goes back to him like this sort of thing happens all of the time.” Now you need to think more about Williams’ purposes and provide quotation/evidence to back up your points, as well as writing in a more academic style.

      Reply
  7. Becky Christmas

    How and why does Stella return back to Stanley? What is Williams showing about their relationship here?
    In scene three, Stella and Stanley have a fight resulting in Stanley hitting Stella. Expectedly, Stella runs away and stays with Eunice. However, after Stanley screams and pleads her to return she does with forgiveness. They embrace again with “low, animal moans.” This implies the image of two animals moaning in pain which suggests that the two characters are in pain from the event. As well as this, Stella’s “eyes go blind with tenderness” which emphases that she can not stay mad at Stanley. This exaggerates that their relationship is very passionate and that Stanley is the person in control of the situation. This is reinforced by Stanley “snatching the screen door open” which suggests that he is desperate to be re embraced with his wife.

    How do the stage directions represent their relationship?
    In scene three, stage directions are important to portray Stella and Stanley’s relationship as their relationship is one where the man is more powerful than the woman. At the time this would not have been an unusual thing compared to now where this would be seen as unacceptable. Stella being overpowered is shown through the stage directions of when Stanley “gives a loud whack of his hand on her thigh.” This implies that Stanley sees Stella as a sexual object and not as a wife. This also exaggerates that their relationship is one where the man has more power over the wife. As well as this, after having the argument and hitting Stella, Stanley can quickly get her back as he “lifts her off her feet and bears her into the dark flat.” This also implies that their relationship is very passionate but also that Stanley has more power as even after he hit Stella, she returns to him lovingly.

    Reply
    1. talesbehindtheclassroomdoor Post author

      I really like the ways in which you have used quotation here and the ways in which you are beginning to analyse Williams’ techniques and purposes. Now think more carefully about the ways in which Williams is trying to show how Stella and Stanley’s relationship is complex.

      Reply
  8. Annabelle Jupp

    Group: Chloe, Annabelle, Tom and Abigail

    How is the conflict between Stanley and Stella provoked by Blanche’s presence?
    Blanche creates unintentional distraction when she turns on the radio, Stanley says “Turn it off” which throws Blanch off guard as she is used to being in charge, authoritative and doing what she pleases. Stanley is constantly getting further and further aggravated by Blanche, however Stella loves and cares for both Stanley and Blanche and wants to protect them and please them both. Stanley on the other hand simply wants Stella all for himself and doesn’t care for Blanche interrupting their normal lifestyle. This means that all his anger has been contained and he wants Stella to see that Blanche is lying to her about something and taking her kind hospitality for granted.

    How do Blanche and Mitch get to know each other in this scene? How does their burgeoning relationship contrast with Stella and Stanley’s one?
    Blanche wants to be like Stella which is shown by her constantly flirting with Stanley. However, once Blanche sees Mitch come out of the bathroom, she immediately takes interest in him. “Is he married?” shows she already wants him as hers and is thinking about a long term committed relationship with him. Blanche wants to be married like Stella, and once she meets Mitch she makes it her plan to make him her husband. She also comments on his temperament, occupation, status within friendship and status within society.

    Reply
    1. talesbehindtheclassroomdoor Post author

      You have begun to make some good points here, I like the way you have spotted how Blanche homes in on Mitch. Now consider in more depth Williams’ techniques and how he creates drama out of the contrasts between Blanche/Mitch & Stella/Stanley.

      Reply
  9. Georgia

    One thing I find particularly interesting in this scene is that Williams opens up the scene describing bright colours. Williams has written in the stage directions that all men are wearing colourful shirts, ‘a red-and-white check’, ‘purple’ and a ‘light green’. This indicates its a weekend and all men should feel relaxed and enjoy their night of poker however the night over all is far from a relaxed enjoyable. I think Williams has done this to show a contrast in the appearance of what the scene could be as to how it ends up; dull, daunting and quite shocking.
    We know at the start of this scene that Stanley is in a peculiar mood. Williams describes his movements as being quite fast, for example ‘lurches up and tosses some watermelon rinds to the floor’ The word ‘tosses’ is a fast yet careless action which indicates how he is throughout the ret of the scene. Again in the stage directions Williams uses abrupt actions to describe his movements – ‘scrapes a chair’, ‘loud whack’. Williams uses these stage directions to show the audience that Stanley is agitated and possibly angry. Stanley gives a ‘loud whack’ on his wife’s thigh, I think this is disrespectful to do in front of guests and you can tell by Stella’s reaction that she may feel a bit embarrassed. She replies back to him ‘Sharply’ this may also indicate that Stella has picked up on Stanley’s mood and the fact she replies sharply may be a hint from her to him to stop what he is playing at.
    When both Blanche and Stella are talking in the other room to Stanley and his Friends, Stanley tells both girls to ‘Hush up’ and to ‘cut out their conversation’. Stella answers back explaining that it is her house. Blanche then intervenes saying ‘not to start a row’. I believe this line causes the row, as this is the start of what ends up being a bigger row and it is all over the noise. I feel that Blanche ‘s character deep down is annoying both Stella and Stanley, especially Stanley as he is more open about it to the point where he is rude and does not respect the guest that is currently staying with them – blanche. Blanch equally is an annoying guest and is the cause of a lot of Stanley’s actions particularly in this scene. When Blanche puts the radio on this riles Stanley he ‘jumps up’ and turns it off. Again Williams uses language to describe Stanley’s reaction; ‘jumps’ – without them it would limit our knowledge for Stanley’s character because they show how powerful and how easily he gets aggravated. What Stanley does here for-shadows what happen s later on in the scene where things get more serious.
    Blanche and Mitch (one of Stanley’s friends) seem to get along very well in this scene. Although I get the impression that Blanche is acting to get the sympathy and attention she craves. Blanche speaks ‘softly’ to Mitch with ‘a tone of deep sympathy’. This shows a slight contrast to her normal behaviour she is reacting they way she likes people to react to her. Yet Blanche will still fish for compliments.

    Reply
  10. Abbie

    Group: Annabelle, Tom, Chloe and Abbie

    How do the stage directions represent their relationship?
    In scene three Williams presents Stanley and stella’s relationship as having many levels.
    Although they are from completely different backgrounds williams shows the audience that sacrifice (mainly on Stella’s part) which may have driven her and her sister further apart makes the relationship work. This is emphasized when Williams presents Mitch as being surprised at Blanche’s maiden name ‘Dubois’ ,”You are Stella’s sister ,are you not?”. Also in this scene Williams shows that Stanley is scene as the authoritative figure not only in his relationship with Stella ,but also within his friendships with Mitch, Steve and Pablo. When playing poker Stanley is constantly trying to assert his authority over Stella and as an example towards his friends he publicly displays his authority by giving “a loud whack of his hand on her thigh” as before this incident Blanche had been encouraging Stella to ignore Stanley and even manages to encourage his friends to agree with her ,which clearly Stanley isn’t used to. The stage directions also give clues towards the fact that Stanley has lost his temper (and is losing his temper as well at this time) “He lurches up and tosses some watermelon rinds to the floor” which adds emphasis to Stella’s trusting and forgiving nature in general and towards Stanley in particular so when events occur later on in the book and Stella chooses to trust Stanley over Blanche this comes as no surprise to the audience.

    What language is employed by the couple: what nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs do they commonly use? How do their registers differ?
    Stanley tends to use generalizations when talking to Stella and Blanche ,”why don’t you women…” whilst also being described as “whack”-ing his wife, which could be William’s way of emphasizing the way that women were viewed at this time (un-equal rights for men and women) and how Stanley is seen as the authoritative figure despite Stella’s upper class up-bringing. Stanley also uses a large amount of imperatives within his speech as a way of asserting authority upon his friends and family. It seems that Williams uses these imperatives to emphasize Stanley’s possible anger issues towards Blanche and the frustration that he feels towards her due to her encouraging Stella to dis-obey him and purposefully “turning up” the radio and “standing in…the light between the portieres” to distract him and cause him “jerk roughly at the curtains to close them” due to his building anger as Blanche (in his eyes) could be seen to be increasing and causing conflict between him and Stella which then leads to “the sound of a blow…and there is grappling and cursing”.

    Reply
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