Plays rely on the exposition to portray its characters in their actual forms, introducing their characteristics and what makes them stand out. The exposition also allows the play to formulate a pathway for it to follow, adding momentary conflicts or hinting at something that would contribute to the play’s rising action. Williams follow the conventional role of the exposition to sculpt his characters, highlighting their traits and presenting the attributes that would follow to build up the play’s climaxing point.
Scene 1 specifically introduces us to the characters of Blanche and Stella, two sisters living in completely different worlds. Even though the characters of Stanley, Stella’s husband isn’t made significant in the first Scene, we can still identify the role of Stanley who embodies the male superiority. He is presented as the provider which signifies how his character is full of power and authority. He ‘bellows’ to Stella, similar to how a lion bellows, indicating the animalistic behavior that Stanley possess. He throws the meat to Stella indicating how improper his character is where he’s just doing whatever he wants, ignoring the gentleman code. He embodies the ‘American Dream’ which is to be successful in terms of strength and relationships. He’s formerly been in the Army which also adds to the element of power and authority to his character. On the other hand, we see Stella as the stereotypical wife who adheres to everything and is completely loyal, presenting femininity in which it is regarded as serving to the male personas and accepting male domination. She has almost no friends besides Eunice, where most of the time she is always in the company of Stanley’s friends. She wants to hang out with Stanley in his bowling games and be with him all the time.
Blanche is a foil to the environment that she comes to. In a society that has accepted the black community where the story is set in the period of post-abolishment of slavery, Blanche is the last living person of the previous culture. She expects society to treat women as elegantly as it did before and appears in her party dress in a sort of ghetto community, which automatically assigns her as an outsider. Blanche’s behavior is particularly strange as she presents fits of nervousness and has sudden outbursts. In her first entrance the audience would have characterized her nervousness as the fault of travelling or even entering a place that is completely new to her, where her first line presents confusion over where Elysian Fields is. However, we come to know this to be more the reason for her having lost everything she owned, that is Belle Reve. Blanche’s loss of Belle Reve, a mansion that her family owned also has a double meaning where ‘Belle Reve’ translated from French means ‘Beautiful Dream’. Williams explains how Blanche at a very young age lost her husband to suicide and then faces a neurosis where she has the song of the night her husband, Allan, killed himself played repeatedly inside her head for which she treats her mental illness with the consumption of alcohol. Since Blanche’s loss of Allan and the love that she had for him which Stella later explains that she basically ‘worshipped the ground that he walked on’, she lost her ‘Belle Reve’ and from then on she’s been trying to replace it with something because she had this beautiful dream that she couldn’t let go of and its loss made her want it back, in some way or other, contributing to her delusional and paranoia-infused character. On the other hand, Stella does not show that much interest in the loss of ‘Belle Reve’ because she herself that given up on it, she left it behind to live in the present and to accept reality instead of her dream. Stanley shows a bit of interest in ‘Belle Reve’ because he never truly had a dream which limited his capacity to empathies with Blanche.
In Scene 2, the character of Stanley and Blanche are brought to light much more. Stanley has a prominent role to play in this Scene where he overturns Blanche’s trunk and even fights with Stella who refuses to allow him to speak indecently with Blanche who had fainted in the scene before. Despite Blanche’s condition, Stanley persists to harass Blanche and Stella lets him. This does hint at Stella’s docility where she does put up a fight with him, she asserts her own opinion and even tries to impose authority but in the time of male domination where males are superior, Stella has to abide by him at a certain point where her opinions would be cast as irrelevant. Even though Blanche is his sister-in-law, Stanley has no whatsoever concern at behaving decently with her, again adding to his lack of gentlemanliness. He even has no problem to seize her personal possessions despite Blanche’s protests. However, Blanche being the classic example of the pre-1800 America behaves coyly with him, as opposed to Stella’s direct assertion. Blanche gives abstract answers such as when Stanley asks why she had to burn the letters to which she told him that some things had a more ‘intimate nature’, adding to her play of ‘lead-them-on’ where she leaves certain information out just to play with their mind. Stanley’s power is also asserted when he tries to prove himself as literate by knowing what the ‘Napoleonic code’ meant as well as to prove himself well-acquainted with everyone, ‘I got an acquaintance who deals in this sort of merchandise. I’ll have him to appraise it.’ ‘I have an acquaintance that works in a jewellery store.’ ‘I have a lawyer acquaintance look into these.’ This adds to the factor of the men being the socialite in their community where he knows everyone whilst Stella does not know anyone besides Stanley’s friends, Eunice and Blanche. However, Blanche being much more literate than Stanley does provoke a sense of threat against his power within him where Blanche used to teach English which Stanley admits he was never a ‘very good English student’. Blanche also knows who ‘Ambler & Ambler’ is which Stanley doesn’t. To refute against this, Stanley tells Blanche that Stella will be having a baby which she specifically asked Stanley not to do.
In the first two scenes, Williams outlines the basic attributes to his character, presenting Stanley in his all animalistic and authorial position with Stella as a very neutral wife who does oppose against his husband but soon gives in to him. Blanche remains as a foil to both these characters as she comes from a completely different culture. Stanley’s inquisitive and assertive behavior does produce the element of suspense to which audience can tell that he will cause dire situations later in the play, of which Blanche will be an obvious victim. Williams’ characters perfume with active characteristics where the characters of Blanche and Stanley, the protagonist and antagonist, specifically make powerful impacts within the audience and readers alike, where readers are filled with a sense of disdain at Stanley’s attitudes while simultaneously embracing the controversial character of Blanche.