Stanley Kowalski serves as the antagonist of A Streetcar Named Desire—both as a representative of the modern world that Blanche is, in her own words, “not hard or self-sufficient enough” for and as an individual. Stanley seems easygoing and accepting of Blanche at first, taking her showing up uninvited “to shack up” in his place in stride. However, his hostility is aroused by an impression that she has swindled him and Stella out of their share of the family home, Belle Reve. Although that particular issue is laid to rest, Blanche’s flirtatious and erratic behavior causes a suspicious Stanley to want to investigate her. His antagonism toward her increases as her stay lengthens, fueled by what he perceives as her snobbery and her efforts to turn Stella against him. As well as causing physical discomfort in the small apartment, Blanche seems a threaten his marriage.
Once he learns about Blanche’s lies and sordid past, Stanley starts to actively campaign against her. He tells Mitch about her sexual activities; he buys her a bus ticket back to Laurel; finally, he rapes her. Although Stanley justifies his violence to himself by believing that he is preserving his home and happiness, his desire for vengeance only escalates, aiming not just to thwart Blanche but to destroy her. If all Stanley wanted was to have Blanche out of his house, he could have let her marry Mitch. Instead, he turns to rape, an act intended to degrade and dominate. Blanche upsets Stanley’s sense of superiority and ownership; by violating her, he tries to regain it. As a character, Stanley does not develop significantly from the beginning of the play to the end—he remains “common as dirt,” vulgar, and a vital sexual force for Stella. What does emerge, however, is his capacity for cruelty and his ability to destroy when threatened.