Stella is Blanche’s younger sister, but in many ways, she behaves like the elder of the two. Stella appears more grounded, more tolerant, and less sensitive than Blanche; she also seems to be a natural nurturer who “enjoys waiting on” and doing things for her sister. Stella performs kind acts for others, such as sending Mitch’s sick mother a custard. Even before she becomes a mother, Stella is maternal.
Despite their differences, Stella still has much in common with her sister. Like Blanche, Stella has refined tastes and sensibilities, poking gentle fun at Stanley’s poker buddies and disliking Stanley’s pawing her in front of people. Also like Blanche, Stella can be deceitful when it suits her, admitting, “I glossed things over in my letters,” and not telling Stanley of Blanche’s arrival. Most of all, like Blanche, Stella is a sensual being. She may have found Stanley “common” when they first met, but she now has a strong visceral and physical connection to him that borders on the obsessive.
However, the nature of Stella’s carnal appetite differs from her sister’s. Stella's sexual drive is centered on attraction to and love for one individual (Stanley), as opposed to Blanche, whose fleeting encounters with soldiers and traveling salesmen suggests she craves sexual attention in general—especially from young men, stand-ins for her lost, young husband. Also, while Blanche abhors roughhousing, violent behavior arouses Stella. She says she found it thrilling when Stanley smashed the light bulbs on their wedding night. After their fight in Scene Three, Stella returns to Stanley’s arms in response to his screaming her name “with heaven-splitting violence.”
Throughout the play, Stella is placed between Blanche and Stanley. Blanche, with whom she shares a background and upbringing, represents her past; Stanley, with whom she is deeply in love/lust, represents her present and her future, as the play’s ending indicates. By having Blanche committed to a mental institution, thus choosing Stanley, Stella seems to be displaying her practical side, which prompted her to escape the bankrupt Belle Reve life years ago and reminds her she now has a dependent child to support. However, Stella’s exchange with Eunice about the rape is oddly ambiguous: “I couldn’t believe it and go on living with Stanley,” she says, to which Eunice responds, “Don’t you ever believe it…you have to go on.” If Stella does have doubts about Stanley’s innocence, her disregard of Blanche’s accusation suggests that she, like Blanche, is capable of denying the truth when it suits her. To paraphrase her sister, Stella doesn’t want realism, she wants magic.