A Streetcar Named Loyalty
It seems that loyalty is a virtue. It’s a good thing. But I wonder…
In “A Streetcar named Desire”, Stella has trouble with loyalty. She is the character trapped between two characters who both should have her loyalty.
There is her sister Blanche, with whom she was raised, who has had a traumatic life of loss and grief. On the other hand she is supported and kept by her husband Stanley. She therefore has good reason to be loyal to both of these characters. But the events of the play means that she has to choose.
At the height of the play, while Stella is in hospital in labour with Stanley’s baby, Stanley rapes Blanche.
The audience does not get to ‘see’ how Stella reacts when she arrives home to discover Blanche traumatised – accusing Stanley and Stanley denying it; all we get is what I think is the most important quote of the play, as Stella confides in a neighbour: “I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley.”
The subtext leads the audience to believe that she does, on one level, accept Blanche’s story. But Stella has just had a baby and she needs Stanley, despite his violence. She is still attracted to him, despite his abuse. She therefore takes the practical route and puts pragmatism over morality.
One could see Stella as being loyal to her husband over her sister – but should she be? Clearly, morally, she should take Blanche’s side, even although it would mean shattering her own home and marriage. She would be left with a baby, a husband perhaps in prison and a mentally unstable sister to care for.
Stella is disloyal to her sister and loyal to her husband – but both of these are one step away from the core of the moral issue. She is loyal to herself: she is selfish.
So what of loyalty? Is loyalty ‘a good thing’?
It depends what you are loyal to. Loyalty to the self is selfish. Loyalty to those that is manifest in covering for wrongs is wrong. Loyalty is only good when the loyalty is apparent in doing what is right in any situation. And one does not need the loyalty to be there before one can act rightly in a situation.
I think perhaps loyalty puts people off the scent of right action by having questionable bias in play before decisions are made.