Harold Mitchell (Mitch), one of the prominent characters in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire”, provides the reader with insight into larger themes of the play through his actions and dialogue with other characters. The first real introduction that the reader has with Mitch is during the infamous poker scene. Four men, including Stanley Kawolski and Mitch, gather for a masculine game of cards. As the night draws to an end, Mitch decides that he needs to leave early in order to care for his dying mother. Uncharacteristic of the predominantly held conceptions of masculinity, Mitch shows a very sensitive side to his character. This blatantly contrasts the “alpha male” characteristic that Stanley constantly portrays throughout the play. The theme of gender roles in “A Streetcar Named Desire” is one that gets brought to the surface numerous times. Mitch serves as the opposite male to Stanley, which is a very important role. Mitch being kind and gentlemanly helps to bring to light that different types of men do exist and not just those who are the “alpha males” prevail in the world.
Mitch’s character is also significant within the larger context of the play because of his relationship with Blanche. A major theme of the play is relationships. The reader is subject to the abusive and animalistic relationship between Stanley and Stella, which is then contrasted with the developing relationship between Mitch and Blanche. Mitch is described as lacking intelligence and being sensitive and clumsy. These characteristics are the complete opposite of the type of man who Blanche dreams of. However, both Blanche and Mitch are brought together by their mutual need for a companion. Even though they might not be physically and emotionally attached or drawn to one another, the stages of their lives is what brings them together. Blanche is getting old and is constantly concerned that she will not find love after a previously failed marriage, while Mitch hopes to find a woman to marry in order to bring home to his dying mother. By portraying the character of Mitch this way, Williams is able to form a relationship between Mitch and Blanche that is completely opposite to that of Stanley and Stella. Blanche and Mitch’s relationship is based on companionship, while Stanley and Stella’s is based on compassion.
Another major theme of Tennessee Williams’ play is madness. Blanche’s character is the driving force of this theme. However, Mitch plays a very supportive role to her as their relationship grows. The characteristics that have been described about his gentlemanliness and sensitivity ring true in this case as well. Mitch seems to be the only character that truly understands Blanche and treats her with respect. Although he makes it clear that he really would like to sleep with Blanche, he does not make any attempts to abuse or rape her. These sorts of interactions with Blanche greatly contrast how Stanley treats his sister-in-law. At the beginning of the play, Stanley questions Blanche about losing Belle Reve and does so in his typical “alpha male” and disrespectful ways. He alludes to her instability and does not think that he can trust her. Mitch’s character seems to help counteract the disrespectful treatment of Blanche and helps to provide substance to the theme of madness.
The character Harold Mitchell seems to provide the contrasting character for many themes of the novel. He is the sensitive, compassionate, and understanding male. Without his counter view points, some of the major themes of the play would not have as much substance as they do.
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