In a Streetcar Named Desire – there is a conflict between Illusion and reality, Blanche Dubois arrives in New Orleans with the impression of a patronising, wealthy school teacher who has no time for those who she believes to be below her class as we see in her rudeness to Eunice at the very beginning. As the play progresses we see that Blanche is merely projecting a persona which hides both her past and the inevitably grim future that awaits her. On the other side we have Blanche’s brother-in-law Stanley who acts in opposition of the illusion which Blanche has created and takes it upon himself to expose Blanche for what she really is.
Blanche like all human beings is not infallible in her illusion as her own body and actions betray her at times reveal that the true Blanche Dubois lies just beneath the surface, for example her nerves show her reliance on alcohol. Blanche throughout the entire play portrays a character which is not truly her own, from the beginning she appears to believe herself above everyone she meets, especially her own sister Stella as we see in Blanche’s disappointment at Stella’s home. Despite this from the very beginning it’s obvious that Blanche is prone to hiding the true image of herself, physical and mental “Turn that over light off!
Turn that off! I won’t be looked at in this merciless glare. ” Blanche’s aversion to be seen clearly in the light is evident throughout the entire play and symbolises her need to impair people’s view of her true self. Blanche gives the impression of being superior incessantly through showing her culture and telling false stories like that of Shep Huntleigh. Williams establishes the extreme difference between illusion and reality with Blanche’s conversation with Stella on how the ceremony of the funeral does nothing to illustrate the truth of death “Funerals are quiet with pretty flowers.
And, oh, what gorgeous boxes they pack them away in! Unless you were there at the bed when they cried out, ‘Hold me! ’ you’d never suspect there was a struggle for breath and breathing. ” This illustrates human need to hide reality, with a beautiful ceremony we hide the harsh reality of death, dressing up our mortality and ignoring the reality of the pain and anguish which accompanies death. Just like Blanche trying to look as attractive and collected as possible in order to disguise the true reason behind her arrival at her sister Stella’s apartment.
The character of Stanley, Blanche’s brother-in-law is constantly referred to as a primitive, instinctive male with Tennessee’s constant use of animal imagery while describing him and lowering him to an almost sub human level as we see in Blanche’s description of him “He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! ” This explains Stanley’s decision to take the role of exposer, he is a male protecting his home from an intruder who threatens the dominance which he has established over it.
When Blanche first arrives she annoys Stanley as he assumes the role of the head of the household, Blanche’s education and condescending manner are a challenge to his hold over Stella “Tennessee Williams writes that the most pressing moral problem of man in the twentieth century is to avoid extinction. ” Stanley instinctively knows Blanche is hiding her past and her persona is all a facade, it is when his control of the household is challenged that he decides to expose the reality behind the illusion of Blanche Dubois.
Stanley exposes Blanche to Stella after discovering her misdeeds in a town called Laurel where she had been a sexual deviant, having relations with many men. Blanche had to move to this town because she was fired from her job as a schoolteacher for having a sexual relationship with a seventeen year old. Blanche constantly wears white and her name actually means white, the colour that represents innocence and purity but Stanley begins revealing her past by saying, “Sister Blanche is no Lily. It is easy to judge Blanche, condemning her for her falsity but Blanche created this character to hide her past so she could have a future. Blanche was married to a man named Gray but found him with another man and the guilt forced him into suicide.
This caused Blanche to seek fulfilment in the arms of strange men, Blanche married young and once an adult she then proceeded to lose “her husband, her inheritance, her home, her employment and nearly all her family. Blanche’s transition child to adult is traumatic and the harsh reality of the world is thrust upon her through death and meaningless relations with men which is why she maintains the illusion of childhood, that of the pure and innocent southern girl who needs to be courted “You didn’t know Blanche as a girl: Nobody, nobody was as tender and trusting as she was. But people like you abused her, and forced her to change. ” It was the harsh reality of the world which made Blanche create the false persona we see in the Kowalski home.
Blanche sense’s that her only hope for salvation is to attract a partner and she targets Mitch (Stanley’s friend) as a possible candidate for this role. Mitch is a sincere character as we see by his awkwardness and openness especially when explaining his fear of loneliness once his mother passes to his friends at the poker game. Even though Mitch appears to be the most honest character, Blanche is so insecure that “she assumes that she must pretend to be the innocent romantic in order to attract men, she hides her past, her age and her sexual appetites. This is in vain however as Stanley tells Mitch the truth of Blanche’s past therefore revealing that Blanche isn’t the innocent girl he had hoped she was to replace his mother as the main woman in his life. Blanche not only uses illusion but is also an example of the illusion of the typical southern lady. Due to her upbringing in the south Blanche has unfair expectations placed on her from an early age, which she reverts back to after her tragic marriage ends, taking the role of the pure, innocent girl.
This reflects a situation that Williams saw first-hand as he “watched his sister struggle to become the kind of southern belle that his mother expected, he knew how cruel this definition of roles could be. ” Blanche has created this false personality based on the perfect southern women she failed to become. Stella is put in a situation where she must choose between illusion and reality. Blanche tells Stella of Stanley’s rape however Stella shortly after giving birth doesn’t believe her and instead chooses Stanley over her own sister.
We cannot totally fault Stella for forsaking her sister, it is a decision made with the future in mind for her and her baby “When Stella chooses him (Stanley) over Blanche we understand she is choosing survival of the species rather than the dream of a dead past” Stanley is the provider for her family and she must remain with him. Adhering to his animal instincts Stanley has defeated Blanche and remains the king of his household by exposing her past, therefore chasing away her only remaining suitor Mitch and finally by the brutal act of rape, “having been raped by the man of the house in which she sought refuge, her mind unhinges. At the time of production it was believed that Stanley should be punished for his crime and that the poetic character of Blanche should not have such a bleak end, but like the play, Williams is more concerned with portraying a realistic ending rather than creating an ending more digestible for the audience, “We know that Williams uncensored ending was more realistic. ”
Courtney from Study Moose
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