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In today’s socioeconomic world, there is no room for slacking off or failure. People are seen as individuals who earn their social status and there is much pressure to succeed. In the plays, “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” both written by Tennessee Williams, there are two main characters who are not capable of living in the present and have a difficult time facing reality. Amanda Wingfield, the mother from “The Glass Menagerie” and Blanche Dubois, Stella’s sister in “A Streetcar Named Desire” have many similar characteristics and life styles that are discovers throughout each play.
In the article “Tennessee Williams and the Predicament of Women” written by Louise Blackwell both of these women are defined as “Women who have learned to be maladjusted through adjustment to abnormal family relationships and who strive to break through their bondage in order to find a mate”. Each woman played an important role, affecting everyone they came encounter with, starting with the earlier years when they women were “southern belles”.
In order for these two characters to deal with the complications in their lives they resort to living in their own fantasy worlds of deception and lies.
Amanda Wingfield is the mother of Tom and Laura, a middle-aged southern belle whose husband has abandoned her and their children several years earlier. Amanda spends her time reminiscing about the past and nagging her children. She is completely dependent on her son Tom for finical support and holds him fully responsible for her daughter Laura’s future.
Amanda is obsessed with her past as she constantly reminds Tom and Laura of “One Sunday afternoon in the Blue Mountain__ your mother received__ seventeen!__gentlemen callers!”(1050). The reader cannot even be sure if this actually happened or if this is an over exaggerated story that she made up. However, it is clear that despite its possible falsity, Amanda has come to believe it. Amanda also refuses to acknowledge that her daughter Laura is cripples and refers to her handicap as “a little defect-hardly noticeable” (1056).
Only for brief moments does she ever admit that her daughter is crippled and then she resorts back into her world of denial and delusion. Amanda is constantly worrying about Laura’s future and pushing Tom to find a man for Laura. When Tom finally finds a caller for Laura, Amanda blows the meeting out of proportion and believes that this man will marry her daughter after their first meeting. The night when the young man comes to meet Laura, Amanda wears the same gown she wore on the day that she met her husband. This makes her realize that she chose the wrong man, a man who left her and her children to struggle through life while he went and chased his dreams. Amanda chooses to live in a fantasy world of dreamy recollections not accepting the present reality of her life.
Blanche Dubois the main character in the play “A Streetcar Named Desire” is a hypersensitive, neurasthenic, faded southern belle who moves from her home town after a rough patch, to live with her younger sister Stella and Stella’s husband Stanley. A main element in finding out who Blanche really is, is discovering the real reason for her move to New Orleans to live with her sister. After the death of her husband, every aspect of her life slowly started to fall apart and left her with a huge void to fill.
She admitted to this, at one point in the story, “that after the death of Allen (her husband) intimacies was the only thing that seemed to be able to fill her empty heart”. Blanche thought that having sexual relations with men would somehow fill the void in her heart. This type of behavior got Blanche into trouble in her hometown. While teaching high school English, Blanche had an affair with a seventeen-year-old student. This destroyed her career and ruined her reputation forcing her to relocate to New Orleans with Stella.
From the first moment Blanche steps into her sister’s home one can sense exactly what Blanche is, or at least what she chooses to be. In appearance, she is a glamorous, ladylike aristocrat, who is perhaps slightly nervous. She parades about the house as if she is a regal figure, wearing elegant gowns and delicate jewelry. However, this is merely a facade, Blanche is broke and homeless. Although Blanche was once a kind, normal, sweet girl, her very being has deteriorated. Now, all that’s left is what she struggles desperately to maintain on the outside. It is obvious, even as Blanche desperately attempts to imitate a respectable lady, that there is something terribly wrong with her. She even admits it while speaking with Stella, “I want to be near you, got to be with somebody, I can’t be alone! Because – as you must have noticed – I’m – not very well”.
Amanda and Blanche are similar in the ways they conduct themselves and how they rely on other people to fill voids in their lives. Both women escape reality by living in illusionary worlds and by reminiscing about the past. They rely heavily on men and are desperate to get one. Blanche and Amanda drive everyone crazy causing their own families to slowly drift away from them. While these characters stay the same, the rest of the world around them is continually changing. This explains the twos repeated failures in life. The major characters in these plays are so warped and their lives so distorted and perverted by fantasies that each is left with only broken fragments of what might have been. Their failure to recognize what is happening in their lives, explains how they are unstable people who cannot fend for themselves.
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