Streetcar Named Desire Essay
Streetcar Named Desire
Streetcar Named Desire may be considered as much about being American and America, as about Blanche and Stanley. Consider this view with reference to at least one other text. Streetcar Named Desire is very much about both Blanche and Stanley, and Being American and America. Tennessee Williams shows us this by interrelating the two topics throughout the book. Williams raises important issues about what makes an American an American. He suggests that there is a divide that once existed, but has now crumbled and left a few people behind, such as Blanche.
However he sets the play in a transitional stage, with the future of America being gown within Stella, her baby the representative of the America to be. The period of the play is one in which backgrounds and class structure means very little; America is now a land of equals. This leaves a rather large downfall for all those who live on the pride of their ancestry. This is part of Blanche’s failure within this world, she very much prides herself on her heritage “Our first American ancestors were French Huguenots”
Tennessee Williams shows us here that Blanche is very much part of Old America, and unlike her sister Stella, she is unable to change with the times. However she doesn’t stop from trying to continue to live as an aristocrat, and we repeatedly see her holding herself above everyone else, whom she believes are lower classes and therefore significantly less important. She tries to gain a man, but Williams shows us she treats them more like toys, to discard at her leisure. However the point that Williams makes is that these people she holds with such disdain are not lower than her, but are America’s future.
Stanley is a 2nd or 3rd generation immigrant, but regards himself very much as an American. The aristocracy of Old America is falling around him, and he represents the taking over the space as the drive of the New America. He is poor, and lives in almost squalid conditions but he has the drive and vivacity that is needed in New America. Blanche who should be much higher than the ‘Polack’ (as she defines him) has been brought down to his level, and no longer has he right to think of herself as any better.
Financially, she is in a worse state than he, for she has had to turn to prostitution to make ends meet, and has even been forced to give that up. It is almost as if she has been unwilling to accept the change, and clings on to Old America as it slowly sinks. In comparison, we see Stella, who has effectively made the change from aristocracy to meritocracy and has begun to form the future of America with Stanley. She has realised the Dubois name means little in this world, either financially or status, and has left it behind in marring into the Kowalskis.
Blanche appears to slowly destroy herself through the book. Her attitude is still very aristocratic, and she seems to be unable to get away from this. Within the great melting pot that she has been forced into she still suggests a sense of racism. She refers to Stanley as a polack, and when talking about her time back in Belle Reve she mentions the maid “…. couldn’t we have got a coloured girl to do it? ” This once again shows her apparent belief that she is better than others of different race or class structure.
It is ironic that while she holds herself as the embodiment of the Dubois name, she actually has many times disgraced it, including her run as a prostitute, her fling with a young teenage boy that she should have been teaching and the boy who came for a collection. Williams suggests that it is Blanches inability to let go of the past, and it’s ways that drags her down the rungs of society, ending up in society’s lowest possible capacity, a lunatic asylum. He shows that there is no room for people who live in the past, in this post war America.
However Williams is not the only writer who has observed this and translated it into their works. We can see this point made very definitively in the works of Arthur Miller. Death of a Salesman shows us the life of Willy Loman, his name depicting his character; a low man. He represents the everyday American, and so is an everyman figure. He is desperately trying to achieve his dream (the American Dream) within an environment that is unrelenting and unforgiving. His ideals are very much in the past, just like Blanche.
Blanche feels unhappy that she is the last in the line for the Dubois family and that her family’s legacy will soon be no more, and Willy struggles to deal with the fact that his sons have not reached the greatness he had strived for them to. He has been let down by the dream, as the New America has taken over. This is also shown with his house, enclosed by the modernisation of blocks of buildings of New America, leaving his little house (his last remaining element of Old America) blocked from view, of what can arguably be called, life.
We often see the characters, similarly drift off into their own word of their pasts. Willy sees Uncle Ben and his boys when they were younger (in the good old days), and Blanche continuously hears the Varsuviana and towards the end imagines an old fling form the past coming back. They both fail to accept the reality in which they live and both end up in tragedy, with Blanche being committed and Willy taking his own life with no end gain. They both become victims of the failed American Dream.