A Streetcar Named Desire
In the play A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, one of the main characters had the misconception that she was living in a world different than that of reality and this contributed to the central theme that hiding one’s true self can hurt everyone involved. Blanche DuBois was introduced as the refined sister of Stella Kowalski, whom she appeared to be visiting for a short time. These two women came from a Southern aristocratic background but each became involved in a different lifestyle when she entered adulthood. Stella married a “common” man and moved to New Orleans, while Blanche juggled two lives, one as a schoolteacher and the other as a promiscuous single woman. Bearing stories of her privileged lifestyle and dismissing any convictions that Stella or Stanley may have about her past, Blanche arrived in the French Quarter trying to convince herself that she was actually telling the truth, while she really suffered from disillusionment.
When she first entered the play, Blanche was portrayed as a beautiful, young woman from a rich background. She wore expensive garments and flaunted her array of
fur pieces even while in the Kowalski home. Calling him “common” and “Polack”, Stella immediately created an enemy of Stella’s husband, Stanley. It became apparent that Blanche was hiding something from her sister when she spoke of losing their home estate, Belle Reve, and did not offer an explanation. Her job as a teacher was also a topic that was discussed, but Blanche offered only that she was taking a break. The
illusion of having a high-class lifestyle marked the beginning of Blanche’s alternating self-discovery and denial of reality.
In reality, Blanche DuBois came to New Orleans because she had nowhere to live and no place to work. After kissing one of her students, she was fired from her teaching job and at the same time she lost Belle Reve, the family estate. Too ashamed to admit her wrongdoings, Blanche executed an performance that had even her own sister convinced that she was still as refined and as sensitive as she was in past years. The comments she made about Stella and Stanley’s life were more intended to boost her own confidence than to insult her family. Loneliness and heartache appeared to be her reasoning for latching onto Stanley’s friend Mitch, but the reality she was hiding was slowly revealed. Blanche liked boys, she liked men and she liked sex, and these infatuations caused her to fall victim to the fantasy world she had created.
The annihilation of Blanche’s fallacies developed strong themes of deception and its consequences, of emotions and the outcome of suppressing them, and of illusion versus reality. Stanley researched her background and revealed not only to his wife, but also to Mitch that she was not on vacation from her job. Immorality had landed Blanche in her present state of desperation, and this was no longer a secret. The external conflict experienced between Blanche and Stanley represented the inner struggle she faced in dealing with the truth. Learning that she could not live in this world of brutal realism, Blanche tried to hide herself in several instances. When she dated Mitch, she would only agree to evening meetings and even at home she insisted on keeping the light bulbs covered with paper shades. By hiding her physical age and appearance, Blanche was masking personal insecurities about her lifestyle. Another significant symbol in this play was the repeated bathing by Blanche. It appeared that she was trying to wash away her past sins so that she could begin anew while living with her sister. This evidence of guilt, along with character references by non-speaking parts, contributed to the presumption that Blanche had a split personality. It was quite obvious that this woman had led two completely different lives and she had problems distinguishing between what was fantasy and what was reality.