A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams


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“All the characters in “A Streetcar Named Desire” are to some extent living an unreal existence”. Agree or disagree with this statement about the characters and be sure to use quotes to support your comments.

Not all the characters in “A Streetcar Named Desire” are living an unreal existence, however some are, in particular Blanche, Stella and Stanley. Blanch to some extent is living in her own fantasy world plagued with delusions and outbursts. It is quite obvious that she is living an illusion. Stella is living an unreal existence in regards to the way in which she likes to pretend she is living in a happy home. Stanley is also however to a much lesser extent living an unreal existence. He is very self-centered and towards the end he seems to be living a life nearly devoted to breaking down Blanche. We can see why and in what way these characters are living an unreal existence through exploring the major themes of this play and their relation to the characters in regards to “living an unreal existence”. These themes which will be discussed later on include reality versus illusion, confronting reality, male domination and truth versus lies.

Reality versus illusion is one of, if not the major theme of the play. It also has the most relevance to the way in which Blanche, Stanley and Stella are living in their own fantasy world. Perhaps the reason Blanche chose illusion rather than reality is because of her somewhat troubled past. When Blanche was 16 she married Alan who was 17. The impression we get of Alan is that of an attractive, gentle and kind young man. However, he had a somewhat feminine quality about him. Blanche soon finds out that he is involved in a homosexual relationship by catching him in the act. Blanche expresses her disgust and soon after Alan commits suicide by shooting himself. Already traumatized, the situation grew quickly worse when Blanche looses Belle Reve, the family estate. This proves only to worsen Blanche’s mental state to an all new low. This coupled with other events led Blanche to living with her sister Stella and her husband Stanley. Perhaps the events which had occurred led her to the edge of insanity which she was resting on during her time living with Stanley and Stella. It was easier for her to create her own fantasy world rather than to face up to reality.

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This however proved to have dire consequences resulting in Blanch becoming even further away from reality, pushed over the edge by Stanley’s constant harassment and finally by his ultimate act of indecency raping her. This climaxed with Blanch having to be taken to a mental institution, this decision backed by even her own sister Stella.

While living a much more real existence Stella also in some situations chooses illusions rather than accept reality. This can be seen when Blanch chooses to believe Stanley rather than Blanch in regards to the rape. Despite heavy suspicions that Stanley did rape Blanch, she gives Stanley the benefit of the doubt simply because it is easier that way. Like Blanch in this situation she chooses illusion rather than to except reality. Despite this, Stella is much more in tune with reality than her sister Blanch.

Stanley, while not exactly living in his own fantasy world, does have certain elements of choosing illusion rather than reality. Rather than create illusions he simply ignores things which may not please him. He seems to be living in a bubble which inside only holds a section for his poker buddies, Stella and the cracking down of Blanche. He is somewhat obsessed with being the head of his home and so when Blanche comes to stay with him and Stella he obviously feels threatened by the way in which she changes things. The cracking down of Blanche becomes an obsession, it is almost as if he has to prove himself as the head.

Blanche and Stella find it hard to confront the reality in which they live. Perhaps this is because they are not living the lives which they had planned when they lived in Belle Reve. Blanche in particular finds it difficult to accept the fact that she is aging and that things aren’t turning out exactly to plan. It would no doubt be easier for Blanche to confront reality and take a serious look at the direction that her life is heading. But I believe that it would greatly benefit her in the long run. Also I think in the long run it would greatly benefit Stella to confront reality and have a serious think about her relationship with Stanley.

Male domination is one of the major themes of the book and in a way it too relates to the way in which the characters are to some extent living an unreal existence. In the time that the play was written obviously different values were upheld relating to women’s rights and male domination. All the same however Stanley’s actions cannot be justified. Blanche’s judgement of Stanley in the first scene “He is like an animal” proves to be quite an accurate description. Stanley’s actions prove only to push Blanche further and further into her illusional world in which she is already firmly planted.

Throughout the play the theme of truth versus lies is quite dominant. The play leaves the reader wondering how the lives of the main characters would differ if they chose to tell the truth and believe the truth rather than tell and accept lies. Blanche to some degree is a compulsive liar, driven by her desire to be viewed as a young upper-class lady she tells lie after lie after lie. While these lies appear to no more than white lies when you add up each lie she tells you start to see that not only is she telling lies but she is living a lie. The image which she tries to project is nothing more than fake. What she appears not to realize it is clear that by projecting this image she is only digging a hole for herself which in the end turned out to be way to deep to get her way out of.

As we can see through studying the major themes of the play and looking at their relation to the characters we can see that not all but some of the characters in “A Streetcar Named Desire” are to some extent living an unreal existence. Not only does living in this unreal existence achieve nothing it proves to end up a burden to the main characters of this play.


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