Illusion and Fantasy in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

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Illusion and Fantasy in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

An illusion is fake belief whereas fantasy is imagining fanciful

visions. Both these themes are important in the play because they show

how they can be mistaken for reality by each character in the play.

The themes illusion and fantasy are involved from the start of the

play. We learn from when Stanley throws the package of meat down to

Stella that he is a dominant character and that his relationship with

Stella isn’t as happy as it may seem to be. Even in scene 2, Stanley’s

aggressiveness is shown towards Stella, ‘since when do you give me

orders?’. However, the most significant example of his brutality is

during the Poker Game in scene 3. This is where the themes illusion

and fantasy are brought in, because Stella lives in a fantasy world

with Stanley. We learn how Stanley keeps Stella under the thumb.

However violent Stanley might be, she won’t reveal that her

relationship has problems to Blanche or anyone, ‘it wasn’t anything as

serious as you seem to take it. In the first place, when men are

drinking and playing poker anything can happen.’ Stella has

psychologically made herself get used to this behaviour from Stanley,

‘why, on our wedding – soon as we came in here – he snatched off one

of my slippers and rushed about the place, smashing the light bulbs

with it.’ She has made it seem normal because she is illusioned by the

thought that what they have is too strong to let go. Stanley is like

an addictive drug to her, for example, in scene 4, Stella is in

‘narcotised tranquillity’. However rough he may be, Stella needs

Stanley as a fix. It is as though she is brainwashed by him. When

Blanche comments on the previous nights even...

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becomes desperate and unhinged. She sees marriage as her only means of

escaping her demons, so Mitch’s rejection amounts to a sentence of

living in her internal world. Once Mitch crushes the make-believe

identity Blanche has constructed for herself, Blanche begins to

descend into madness. With no audience for her lies, which Blanche

admits are necessary when she tells Mitch that she hates reality and

prefers “magic,” Blanche begins performing for herself. Yet Blanche’s

escapist tendencies no longer show her need to live in a world full of

pleasant bourgeois ease. Instead of fancy and desire, her new

alternate reality reflects regret and death. She is alone, afraid of

both the dark and the light; her own mind provides her with a last

support of escape. Her fantasies control her, not the other way

around, but still she shrinks from the horror of reality.
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