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In today's rough and tough world, there seems to be no room for failure. The pressure to succeed in life sometimes seems unreasonable. Others often set expectations for people too high. This forces that person to develop ways to take the stress and tension out of their lives in their own individual ways. In the plays "The Glass Menagerie" and " A Streetcar Named Desire" written by Tennessee Williams, none of the characters are capable of living in the present and facing reality. Two of the characters are Amanda Wingfield and Blache Dubios. In order for these characters to deal with the problems and hardships in their lives they retreat into their own separate worlds of illusion and lies.
Amanda Wingfield is mother of Tom and Laura. She is a middle-aged southern belle whose husband has abandoned her. She spends her time reminiscing about the past and nagging her children. Amanda is completely dependent on her son Tom for finical security 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 that " one Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain when she once received seventeen gentlemen callers" (pg.32). The reader cannot even be sure that this actually happened. 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 crippled and refers to her handicap as " a little defect-hardly noticeable" (pg.45). Only for brief moments does she ever admit that her daughter is crippled and then she resorts back into to her world of denial and delusion. Amanda puts the weight of Laura's success in life on her son Tom's shoulders. When Tom finally finds a man to come over to the house for diner and meet Laura, Amanda blows the situation way out of proportion. She believes that this gentlemen caller, Jim, is going to be the man to rescue Laura. When in fact neither herself nor Laura has even met this man Jim yet. She tries to explain to Laura how to entertain a gentleman caller; she says-talking about her past " They knew how to entertain their gentlemen callers. It wasn't enough for a girl to be possessed of a pretty face and a graceful figure although I wasn't slighted in either respect.
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By Amanda saying that she did not have a pretty face and a graceful figure she was waiting for a compliment from her children to feed her narcissistic and vainglorious ego. She tells Laura when Laura is nervous about the gentleman, "You can't be satisfied with just sitting at home...." (pg.85) When in fact, Laura was quite happy and content sitting at home. Amanda cannot distinguish reality from illusion. When Jim arrives, Amanda is dressed in the same girlish gown she wore on the day that she met her husband and she regresses to her childish, giddy days of entertaining gentlemen callers. These actions made her life even more miserable because she realizes she chose the wrong man, a man that left her and her children to struggle through life while he went and chased his dreams. Amanda's children's fate is her own fault, her constant living in the past generates devastating consequences for her children, crippling them psychologically and seriously inhabiting their own quests for maturity and self-realization. Because Amanda lives in a fantasy world of dreamy recollections, her children cannot escape from this illusionary world either. The bottom line is that rather than deal with her distresses in life, Amanda chooses to live her life in a fabricated life of the past.
Blanche Dubios the main character of the play a A Streetcar Named Desire is a neurasthenic, hypersensitive, faded southern belle who after some rough times back in her home town of Laurel moves to New Orleans to live with her sister Blanche and brother-in-law Stanley. To fully understand Blanche's character you must understand her reason for moving to New Orleans and the heart of her problems. She left her home because her life there was a miserable wreck. After the death of her husband, she had huge void in her life to fill. She escaped the death of her husband with sexual desire. She admitsto 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" (pg.178). She had sexual relations with anyone who agreed to it.
Blanche was a very friendly and flirtatious woman; those very characteristics got Blanche into even more problems. At one juncture while a high school teacher, she had intimacies with one of her students a seventeen-year-old boy. The superintendent found out about this from the boy's father and Blache was immediately fired. Her image was totally destroyed and reputation gone down the tubes. She was called the town slut for sleeping around. Like Amanda from The Glass Menagerie, Blanche often went fishing for compliments an example of this is when she says to Stella, " You're all I've got in the world, and you're not glad to see me." (pg.20) Blanche says this knowing what Stelle's response will be, " Why Blanche, you know that's not true." (pg.20) Blanche seemed to be insecure and needed other people- (especially men) and other things to make her feel important. Blanche liked to criticize everyone to hind her own problems. In this quote Blanche is criticizing her sister about her husband Stanley after he had yelled and beat her. " In my opinion? You are married to a madman! "(pg.64)
The person whom Blanche is most directly contrasted with is Stanley. Blanche loves living in an idealistic world, while Stanley strictly relies on facts. In the story Blanche makes up a good portion of her life and deceives everyone at one time or another throughout the play. Yet, from the start Stanley does not fall for Blanche's outrageous lies and from the beginning of the story to end the story Stanley is insistent on discrediting her stories. Eventually Stanley does crack her stories, he tells his wife Stella the truths about Blanche's past, " This is after the home-place had slipped through her lily-white fingers! She moved to the Flamingo, a second class hotel that has the adventure of not interfering in the private social life of the personalities there! The Flamingo is used to all kinds of going-on. But even the management of the Flamingo was impressed by Dame Blanche! That they requested that she turn in her key-for permanently! This happened a couple of weeks before she showed here." (pg.90) Stanley also explains how Blanche lost her job, " She's not going back to teach school! In fact I am willing to bet you that she never had no idea of returning to Laurel! She didn't resign temporarily from high school because of her nerves! No, siree, Bob! She didn't. They kicked her out of that high school before the spring term ended-and I hate to tell you why the reason that step was taken! A seventeen-year-old boy-she's gotten mixed up with! " (pg.126)
Blanche's saucy and brass ways brought many men into her life and it was men that eventually drove her over the edge. She feels she needs a male figure to help her through life even though all they really bring her is distress and hardships. Blanche's world completely collapses when Stanley ruthlessly exposes the truth of her past and when he rapes her. The rape is Blanche's final disintegration. In the end Stella with no other way to turn puts Blanche into a sanitarium.
The two characters Blanche and Amanda both escape by living in illusionary worlds and by reminiscing about the past. Both women rely heavily on men and are desperate to get one. They 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. They use various escape mechanisms to avoid the truths and realities of their own lives. Society as a whole is at fault because it is us that put these high expectations on people and force people to hide in a world of fallacy and delusions.