A Streetcar Named Desire: Illusion Replacing Reality
“Human kind cannot bear much reality” (Eliot 14). Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” is an artistic demonstration of T.S. Eliot’s observation. In Streetcar, Blanche, a woman in crisis, visits her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley in New Orleans. Blanche is from an upper-class background but has fallen on hard times, both economically and emotionally. Stanley is from a lower-class background with a cruel streak a mile wide. What ensues is a conflict of epic proportions between Stanley and Blanche, with Stella torn between the two. Each character operates within his or her own alternate reality. Through Stella, Stanley and Blanche’s self-deception within this conflict, Williams demonstrates how and to what extent individuals create their own realities in order to maintain the façade of an existence they deem acceptable. Blanche, more so that any of character demonstrates an individual’s ability to live in an alternate reality. Blanche creates an illusion that helps her cope with the type of person she has become because of tragedy she experiences. Blanche’s husband commits suicide after she makes a cruel statement to him when she discovers his affair with a man. Blanche deals with her guilt and loneliness with destructive behavior: she drinks excessively and engages in sexually promiscuous behavior. Ultimately, Blanche is run out of town and comes to live with Stella with nowhere else to go. The facts behind Blanche’s story are sordid. But she does not acknowledge them or even live in a reality where they exist. "After all, a woman's charm is fifty percent illusion” (2.129). Blanche creates an illusion where she remains a proper Southern lady who is wanted by rich gentlemen. She arrives at Stella’s house wearing pearls, white gloves and a hat, “looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district” (1.14). She clings to her Southern...
Cited: Eliot, T.S. “Burnt Norton.” Four Quartets. New York: Mariner Books, 1968. 14. Print.
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: Signet, 1974. Print.
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