A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire

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  • Blanche DuBois is one of the many terrible people in Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire. Formerly the resident of the wealthy Mississippi plantation Belle Reve, she is now a penniless fallen woman who has no choice but to shack up with her spineless sister and belligerent brother-in-law. At this point, she has lost everything--her young husband, her property, her teaching job (she was indecent with a student), her dignity (she's a literal prostitute). And even the one ratty piece of driftwood to which she barely still clings--her beauty--is dissolving in the ocean of time. But the truth is so ugly. If only there were a way to make it all disappear! And that is exactly what Blanche tries to do throughout the play. 
  • MOMENT 1
  • WTF?
  • Despite her sordid sexual history and dire financial state, Blanche presents herself as a wealthy ingenue by dressing in delicate white clothes. (I know that isn't a suit, but I think it captures the spirit of her look.) Though it is not verbally told, this is the very first of her lies in Streetcar. Additionally, her "shocked disbelief" and disdain for her sister's working-class neighborhood demonstrates that she has even deluded herself into thinking that she is some grand, dignified lady who is too good for such primitive conditions.
  • So get your stomach lining ready! We're going to New Orleans...where the truth burns nastier than a swig of bourbon (or ten, if you're Blanche).
  • MOMENT 2
  • HAHA!
  • "Blanche comes around the corner...She looks at...the building...Her expression is one of shocked disbelief. Her appearance is incongruous to this setting. She is daintily dressed in a white suit...Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light." (Scene 1)
  • Things reach a tipping point. Mitch realizes that the proper, ladylike Blanche who charmed him was entirely artificial. He had never even seen her in full lighting, a situation Blanche carefully engineered to avoid showing her true age. Blanche finally admits her evasion of the truth to Mitch. However, as despicable as she is, we see that her dishonesty stems not from malice but from a pathetic lack of self-respect and dignity. In some ways, you can't fully blame Blanche for resorting to such low tactics. We (still) live in a society that frequently values women only for their attractiveness to men. Blanche derives her entire sense of self-worth from this, so she put a metaphorical Instagram filter over her entire sorry life. Now that the light is on and the filter fantasy gone, she's over.
  • In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams crafts a character who is the epitome of deception. She speaks, dresses, flirts, bathes, and powders herself in lies. Indeed, she has internalized her lies to the point that she deceives even herself. She uses this wobbly scaffolding to prop up her self-esteem. When she is finally forced to confront reality, she dissolves emotionally as if plunged into acid. Williams makes the statement that a dishonest life is no life at all. It is no surprise when, by the end of the play, Blanche is a broken woman--for hollow things are easily crushed.
  • Williams shows that the worst liars are so well-versed in their art that they don't even need to open their mouths to deceive. They become the lie and truly believe it.
  • "Blanche: I don't want realism. I want magic! [Mitch laughs]..I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things...I don't tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it!--Don't turn the light on!" (scene 9)
  • NO!
  • Williams makes the statement that not all liars are evil. Many are just weak people who are emotionally incapable of facing the truth. They are even willing to "be damned" for living in delusional bliss, so long as the fires of Hell flicker dimly.
  • The End.
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