Amidst the pages of Tennessee Williams play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,”countless opinions and themes can be speculated upon. This can be said asWilliams is noted for his great ability to create believable characters.Several themes present in “Streetcar” are the dependency on men, fragilityof women, and distorted senses of reality. One of the main characters,Blanche Dubois, plays a key role in the development of many of theserecurring themes.From the very beginning of the movie a very noticeable characteristicis apparent about Blanche Dubois.
Looking to transfer onto the nextstreetcar she is aided by a young man. The pleased look on her face and herresulting manner makes known to the audience that she likes the attentiongiven by men. Following scenes then reveal just how much she seems to cravethe attention as well as affections of men.While comments draw Blanche Dubois as a nymphomaniac, it can be arguedthat perhaps her behavior was not necessarily so compulsive. In a letter toTennessee Williams theatre actress Jessica Tandy, who played Blanche, wrotein response to said argument.
… I have tried to make clear Blanche’s intricate and complicatedcharacter- her background- her pathetic elegance- her innatetenderness and honesty- her untruthfulness or manipulation of thetruth- her inevitable tragedy. (Costanzo 32)So with these traps it is emphasized to what lengths Blanche will goto capture a man. Having to put so much effort into her act also shows thedesperate need she has for the affections and ultimately the protection shefeels she will regain from being with a man. This is brought out even morein her relationship with Mitch.
She sees him as an opportunity.Essentially, the homosexual affair of her husband and his subsequentsuicide, has shattered her sense of self-worth. Dave Huong in his analysisstates, “She clung to the notion that if she can depend on someone, she canavoid the feeling of being unlovable, which she associated with beingsingle.”Corresponding with Blanche’s issues of male dependency is therepresentation of her – women as whole- as being fragile. From the outsetBlanche is portrayed as seemingly delicate, plagued by the tragic death ofher husband. The memory of that event affects her so deeply it weakens herphysically.
After she suffers a barrage of questions from Stanley she says,”I think I’m going to be sick” (Scene 4). Blanche herself even admits thatshe is worn out when she comments, “I am soft. I am fading now. I don’tknow how much longer I can turn the trick” (Scene 16).Since her “woman’s charm” was her way of attracting men, the loss ofher youth and beauty no doubt signified the eventual demise of Blanche as apersona. At one point she urges her sister Stella (who equally dependent onmen) to leave Stanley and his abusiveness while she contacted her past beauShep Huntleigh for “financial support” (Sparknotes). Finally, once she isdiscovered of her numerous rendezvous with many men, Blanche goes intopractical hysterics when Mitch scathingly tells her, “You’re not cleanenough to bring in the house with my mother” (Scene 23). Being simplydependent on the “kindness of strangers” meant a total breakdown in herability to share true love with anyone and finally, her own sanity.
Following Mitch’s rejection Blanche is seemingly at a loss at what todo. Having put all her efforts in attaining a man to save her she’s leftwith only her means of entrapment- illusion. Even before her mentalbreakdown Blanche thrives on her ability to deceive – though at firstharmlessly. “Blanche has survived all this years by being an impersonatorextraordinaire” (Costanzo 72) She admits to Stanley once he is not overcomebuy her ‘Hollywood glamour,’ “I know I fib a great deal.
After all, 50% ofa woman’s charm is illusion” (Scene 5). It is interesting to note howinconsequential her lies are to her, by the way she describes with wordssuch as ‘charm’ and ‘fib.’Along with using illusion as means to attract men she also uses it tolie to herself. Her practically obsessive desire to keep away from brightlights denotes her inability to accept truth, and certainly not to copewith it. Instead, she hides herself, just as she hides the light bulb inthe apartment with a lamp shade.
In scene 11, her comment “I can’t stand anaked light bulb,” could be directed towards herself- she hates knowingwhat she has become, and so drapes herself in finery in hopes of disguisingher fall from grace.However, Blanche’s world of pretend is not isolated- she involvesothers, and thus, her world cannot be sustained with their harsh realities.During her confrontation with Mitch, and once cornered, she makes an evenbolder confession.I don’t want realism. I want magic! ..
.Yes, yes, magic! I try togive that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t telltruth, I tell what ought to be truth.
And if that is sinful, then letme be damned for it ….Completely devoted to her life of illusion and distorted reality,Blanche makes one of her stronger affirmations in the movie. In comparingBlanche’s total delusion with Stanley’s insistent in naked truth Costanzosays:Throughout the movie we watch the fixed unglossed bestiality ofBrando’s Stanley pitted against the ever-shifting faced of Blanche.
Unlike the raw corporeality of Stanley, Leigh’s Blanche amorphouslydons a series of masks, as she conjures persona after persona, as sheconstructs character after character. (72)Blanche has survived this way, and as the woman with the ‘flowers forthe dead’ chimes her imminent demise, she is trapped, no longer able to runfrom the truth. Then, acting as a catalyst, Stanley violates her with thetruth- she is helpless, and has not a prince on a white horse.All the points hence can, with some speculation, be consideredcredible themes to Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” And yet,still more will come about while the play’s spectacular humanityendears itself to the “kindness of strangers.”