A Street Car Named Desire deals with a culture clash between the Old South’s “plantation” mentality (priding itself on false pretenses) and the New South’s relatively uncivilized, yet real, grip on reality. The two characters who come to represent this tension are Blanche and Stanley Kowalski. Blanche advertises herself as a champion of “Southern Honor. ” This entails an unfaltering dedication to virtue and culture. These are not, however, driving factors in her life but only mask her alcoholism and delusions of grandeur.
By contrast, Stanley is an industrial worker who acts on habit and structure. Tennessee Williams juxtaposes illusion and reality by depicting the antagonistic relationship between the two by consistently employing symbolism. Blanche is constantly escaping the realities of life by retreating into her own fabrications. Her plummet into a delusional world begins when her beloved husband reveals himself to be gay and, soon after, shoots himself. She falls into a spiral of affairs after this event in a search to find emotional satisfaction and to reaffirm her womanhood.
She ignores the obvious detrimental effect of her intimacies because all she wants is to be happy again: to be loved. Blanche physically escapes the reality of her life by leaving Belle Reve and Laurel to go to her sister’s home in New Orleans. Here, she misrepresents who she is and enters another relationship where she recreates her identity. When confronted about her lies, Blanche explains that she lies because she refuses to accept the hand fate has dealt her: I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people.
... personality, left Blanche mentally detached from reality. Stanley Kowalski showed no remorse for his brutal actions, destroyed Blanches life and committed her ... II. The play was based on the life of a woman named Blanche Dubois. Blanche was a fragile and neurotic woman, desperate ... he committed suicide. Ever since, Blanches' life was never the same again. Blanche Dubois always felt she was loved and ...
I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it! (Williams, 34) Lying to herself and to others allows her to make life appear as she thinks it should be rather than as it is. Her final, deluded happiness (as her sister and Stanley commit her to an insane asylum) shows her acceptance that illusion is an adequate reality, but it also shows reality’s inevitable triumph. The driving force of reality, embodied by Stanley Kowalski, quickly dismantles all the falsities Blanche comes to represent.
He is a practical man firmly grounded in the physical world who disdains fabrications. He finds meaning only in the primitive and straightforward: “There’s something downright bestial about him! … He acts like an animal, has animal’s habits! … Yes, something ape-like about him” (71).
An animal would not create an alternate reality for a situation but would act according to the real, harshness of life in order to ensure its own survival. Stanley’s animal habits can be looked at as an appreciation only for tangible truths. In the end, Stanley succeeds in debunking all the false images Blanche created about herself.
He goes out of his way to reveal Blanche’s past and then flaunts it in a crude, insensitive way: “Take a look at yourself here in a worn-out Mardi Gras outfit, rented for 50 cents from some rag-picker… Do you know that I’ve been on to you from the start, and not once did you pull the wool over this boy’s eyes?… Ha ha! Do you hear me? Ha ha ha” (67).
Stanley again asserts his bestial tendency, but this time to show his dominance. When he proceeds to physically rape her, he metaphorically strips her of the false reality she created.
Williams uses symbolism to show that Blanche is trapped in a life of delusion. The Varsouviana Polka and the use of light are reoccurring symbols that elude to her disconnect with reality. The Polka is the music that played the night her husband committed suicide. Blanche says that it ends only after she hears the sound of a gunshot in her head. It plays at various points in the play, symbolising this event that triggered her mental decline. Whenever a situation gets too “real,” Blanche firmly believes she hears the Varsouviana, panics, and looses her grip on reality.
... New Orleans that is the life that Stanley lives. The reality of New Orleans and Stanley is too much for Blanche to take in and comprehend ... unravel. The reality of Blanches situation becomes apparent to Stanley who then tries to expose Blanche for what she really is. Light within the ... the lantern shade to place on the exposed light bulb in the apartment. Blanche also chooses to go out with Mitch in ...
Also, throughout the play, Blanche avoids appearing in direct, bright light, especially in front of Mitch: “And turn that over-light off! Turn that off! I won’t be looked at in this merciless glare”(45).
It is clear she avoids the lights in efforts to conceal the reality of her age and fading beauty. Symbolically, Blanche avoids light in order to prevent Mitch from seeing her for who she is. She, once again, retreats into her own world of illusion. Blanche is never able to be looked at “in the light” and exposed.
She never faces reality. Both Stanley and Blanche have a hard time relating to the other gender without sexual implications. The difference is that Stanley is upfront about this “animalistic” behavior towards women, while Blanche tries to paint herself as above the primitive nature of her sexual impulses. We can call one approach realistic and the other delusional, but it doesn’t change the fact that both characters approach interactions in a sexual way. What does this say about the nature of what is real and what isn’t? Williams seems to draw an ambiguous line. This implies that reality and illusions coexist in our lives, and what we choose to label our views and actions is just a matter of perspective.