A Streetcar Named Desire

Amidst the pages of Tennessee Williams play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” countless opinions and themes can be speculated upon. This can be said as Williams is noted for his great ability to create believable characters. Several themes present in “Streetcar” are the dependency on men, fragility of women, and distorted senses of reality. One of the main characters, Blanche Dubois, plays a key role in the development of many of these recurring themes.

From the very beginning of the movie a very noticeable characteristic is apparent about Blanche Dubois. Looking to transfer onto the next streetcar she is aided by a young man. The pleased look on her face and her resulting manner makes known to the audience that she likes the attention given by men. Following scenes then reveal just how much she seems to crave the attention as well as affections of men.

While comments draw Blanche Dubois as a nymphomaniac, it can be argued that perhaps her behavior was not necessarily so compulsive. In a letter to Tennessee Williams theatre actress Jessica Tandy, who played Blanche, wrote in response to said argument.

[…] I have tried to make clear Blanche’s intricate and complicated character- her background- her pathetic elegance- her innate tenderness and honesty- her untruthfulness or manipulation of the truth- her inevitable tragedy. (Costanzo 32)

So with these traps it is emphasized to what lengths Blanche will go to capture a man. Having to put so much effort into her act also shows the desperate need she has for the affections and ultimately the protection she feels she will regain from being with a man. This is brought out even more in her relationship with Mitch. She sees him as an opportunity. Essentially, the homosexual affair of her husband and his subsequent suicide, has shattered her sense of self-worth. Dave Huong in his analysis states, “She clung to the notion that if she can depend on someone, she can avoid the feeling of being unlovable, which she associated with being single.”

Corresponding with Blanche’s issues of male dependency is the representation of her - women as whole- as being fragile. From the outset Blanche is portrayed as seemingly delicate, plagued by the tragic death of her husband. The memory of that event affects her so deeply it weakens her physically. 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 that she is worn out when she comments, “I am soft. I am fading now. I don’t know how much longer I can turn the trick” (Scene 16).

Since her “woman’s charm” was her way of attracting men, the loss of her youth and beauty no doubt signified the eventual demise of Blanche as a persona. At one point she urges her sister Stella (who equally dependent on men) to leave Stanley and his abusiveness while she contacted her past beau Shep Huntleigh for “financial support” (Sparknotes). Finally, once she is discovered of her numerous rendezvous with many men, Blanche goes into practical hysterics when Mitch scathingly tells her, “You’re not clean enough to bring in the house with my mother” (Scene 23). Being simply dependent on the “kindness of strangers” meant a total breakdown in her ability to share true love with anyone and finally, her own sanity.

Following Mitch’s rejection Blanche is seemingly at a loss at what to do. Having put all her efforts in attaining a man to save her she’s left with only her means of entrapment- illusion. Even before her mental breakdown Blanche thrives on her ability to deceive – though at first harmlessly. “Blanche has survived all this years by being an impersonator extraordinaire” (Costanzo 72) She admits to Stanley once he is not overcome buy her ‘Hollywood glamour,’ “I know I fib a great deal. After all, 50% of a woman’s charm is illusion” (Scene 5). It is interesting to note how inconsequential her lies are to her, by the way she describes with words such as ‘charm’ and ‘fib.’

Along with using illusion as means to attract men she also uses it to lie to herself. Her practically obsessive desire to keep away from bright lights denotes her inability to accept truth,