‘A Street Car Named Desire’ Essay, Research Paper
A Streetcar Named Desire
By: Tennessee Williams
One of the main themes expressed by Tennessee Williams in his play, A Streetcar Named Desire, is to condemn those who display cruelty and harshness in their treatment of others, especially those who are weak and vulnerable. Three characters who demonstrate these insensitive qualities are Blanche, Mitch, and Stanley. Whether the cruelty is deliberate or not, it results in the destruction of others, both physically and mentally.
Blanche Dubois, the central victim of mistreatment in the play, was herself,
dealing out her share of insensitivities during her younger days. When Blanche was 16, she had a very handsome lover named Allan Gray. She was very much in love with him and decided to marry him. But by total surprise one night, Blanche found her lover in bed with another man. She tried to pretend that nothing had happened. However, she was unable to hold what she saw inside, and told Allan “I saw, I know, you disgust me?”( p.96). To Allan, Blanche seemed to be a person who accepted him for who he was in a society where homosexuals are discriminated against. What Blanche said completely devastated Allan and he found no reason to continue living. Although Blanche had no intentions of hurting Allan, enough damage was done to prompt Allan to shoot himself, his mind and body destroyed.
The harsh treatment dealt by Mitch to Blanche near the end of the play is strikingly similar to Blanche?s treatment of Allan Gray. Mitch is a friend of Stanley?s whom Blanche falls for during her visit to New Orleans. The relationship between Blanche and Mitch had been developing steadily. Both characters felt the need to settle down in life and both saw the image of marriage at the outcome of their relationship. It did seem as though the image would become reality, until Stan interfered. Stan filled Mitch?s mind with unfavourable stories of Blanche?s checkered past and the relationship quickly turned sour. Mitch had not believed Stan at first, but when he received confirmation of the truth to Stan?s accusations, he became heart-broken and enraged. Mitch goes to confront Blanche personally and accuses her of being a prostitute and lying to him. Mitch also says that Blanche is hiding something, as he has never seen her in broad daylight. He then tears the paper lantern off the light bulb, representing a tearing away of Blanche?s shield from realism. Blanche admits to the accusations but reasons that she has changed her ways and never did lie in her heart. Mitch appears to forgive her as he goes to kiss Blanche. But in the midst of the embrace, Mitch blurts out, “You?re not clean enough to bring in the house with my mother” (p121) This outrages Blanche, who kicks Mitch out of the house. Just as she was to Allan Gray, Mitch appeared to be her salvation, but when Mitch exposes her vulnerability, she essentially becomes broken down mentally.
While Mitch delivers the blow that mentally destroys Blanche, it is Stanley, her cruel brother-in-law who orchestrates Blanche?s downfall with no remorse. First, he digs up all the negatives from Blanche?s past and hints to Blanche that he knows stories about her, making Blanche feel scared and insecure. Then Stanley proceeds to spread the news to Stella and Mitch, Blanche?s two closest people in the play; One of whom (Mitch) , turns on her. Then, on Blanche?s birthday, Stan “surprises” Blanche with a present?bus tickets back to Laurel. The tickets imply to Blanche that she has worn out her welcome, and makes her feel extremely uncomfortable. After the incident with Mitch where Blanche becomes mentally and emotionally battered, Stan comes to inflict more damage to her. Stan, knowing that Blanche would be making up stories about her supposed lovers (Shep Huntleigh) to salvage her pride, pretend to play along with the charade. He asks peculiar questions that force Blanche to a point where she could no longer keep up her act. Then, to deliver the ultimate insult to Blanche, Stanley brutally rapes her, causing Blanche to go insane, totally destroying her.
As shown, vulnerable people who are victims of vicious and cruel treatment feel incredible pain inside and outside when abused. Their minds are like time bombs, ready to go off when the pain becomes unbearable. Unfortunately, there are too many insensitive people around who fail to see their cruel nature in treating people. Until things change, society can not be deemed a safe place for the vulnerable and fragile.