Thomas Lanier Williams, known as Tennessee Williams, the author of A Street Car Named Desire presents the contradiction and paradox that real human life might offer. It is a stage play with elements of tragedy and pathos that was published and staged in 1947. The theme of the story presents conflicts with which the central character, Blanche Dubois has to live. The theme is not dramatic or out of life as most of us live in our delusory world that may be far off the reality. While most of us cope up with our delusions and distinguish between real and fantasy, the others like Blanche Dubois turn a victim of overpowering delusion. And she knows it: “Blanche explains to Mitch that she fibs because she refuses to accept the hand fate has dealt her. Lying to herself and to others allows her to make life appear as it should be rather than as it is”.
The plot of the story is wonderfully crafted that goes on to highlight a number of emotional traits that are tested during the time of human tragedy. Most human beings are weak for their inescapable need to cry over the shoulder of some one close. At times this dependence takes severe form as in Stella’s dependence on Stanley for love and support; Mitch, otherwise a sober character, is also not without the need of companionship that he finds in Blanche, after the death of his mother. Blanche is also in need of support. Whether the support is offered by Stanley or not is an issue that needs analysis. Money matters, as it does for Blanche, while Stanley, a hard core down to earth worker proud in his masculinity must ensure he is not being cheated by Blanche. The drama depicts that while life moves on from past to present, the lingering past just cannot be done away with whether Stella tries to move on after leaving Belle Reve, or Blanche tries to find a man in her life after her husband commits suicide, or Stanley is apologetic about his rough actions. The past keeps haunting them in present. Death is shocking, and it is especially so if it involves some one close and near. It might often entail a sudden shift in one’s outlook and personality. Blanche’s husband’s death has a profound impact on her, even as those of the others in Dubois family. Mitch confronts the death of his only love as well as his dying mother who ultimately dies.
There are several other characteristic themes that merge in the single plot. One such theme is the loss of a world that meant status and class, and consequent downward spiral into the life of a blue collar ghetto. The impact of this social theme translates into loneliness, insecurity, and having to bear cruelty. Stella and Blanche the two sisters originally belong to a world that no longer exists for them. Their family’s ancestral plantation, Belle Reve, is lost. Their world is also lost along with it. The two sisters are the only living symbols of the old world. In the second scene, Blanche makes a comment about Stanley to Stella that says it all: “Oh, I guess he’s just not the type that goes for jasmine perfume, but maybe he’s what we need to mix with our blood now that we’ve lost Belle Reve”.
They are left with two options: either face reality and come to terms with, or live in a make believe world of fantasy to which Blanche succumbs; Stella comes to terms with reality. The real world now is the harsh world of hardship, of cruelty, of blue collar culture and living symbolized by Stanley. Stanley represents raw masculinity that intrigues and repulses at the same time. He and his world are quite in contrast to the aristocratic world of Blanche Dubois of which she is no longer a heiress but persists with her illusions even as they stay together which allows the readers to contrast what might be the symbols of real and illusion.
Let us see the paradox in Blanche’s life: Blanche’s illusory world offers her comfort as it is in fact her primary means of self-defense. Her deceptions do not spring from any malicious intents, rather they are an extreme reflections of her frailty to cope up with the misery of real life. She appears extremely reluctant to face the truth head-on. “For her, fantasy has a liberating magic that protects her from the tragedies she has had to endure. Unfortunately, this defense is frail and will be shattered by Stanley”.
Blanche makes a dramatic entry into the scene looking for her sister’s house. She looks in disbelief at the apartment building as she checks the address. She appears to pity Stella, her sister having to live in such a rundown building. Blache, about 30, elegant and attractive, a little haggard and weak is in her white suit with pearl earrings and white gloves. She appears lost and out of place in the ghetto populated by blue collar workers. Blanche tells Eunice when he asked her whether she is lost, “They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at-Elysian Fields”.
From here on the cocoon of unreality that Blanche lives in to protect herself against her weaknesses including her inability to repress her sexual desires become apparent. She refuses to acknowledge and lies about her promiscuous behavior in Laurel. “She shuns bright light, lest it reveal her physical imperfections; and she refuses to acknowledge her problem with alcohol. Stanley effectively penetrates her cocoon verbally with his crude insults and physically with his sexual coup de main near the end of the play”. As against Blanche, Stanley is rude, coarse, and domineering ruled by primal instincts. Her opinion of him might be seen as what she says about Stanley in course of conversation with Stella: “He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits. Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one!” He is a man who calls a spade, a bloody shovel. His manners are uncouth and lingo, working class. He is hell bent on destroying every fabric of façade that is a protective armor of Blanche Dubois.
That’s what reality does to illusion. It recklessly tears asunder the envelope of falsehood. However, we do see Blanche not totally deceptive with herself. She does realize that they have no option but to mix their superior blood with working class, as she pities the fate of Stella’s child who will enjoy none of the privileges she and her sister did. Nonetheless, Blanche simply fails to come to terms of reality. It is in fact this failure that results in severe consequences for her. A time comes towards the end of the drama when she loses her mental proportions completely.