A Street Named Desire written by American playwright Tennessee Williams contains issues from life particularly the destructive effects of detaching oneself to the reality, creating mere fantasies and illusions that when not met, may lead to extreme frustration and worst tragedy. The story centers on an isolated woman named Blanche Dubois who is elegantly reared in Old South Aristocratic traditions. Even at the beginning of the play when her family fortune and state are gone, when she learned that her husband is homosexual and eventually commits suicide because of disgrace, when she realizes that she have a bad reputation because of her indiscrete sexual behavior, and the social constructed gender roles during the Old South, the writer already highlighted the predicaments of Blanche that somehow influence her behavior towards life. She is a lonely woman who seeks companionship and protection in the arms of strangers. She is trying to fit the emptiness in her heart through other people.
Blanche’s character is in constant conflict between reality and fantasy. Blanche says “I don’t want realism, I want magic” illustrates her unacceptance of reality (Tennessee, 1986). Her character illustrates a romantic Old South who associates happy ending with a princess or Miss Damsels in Distress rescued by heroic Knight in shining Armor. Blanche’s desire created in her imagination became an uncontrollable force throughout the play that defined her tragic fate. Blanche is basically an insecure and dislocated individual who is often in a state of perpetual panic about her age and fading beauty. She has lots of pretensions just to make herself appear attractive and appealing to male suitors. Apparently, she depends on male sexual admiration for her sense of identity and self esteem that often succumbed her to passion. Moreover, the character of Blanche dwells in illusion and fantasy unconsciously approaching them as a means of escape and self defense both against outside threats and against her own demons and fears. Fantasy became a magical force that temporarily protects her from the tragedies she has to endure. By marrying, Blanche hopes and believes that she will escape poverty and bad reputation that continually haunts her.
Blanche is a victim to the social constructed roles given to women during the times of the Old South. The writer uses gender role playing as a big motivating factor that defines Blanche’s destiny. Blanche’s dependence on men for financial security and protection reflects their treatment towards women during the transition from the old to the new South. Society by that time always incorporates their roles to motherhood and home who perceive male companions as their only means to achieve happiness, sustenance and self image. Blanche sees marriage as the only possibility of escape and survival without realizing that by relying on men, she is putting herself into the hands of others. Blanche’s upbringingness and social orientation in the Old South unconsciously influence her every behavior. She lies in a vain or misguided effort to please men in desire to accumulate power and sense of individuality. She is afraid to get old because her reality says that age and beauty are the only way to acquire marriage.
Blanche’s is one of the women in the play who is an unfortunate victim to society’s rules. The desperate and fanciful nature of Blanche is apparent in her mental and actual attempts to convince herself that chivalric gentleman and knight in shining armor still exist. Social norms and conventions in the Old South diminishes unmarried woman, like Blanche, leaving them vulnerable to the reality that they have to find a man to acquire their sense of identity again. At the end of the story, Blanche will be taken to an insane asylum. Her frustrations in life because of her unmet expectations of what life ought to be created her psychological pain. The protagonist of this play, Blanche, has a tragic destiny because of her choices, weakness and inability to confront the truth of her situation.
Tenessee, Williams (1986). Streetcar Named Desire. Tandem Library Books