Escapism In A Streetcar Named Desire

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In Tennessee Williams’s play A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche Dubois measures her family’s successes and failures against a standard that she believes reflects the social values of the Old South - the pre-war South in which Blanche grew up. She uses her reminiscences and behaviors to construct herself - to other characters and to the audience - as a Southern Belle: a representative of a group of highborn women from the antebellum South. As the play unfolds, however, it becomes clear not only that Blanche cannot live up to the Southern Belles code, but also that her ideas of the Old South are as illusory as the other self-deceptions to which she is subject. Confronted by the harsh reality of post-war America, Blanche finds comfort in escapism,…show more content…
She states that she “won’t be looked at in this merciless glare” (Williams, 11) and as she starts getting more comfortable at the Kowalski’s, she puts a paper lantern over the lightbulb to soften the light. The subdued glow allows her to play the role of a virtuous and coquettish ingénue while hiding her true age and her sordid past. Moreover, Blanche is of the opinion that “a woman’s charm is fifty percent illusion” (Williams, 41), which might explain why she is so attached to the idea of purity, considering her promiscuous past (which was revealed when in Scene 7, Stanley confronted Blanche about her work as a prostitute in Laurel). This continues throughout the play until, in Scene 9, Mitch says “I’ve never had a real good look at you” (Williams, 144) to Blanche and tears the lantern off the light bulb putting her in full exposure in terms of her looks and her true personality. The Southern belle defends herself saying that she prefers magic over reality, so she tells people “what ought to be truth” (Williams,…show more content…
She is nostalgic about them as well as Belle Reve - a symbol of belonging in a society. Elia Kazan, the director of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) states that “[tradition] made a woman feel important with her own secure positions and functions, her own special worth. It also made a woman at that time one with her society.” (Kazan, 48) The traditions made Blanche feel safe in the cruel world, but also made her feel independent. At Belle Reve, Blanche took care of the plantation, but after her loss, she suddenly became “dependent on the kindness of strangers”. Since she does not realize that she’s responsible for her own financial, social and personal matters, she becomes victimized by those who hold the power in the modern times. Blanche’s fondness of tradition in also seen in the way she interacts with Mitch. Despite the fact, that Blanche’s marriage to Allan Gray ended tragically, she still sees hope in marriage as it will bring stability to her
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