A Streetcar Named Desire is a 1947 play that was written by Tennessee Williams (March 26th, 1911- February 25th, 1983), an American playwright. That the play is a masterpiece among America's and Williams' magnum opus is attested by the fact that it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948. The play was opened on December 3rd, 1947 on Broadway and closed in the Ethel Barrymore Theater on December 17th, 1949. While the Broadway production was directed by Elia Kazan and starred by Kim Hunter, Karl Malden and Marlon Brando, the London production which had been opened in 1949 was starred by Bonar Colleano, Renee Asherson, and Vivien Leigh and directed by Laurence Olivier.
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The play revolves around Blanche DuBois as the main character, so that it is through her that the author, Williams, delivers his words and unfolds the plot. In the play, Blanche travels from Laurel, Mississippi to her sister's domicile in the French Quarters of New Orleans which is in Elysian Fields Avenue, on the account that she has been purportedly given a break by the school principal who saw the need for her to quell her danger of running a nervous breakdown.
Nevertheless, given that her stay is troublesome to her sister Stella Kowalski and her husband, Stanley Kowalski's privacy, the latter finds it necessary to try prying on Blanche's background. The appearance of Mitch, Blanches' would-be suitor who is also Stanley's friend leads Stanley in on some secrets on Blanche's past life. It emerges that Blanche was living an illusion which if stripped would only reveal a woman living a life conquered by alcohol, sexual debauchery which had seen her relieved of her duties after having strings of fornication with her seventeen year old student. It is apparent that Blanches falls into this trap of seeming waywardness after that she discovers that her husband Allan Gray, is a homosexual. Allan Gray later commits suicide. Equipped with this knowledge, Stanley confronts Blanche and eventually rapes her. Blanche succumbs to a nervous breakdown, paving way for her being sent to a mental institution. This culminates into Blanche becoming incapacitated after undergoing a lobotomy.
Analyzing Blanche's character and Explaining why she becomes an easy target for Stanley Kowalski
At the façade, it may appear to a casual reader that Blanche is a hypocrite, who pretends to be a conservatist especially towards sex, who in the real sense is a teacher who entertains sexual relationships with her male teenage students. Such casual readers would go on to reveal her lying that she was on a sabbatical when she visited her sister while in fact she had been dismissed from working as a teacher.
Nevertheless, a critical look at the circumstances that surrounded Blanche's life shows otherwise. Blanche is indeed a morally austere person for she remained faithful to her husband Allan Gray who was a homosexual, the fact that homosexuals do not fulfill their sexual obligations in heterosexual marriages notwithstanding. Adding the sexual deprivation, the shock of discovering that a spouse is nothing but a homosexual and that spouse later on committing suicide must have had very debilitating effects Blanche's personality and emotions. It is also true that at the moment that saw these tragedies unfold; Blanche needed the most, emotional comfort- a value which she does not receive. Therefore to postulate that Blanche falls to Stanley's sexual rapacious act is out of her pretense is to reveal a degree of shallowness, insensitivity and the status of a novice in literary analysis.
As a matter of fact, Blanche becomes an easy target because of the absence of the aforementioned emotional support. A close look at the plot reveals a lonesome and depressed woman who runs to seek solace to the closest confidante possible, even her own sister. From coming to the realization that her husband is a homosexual, her husband's suicide, emotional deprivation and turmoil, constant struggle with the conscious, to the loss of a job, it becomes apparent that Blanche looked forward to not being alone. It is this circumstance that pushes her to her sister's house and ultimately accorded Stanley Kowalski with the chance to rape her.
Apart from the circumstances and the twisting arm of fate, Blanche's personality also somewhat conspires against her, setting her up for Stanley's ravenous tendencies. A closer look at the play reveals Blanche as a secretive and reserved woman. This is exemplified in the manner in which she is able to keep away from her own sister Stella, the fact that Stanley is harassing her. It is because of this reserved nature and secretiveness that Blanche lies that she is on leave after she has been sacked from her workplace; not because she is a liar. That Blanche had gone a lot of emotional and psychological anguish at the hands of life's uncertain turn of events, yet she carries all singlehandedly in her bosom despite her sister and brother-in-law, Stanley's presence, is a matter that underscores her secretive nature. It is most probable that Stanley in his fit of rage saw it fit to rape Blanche, given that he had known all too well that the chances of Blanche telling the same to her sister Stella would be very slim (Miller, 75).
Interestingly, it is also lucid that the nature of relationship that Blanche's sister, Stella had with her husband Stanley, acted as an antecedent factor to Blanche being raped. It is clear that the flame in Stella and Stanley's marital relationship is based on powerful, animalistic and basic sexual instincts and chemistry: not reason. It is by this same virtue that Stella would chose to remain with her husband Stanley, a man who has raped he sister. Willfully turning a blind eye or assuming ignorance of the possibility of Stanley is a matter that must have remained untenable to Stella, not unless she had been too blinded to see.
At the same time, it is clear that Stanley's personal predisposition and nature plays an important role in Blanche falling an easy target to him. Stanley is by nature a forceful, brutish, roughly hewn, sensual, emotionally abusive force of nature. This personality cuts in many ways. In the first place, it makes Stella totally subservient and less critical so that she totally remains Stanley's stooge. Stella is not able to do anything about Stanley's hostility towards Blanche, despite the fact that this hostility is the triggering factor to Blanche's rape.
Another triggering factor that catalyses Blanche's rape or falling into Stanley's target is the emergence of Mitch and his personality. Upon Mitch disclosing Blanche's secrets to Stanley, all the respect and fear that Stanley should have towards Blanche as his sister-in-law somewhat run out the window. The fact that the disclosure of these secrets fast tracks the consummation of the plot towards the tragic end confirms this. Nonetheless, it suffices to say that as a real man, Mitch fails miserably in character, for he is the one who should have guarded Blanche's secrets. To Mitch, Blanche had been a woman he was interested in seducing, making his fiancé and ultimately a wife, yet he is not able to keep her secrets. If his love for her had totally waned, Mitch would have left Blanche amicably, but kept the secret, as a real man.
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