Tennessee Williams’ play titled ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ has been termed as a landmark play by many literary scholars. It is one of his masterpieces, which won him many awards, including the coveted Pulitzer Prize in 1948. It is a perfect presentation of the two major characters Blanche DuBois whose pretensions to virtue and culture only thinly cover her alcoholism and illusions of greatness, and Stanley Kowalski, who is primitive, rough, and physically as well as emotionally abusive to his wife and Blanche (Skiba 5; Skiba 6). The play deals perfectly with a case of culture clash between these two major characters. The purpose of this essay is to answer the following important questions.
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In what sense is or is not Blanche a liar?
Blanche is a liar in two major senses. First and foremost, she is a liar to herself. She is a liar to herself because instead of accepting the reality of her unsuccessful love and marriage life, she withdrew into a world in which fantasies and disillusions blend impeccably with reality (Skiba 6). After a short marriage spoilt by her finding out that her husband, Allan Grey, was having a homosexual affair, she is not able to accept and face that reality so that she can overcome the pain and frustrations that came with those revelations about her husband’s double life and the unfortunate death that followed (Skiba 5).
Instead, she puts on a composure, which is essentially an illusion she uses to shield herself and others in her life from her reality. She lies to herself that everything is alright and sets out to continue with her life without accepting that her life would never be the same again. This approach to tragedies and fate in her life sees her withdrawing into living a lie about her past (Skiba 5).
Secondly, Blanche is a liar to others. At the very beginning, when she arrived at her sister’s place in New Orleans, she lied to her that her supervisor had allowed her some days off her work as an English teacher because of an alleged nervous breakdown, when in fact, she had been dismissed summarily because of having an intimate affair with a seventeen years old student (Skiba 4).
In scene two, Stanley is suspicious that Blanche had lied to them about the loss of their family’s plantation in Southern Belle, where she had opted to live while taking care of the dying members of their family. Stanley and Blanche’s difficult relationship worsens when he finds out some old love-letters, which brings to light Blanche’s young marriage to a boy who ultimately died (Skiba 4). More about her hitherto unknown indecent past is learned through Stanley’s co-worker, who regularly traveled to Laurel, Blanche’s old hometown (Skiba 5).
In short, even though Blanche entrusted some information about her fallen marriage to Mitch and later accepted what was said about her indecent past when Mitch confronted her, she did it at the wrong time and in a desperate attempt to win Mitch’s heart for marriage and physical affection which she was evidently starved off (Skiba 5).
How might an actress indicate whether or not Blanche really knows the truth?
An actress can point to whether Blanche knows the truth by vividly bringing out the situations and circumstances when she entrusts true information about her unsuccessful marriage to Mitch, to who she was sincerely attracted. Acting perfectly, Blanche’s motives and emotions behind her revelations regarding a part of her past to Mitch can point to how she understood the truth and its value. Also, an actress can indicate whether Blanche knew the truth by acting perfectly an illusionist that Blanche was by portraying well her vain personality, which is evident throughout the play, as well as bringing out her perfect reaction to Mitch when he confronted her with reliable information about her indecent past (Skiba 6; Skiba 5).
Skiba, Melanie. The Character of Blanche DuBois in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. München, Deutschland: GRIN Verlag, 2009. pp. 4- 10. Print.