Appearance and Reality in A Streetcar Named Desire
In 1947, Tennessee Williams wrote the play A Streetcar Named Desire. Since then, scholars have debated endlessly about the symbolic representations of the play; this is yet another of those arguments. Throughout the play, Williams uses the characters of Blanche and Stanley to illustrate a conflict between appearance and reality in the world.
BLANCHE: ...what sign were you born under?
BLANCHE: Astrological sign. I bet you were
This short excerpt from the play provides quite a bit of insight into both the character Stanley, as well as Blanche's character. In Blanche, one finds a mystical character, with a hint of unspoken magic about her, yet she truly is nothing other than the stories she has created about herself. As Riddell explains, "Blanche, as her name implies, is the pallid, lifeless product of her illusions" (Riddell 424). Her interest in astrology is an example of her love of the supernatural and fantastic, as opposed to the worldly or mundane aspects of life. In addition, she suffers from megalomania, and believes that she is still beautiful and rich, and wanted. She comes from the Old South backgroundùan allusion to a world, which by the 1940's when the play was written, ceased to exist, though it had once been strong and beautiful. The audience and the characters in the play, think of Blanche's childhood home as "A great big place with white columns" that "must be awful hard to keep up" (Williams 17). The name of the plantation itself is a romantic allusion in French, translated "beautiful dream". Through the course of events in the play, however, the audience learns that Belle Reve is no longer beautiful, but has been "lost on a mortgage" (Williams 42). It has been sold "piece by piece" to pay for the "epic fornications" of Blanche and Stella's family (Williams 43). The fatade of Belle Reve's beauty is shattered, as is the one that Blanche herself wears.