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Illusion vs. Reality: A Streetcar Named Desire

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Ishana Sharma

on 11 June 2015

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Transcript of Illusion vs. Reality: A Streetcar Named Desire

Illusion vs. Reality
Blanche DuBois -
Blanche means
Her last name DuBois means
made of wood.
Blanche's qualities reveal her virtue, innocence and purity.
Illusion towards the image she is creating herself; constantly hiding herself from the past
Combined her first and last name translate into "white wood", she explains this to Mitch in scene 3,
Character Archetypes
Frye/Jung Connection
Blanche’s full name, Blanche DuBois, means ‘White Woods’. This connects to the human experience, according to Frye’s theories, as this represents her character as a pure, innocent woman.
When Stella pours coke into Blanche’s glass, the latter’s hand shakes from laughter, causing Stella to accidentally spill some onto Blanche’s white skirt. The stain represents corruption, foreshadowing Blanche going insane later on.
In the view of Jung’s theories, Blanche’s ego is unbalanced. The ego commonly consists of good and bad, however in Blanche’s case, she hides the bad and sticks to the good. This also means that she is hiding her shadow, but once she realizes everything, it emerges, revealing her true self.
Connection to Fifth Business
Characters of Leola & Mary Dempster to Blanche
“It’s a French name. It means woods and Blanche means white, so the two together mean white woods” (Williams 59).
“’Didn’t you stay at a hotel called The Flamingo?’ ‘Flamingo? No! Tarantula was the name of it. I stayed at a hotel called The Tarantula Arms!’” (Williams 146).
“The Varsouviana! The polka tune they were playing when Allan – Wait! There now, the shot! It always stops after that. Yes, now it’s stopped” (Williams 141).
appears to be the damsel in distress

in reality, she is the temptress figure
in the play.
Throughout the play, Blanche lies about her past, tries to make herself seem innocent and pretends to be the faithful widow of her beloved husband.
She acts as though her life is very depressing which creates the illusion of helplessness in the minds of those who meet her.
In reality, she was involved with many men and she used them to satisfy her desires. Acts such as flirting with Stanley, sleeping with multiple men in a hotel and having an affair with a 17 year old student prove that she is the temptress figure and she masks her lustful and selfish nature by pretending to be pure and innocent.
She constantly bathes herself and frequently wears white dresses to show her purity while in reality she actively takes part in acts which would be deemed disgraceful at the time.
Leola Cruikshank
Raised to be the wife of a rich man.
Grew up believing that her life would be filled with luxury if she married a rich man.
tried to be a better woman for Boy.
In reality, she couldn't be what Boy wanted her to be.
She hid from reality, and when she couldn't face it, it hit her head on and she gave up.
Mary Dempster
her mental illness caused her to live in an illusion of content.
believed that Paul was sending her money when in reality he even blamed her for his own suffering.
When she realized the truth about Paul, she blames Dunstan and gives up.
Leola, Mary, and Blanche
Blanche DuBois
living in an illusion where she is innocent and pure.
hides behind her white clothing and alcohol as an escape from reality.
She gives up her sanity as well when reality catches up to her.
believe in an idealistic world where things would be or are given to them.
when reality catches up to them they just give up.
they give in to the illusion of a perfect life but when their illusions fall to pieces they realize the truth.
Leola causes her own death, Mary becomes sick from stress and passes away, and Blanche is sent to an asylum after her diminishing sanity gives up against her unconscious.
Blanche DuBois cannot only be translated as white wood but also as white and made of wood, which makes it easier for the reader to grasp that she seems pure and innocent on the outside, but is really quite tough and calculating when it comes down to her image and her future, especially concerning her search for a husband.
It reflects Blanche as a character
Her reaction to light can be regarded as an attempt to hide her true nature.
By hiding from the light she tries to escape reality.
The first time that Blanche’s aversion to light becomes obvious is in scene one: “And turn that over-light off! Turn that off! I won’t be looked at in this merciless glare” (Williams 11).
In scene three, she covers the naked light bulb with a Chinese paper lantern: “ I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action” (Williams 60).
This remark shows that Blanche would rather hide behind polite phrases than accept truth and reality. The paper lantern is not very stable, though, and it can easily be destroyed, just like Blanche’s illusions.
The Blue Piano
It is mentioned in the first scene of the play: "This 'blue piano' expresses the spirit of the life which goes on there" (Williams, 3).
This appears when Blanche is talking about the loss of her family and Belle Reve
The blue piano stands for depression, loneliness and her longing for love.
Describes Blanche's emotions and represents her need for love and companionship
All of the characters in the play are aware of Stanley's tough nature however everyone especially Stella sees him as
the devil with an ultimately good heart.
Stella believes that he acts tough but he is very caring and gentle at heart. She believes this because he appears to be kind towards her. For example when he apologizes after beating her.
In reality though, he does not truly care for or love Stella and he is the
creature of nightmare
Stanley rapes Blanche which portrays his lustful and monstrous nature making him the villain figure in Blanche's life
The Varsouviana Polka
Blanche is being confronted by her past and the truth
This polka music represents death and disaster
When Stanley gives Blanche a ticket as a birthday gift, she realizes that she is not wanted anymore
In scene 11, Blanche is lost in her illusions about Shep Huntleigh
"The Varsouviana is filtered into weird distortion, accompanied by the cries and noises of the jungle” (Williams 222).
Thus the polka’s weird distortion matches the confusion in her mind.
"It was because-on the dance-floor-unable to stop myself-I'd suddenly said- 'I saw! I know! You disgust me. . .' And then the searchlight which had been turned on the world was turned off again and never for one moment since has there been any light that's stronger than this-kitchen-candle. . ." (Williams 115).
For Blanche, Allan represents
The Shadow

She constantly remembers the polka music playing the night that he killed himself and the fact that she contributed to his death is a rejected aspect of Blanche's life which she aims to hide through multiple lies and illusions which she creates
When asked by Stanley, Blanche does not reveal how her husband died in the beginning however she reveals this to Mitch later on in the play
At this point Blanche finally decides

to speak the truth about her past and accept reality
Hamlet and Blanche
It appears as if Blanche and Mitch are perfect for eachother and that they represent the
soul mate archetype
for each other
This is not true in reality because Blanche just uses Mitch as a means to hide and escape from the reality of her past
Mitch is used as an illusion of true love and happiness to make Blanche feel satisfied with her life
When Mitch realizes this, he no longer wants to marry Blanche and this is when Blanche realizes the consequences of creating a world of lies and illusions
Situational Archetypes
Traumatic experiences create false illusions in relation to the character of Blanche DuBois and her guilt for her late husband's suicide.
The Fall
Blanche experiences a loss of innocence after her husbands death as it is at this time that she builds a world of false happiness for herself by having affairs with multiple men.
Creating a world of illusions and aiming to hide from reality is her moral imperfection which leads to her fall as the society does not accept her and she is forced to leave her home town
Battle Between Good and Evil
For Blanche, the battle between good and evil is making the choice between lying and further expanding her world of illusions or speaking the truth and accepting reality
This is an ongoing battle for her throughout the play as she sometimes chooses to speak the truth and lies at other times
For example, she reveals the truth about her husbands death to Mitch which shows that she has accepted reality (good) but in the same scene, she lies to Stanley saying that Mitch had come to apologize to her for not showing up to her birthday party (evil)
The Unbeatable Wound
The death of her husband is something that seems to haunt Blanche throughout the play
She does not reveal that she played a major role in her husband's suicide until the end of the play
For her, this is the unbeatable wound which she tries to cover up through false innocence and purity (her white clothing) when in reality, it drives her towards desperate measures of madness which include constantly lying to keep her guilt (the unbeatable wound) a secret
When Blanche arrives in Elysian Fields, she tries to
appear sane
. She mentions her past but understates it.
She hides the intensity of the emotions involved in the death of her husband. These emotions come back when the
polka plays as it represents the
the event and of her mental state.
To keep up her appearance in front of people, Blanche uses coping mechanisms:

: contributes to her supposed sanity as it represses the memories. She is determined to hide her excessive drinking to keep up her appearance.
: also to repress her insanity ; she hides it with her innocent image by wearing white and acting helpless.

: to hide her true insanity, she must cover it up, both literally and with the use of a paper lantern over bright lights.
“A woman’s charm is fifty percent illusion, but when a thing is important I tell the truth, and this is the truth: I haven’t cheated my sister or you or anyone else as long as I have lived” (Williams 41).

Hamlet, on the other hand, feigns
while he is actually
. He acts mad in front of the ones closest to him, but in his soliloquies, it is evident that he is truly sane as they reveal his extensive intellect, his use of allusions, and his pondering which shows he explores his options in detail.
His sanity is all hidden behind his crazed behavior, therefore leading others to believe he is insane.
Ophelia is one who falls for his act, believing him to be “Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other, […] As if he had been loosed out of hell” (Shakespeare 2.2.81, 83).

Hamlet’s Feigned Madness
is later revealed as tension rises in Elysian Fields. The reality of her mental state is becoming evident. Simultaneously, her lust becomes visible. The innocence that masked her true nature is no longer a part of her character.
polka keeps playing and she has flashbacks of her husband’s suicide. She is no longer able to hide her emotions or her lust.

Blanche’s Break from Dishonesty
Hamlet and Blanche contrast in their feigned images
Hamlet’s supposed
at this point is actually melancholy.
Blanche’s fake
is only hiding her unstable and lustful nature.
This is symbolized in the tearing of the paper lantern off the lightbulb; her true self is exposed.
“…soft people have got to shimmer and glow […] and put a – paper lantern over the light…. It isn’t enough to be soft […] I’m fading now! I don’t know how much longer I can turn the trick” (Williams, 92).
She is calling herself out on her appearance of being soft which she is no longer able to hold on to.

Although he has always been sane, he moves – in the opposite direction of Blanche – and out of his state of melancholy and indecisiveness into a straightforward man who is content with his wants and is ready to act on them.
With this new attitude, his insane image is completely rid of and his sanity is presented in its best state.
“The readiness is all” (Shakespeare 104).
Hamlet has a greater grasp on his true self while Blanche is not able to hold onto her mental stability, let alone her fake persona, which was never stable in the first place.

Hamlet’s Sanity
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