A Streetcar Named Desire: a Tragic Hero
Tennessee Williams, also known as Thomas Lanier Williams, was an American play writer. He is considered among the three foremost playwrights of the 20th century. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Tennessee Williams was born on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi. After college, he moved to New Orleans, a city that would inspire much of his writing. Tennessee Williams wrote his play “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1947. This was a period of rebuild after World War II. This play caught a lot of the audience off guard because it was not normal to write such topics during this time frame. This play was probably the most revealing play ever written from what I read and base during the time it was made. Based on the play by Tennessee Williams, this well-known drama follows troubled former schoolteacher Blanche DuBois as she leaves a small-town of Mississippi and moves in with her sister, Stella Kowalski, and her husband, Stanley, in New Orleans. Blanche’s flirtatious Southern-belle presence causes her problems for Stella and Stanley, who already have a violent relationship, leading to even greater conflict in the Kowalski household. Ever since Blanche found out her husband was talking to man and committed suicide, she was not the same. This all made her act out differently in life.
A tragedy highlights a serious drama in which the protagonist (usually of noble position) suffers a series of unhappy events that end in catastrophic: deaths, spiritual breakdowns, and etc. Essentially, tragic characters are often efficient in their ability to withstand suffering, courting and circumscribing their individual destruction. Concerning the definition of tragedy and a tragic character, Tennessee William’s Blanche Dubois in “”A Streetcar Named Desire”” play befits the definition as she mordantly leads herself in experiencing her downfall. Throughout the play, Blanche demonstrates the aspect of being misplaced as she tore’s herself away from the image she is. Blanche hides her true self from the world as a result of the standards imposed by society on women based on societal and moral obligations to be considered a good woman. Even though she paints a completely different image of herself which she projects to the world, she continually is cruelly ripped of that image through different events which result in her demise. The play embodies the character of Blanche Dubois as she struggles with financial insecurities, loneliness, and guilt in playing her role as the tragic protagonist.
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In the play “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Tennessee William exemplifies the character Blanche Dubois as one who undergoes several tragic flaws. Blanche suffers from her inability to overcome her haunting past and her desire to become someone else in addition to overcoming the memories from the cruel animalistic treatment that she had to sustain from Stanley. It is saddening that Stella, her sister, plays a significant role in her downfall. Following her experience on these overwhelming factors, Blanche eventually experiences a tragic breakdown. Blanche is unable to overcome her past since she is not willing to own it and accept what happened. Blanche was passionately in love with Alan before she discovers that Alan was gay and consequently disregarded her feelings for her inability to stomach the news. Blanche goes ahead to reveal to Alan how much disgusted she was upon discovering he was gay which prompts Alan to go ahead and commit suicide. Blanche, thus, could not overcome her level of guilt as she considered herself to be behind Alan’s act of ending his own life. Ever since the day he committed suicide, she makes this the reason why she acts the way she does. She shouldn’t go around selling her body for pleasure knowing she is a school teacher. Also, her incident with fooling around with a seventeen-year-old from the school should have had a more severe consequence than just being exempt from teaching. She should have been put in jail or giving help knowing she isn’t right.
Repeatedly, Blanche had to lie to others to establish a righteous image for herself. Her ability to lie acted as a masquerade in hiding her reality which she considered to be sinful and dirty. Blanche not only lied about why she had to leave Laurel but also lied about her age, promiscuity, and alcoholic behavior. When Stanley asks her if she prefers a shot of alcohol she states, “No, I—rarely touch it” (Williams 26). Because she is unwilling to confront her reality, she decides to hide in illusion. This becomes one of her most prominent tragic flow for if she acknowledged her past, she could have been able to salvage her sanity. If Blanche decided to be truthful to herself and those around her from the beginning, she most likely would have been able to survive redemption. Upon finding that everything Blanche said was nothing but fabricated lies, Mitch is unable to trust her again. Blanche admits her guilt by stating; “I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic!” insinuating that she is not comfortable with being real but wants to fake everything in establishing a picture in her world of illusion (Williams 145). Blanche admits to misinterpret things to people and confirms before Mitch that she does not tell the truth but rather what she feels should have been the truth. She also does not find this sinful as she tells Mitch “if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it.”
The fact that Blanche feared lights evidence that she feared reality and placing her life on the known. Blanche confesses that Alan’s death took away her light with him out of her living self. Blanche states that “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.” (Williams 115) Even though Blanche desired light, she never thought she would ever be able to achieve that. Moreover, her desire for gentleness and kindness was always out of her reach since she did not have a supportive family. Her intention in seeking to belong also did not work out in her favor since she consistently lied to her friends. Mitch should have known from the moment when he first met Blanche that she was not right. Every time they hang out together it had to be at night or somewhere dark because she didn’t want him to see that she lied she was older and not all that pretty. This shows she has no satisfaction in herself and brings herself down due to her past experiences.
As evidenced above, Blanche experiences numerous things which solidify her as a tragic proponent. Blanche is a tragic hero as despite being known for being dignified, she has a flaw which leads her to her downfall. Blanche refuses to own up her true self and hides in an illusion image she paints for herself with an attempt to match up the society’s definition of a good woman. She ends up losing the people she loves through lying and continues to lie hoping she will retain the few people she still can interact with. Notably, every hero has experienced a tragic flow which ultimately brought about their downfall just like Blanche Dubois who makes a fatal flow of judgment errors which work out with external forces and fate to bring about a tragedy.
- Williams, Tennessee. “A Streetcar Named Desire”: [a Play.]. New York]: New American Library, 1947.”