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A Streetcar Named Desire By Tennessee Williams

1566 words - 6 pages

In Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Stella and Stanley Kowalski live in the heart of poor, urban New Orleans in a one-story flat very different from the prestigious home Stella came from. This prestige is alive and well inside Stella’s lady-like sister, Blanche Du Bois. Over the course of Blanche’s life, she has experienced many tragedies that deeply affected her, such as the death of her gay husband, the downward spiral in her mental health that followed, and most recently the loss of her wealth and therefore social status. She constructs a proverbial lampshade to mask her pain and to control the last part of her world that she is able to, the image she projects into the world for herself and others to see. The brooding prince of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” chooses a very similar way of coping with the hand life has dealt him. When his mother remarries his uncle only a month after his father’s passing, the ghost of Hamlet’s father visits the young prince demanding avengement. These events cause Hamlet to try to replace the old lampshade that helped him cope with reality by changing his own image and fooling himself and others into thinking he’s crazy. An examination of both plays reveals that the importance of subjective truths and the way in which Blanche and Hamlet use them to cope transcends the context of both plays.
Blanche’s lampshade is the filter for all the harsh realities of life that she would rather not deal with. In a scene with Stanley’s friend Mitch, Blanche tells Mitch to cover up a light bulb with a Chinese lampshade, “I can't stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action” (1837). In this scene Blanche blatantly tells the other characters and the audience that she cannot handle much of the real world, thus she lives in her own fictions to survive. Her fictions are subjective truths, or statements created and believed by someone to cope. In Blanche’s case the subjective truths are heavily biased toward herself; she feels like she is the most desirable woman in every room she steps foot in. She shows this sentiment by demonstrating her charms to everyone, including the married Stanley Kowalski. She is drawn to Stanley as the kind of man she thinks she needs because her first husband was gay and it traumatized her. She could not understand why he wasn’t attracted to her and I link this back to her habit of charming every prospective mate possible and her promiscuity during the time period following her husband’s death. I think after her husband’s death she turned up her charm level and began telling herself that many men wanted her, so she sought the attention of those men. Men like Stanley Kowalski, who are rough, masculine, and quite the opposite of her late husband, become her comfort and later her downfall. I think Blanche’s continual attraction to unavailable men shows the lampshade has caused her to disassociate from her real self and therefore is interested in...

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