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'a Study On The Social Causes Of Insanity' How Appropriate Do You Find This Statement As A Comment On Streetcar Named Desire And Regeneration?

2067 words - 9 pages

‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘Regeneration’ both present studies of insanity that stem from social pressures on characters. Insanity is defined as a “state of being unsound in mind” and “applicable to any degree of mental derangement from slight delirium or wandering to distraction”. Throughout the texts, we do see characters with ‘unsound minds’, ‘mental derangement’ who appear utterly distracted or delirious. The massive social cause of this insanity for the characters in ‘Regeneration’ is The Great War of 1914-1918. The soldiers are being treated for shellshock at Craiglockhart. Their ‘unsound minds’ being the result of shell shock from the trauma of trench warfare, knowing that once they get better they will be sent back out to the front line to endure it all again. ‘Unsound minds’ are the conditions with which Rivers, the doctor treating these insane soldiers, in Barker’s ’Regeneration’, concerns himself. He knows that the young men from the Great War, brought to Craiglockhart, are the result of being constantly bombarded by shells, whilst sitting in a rat-infested trench that is knee deep in churned mud and rain water, drenching feet and uniform, knowing that if they are ordered ‘to go over the top’, through ‘No Man’s Land’ imminent death will probably result. Rivers knows, therefore, that there is a social cause for the insanity manifest in the young soldiers brought back form the trenches. Moreover, there is the double-edged sword that if he can help heal their mind, they will return to face further conflict. Barker explores the study of Rivers’ therapy with the insane and helps us see that the War itself is the culprit. The same symptoms of insanity described in ‘Regeneration’ amongst the soldiers, are seen in the character of Blanche Dubois in ’A Streetcar Named Desire’, such as uncontrollable shaking, paranoia and mental delirium “Blanche stands quite still for some moments – the silverbacked mirror in her hand and a look of sorrowful perplexity as though all human experience shows on her face. Blanche finally speaks with sudden hysteria” Her social cause of insanity could be a number of events that have happened in her short life: the death of her love, the death of her old life and the Old World, where she was a rich Southern Belle. It could also be caused by the constant, unrelenting pressure that she is put under by the loss of her old life when she was a rich plantation workers daughter. The New World of America in 1920s has seen the Old World superseded by a land with a rich mix of new traditions and cultures, and the decline of slavery and plantations. It could be argued that social causes are to blame for insanity, Blanche has been broken both by loss and death. Likewise, the Craiglockhart soldiers in ‘Regeneration’ have been deranged by loss, trench warfare and being surrounded by death.
Tennessee Williams’ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ is set in the ‘Roaring Twenties’ when America was going through a great deal of...

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