150 million years ago, a brontosaurus roaming Pangaea somewhere died, decomposed, and was eventually buried. After the bones of the brontosaurus are isolated from the elements, the calcium leaches out and is replaced by sedimentary rock. Later on, when a paleontologist unearths the fossil, he or she discovers not a true bone, but a facsimile of a bone. In a way, it is a false approximation of the truth of that brontosaurus. Desire works in the same way as the process of fossilization. Desire also blinds people from reality and sequesters them from the elements around them. Similarly, desire replaces reality with a false approximation of it. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”, the power of desire blinds them to their problems or to what they originally wanted and replaces them with a false representation of their dilemmas and goals.
In both works, the power of desire to blind and replace is present in relationships that are physical and carnal. In The Great Gatsby, Myrtle’s affair with Tom is full of lost and violence; In “A Streetcar Named Desire”, Stella’s marriage to Stanley is also passionate and chaotic. In both relationships, the men beat their women, but the women do not leave. Stella’s lust for Stanley blinds her to his barbarism. After Stanley punches Stella and bellows her name, Stella seems entranced by lust:
The low-tone clarinet moans.…Stella slips down the rickety stairs in her robe. Her eyes are glistening with tears and her hair loose around her throat and shoulders….Then they come together with low, animal moans….Her eyes go blind with tenderness as she catches his head and raises him level with her. (Williams 67)
Stella’s lust, symbolized by the clarinet, blinds her to how awful her abusive relationship is. While Stella is locked in a violent relationship because of her blindness, Myrtle cannot see the futility of her own affair with Tom, and replaces it with a false dream of a life with Tom. While Tom and Myrtle are having a party with friends, Myrtle dances around the room in her new dress: “With the influence of the dress her personality had also undergone a change. The intense vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage had been converted into impressive hauteur” (Fitzgerald 30). Myrtle has falsely replaced her simple background of a mechanic’s wife with that of one from high society. Myrtle’s and Stella’s physical relationships have no hope for success because of the desire that blinds them, while Blanche has no hope in any relationship.
Blanche’s desires blind her from the reality and cause her to replace one hopeless relationship with another. Blanche is incapable of finding a normal relationship. Her first husband, a closeted homosexual, commits suicide after Blanche discovers his indiscretions and calls him unfit for society. Blanche was almost willfully blind to her husband’s leanings, as evident by her recollection of first falling in love with him:...