Stagnant Lives in Streetcar Named Desire and Glass Menagerie
The Stagnant Lives of Blanche DuBois and Amanda Wingfield "All of Williams' significant characters are pathetic victims--of time, of their own passions, of immutable circumstance" (Gantz 110). This assessment of Tennessee Williams' plays proves true when one looks closely at the characters of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire and Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Their lives run closely parallel to one another in their respective dramas. They reject their present lives, yet their methods of escape are dissimilar. Both women have lost someone they cared for, and so seek to hold, and unintentionally suffocate, those they have left.
A major problem that both Blanche and Amanda face is their misconception of reality and the "New South." "The predominant theme of these plays is Southern womanhood helpless in the grip of the new world, while its old world of social position and financial security is a paradise lost (Gassner 78). They are victims of a society that taught them that virtue, attractiveness, and gentility all led to happiness. When tragedy strikes, Blanche and Amanda are unable to adjust to modem society and eventually withdraw into the securities of the past. "For Blanche and Amanda, the South forms an image of youth, love, purity and all of the ideals that have crumbled along with mansions and family fortunes" (Tischier 319).
Tragedy after tragedy has struck the character of Blanche DuBois of Streetcar until nothing is left except her tenuous grasp on sanity. Her young homosexual husband, Allan, kills himself, leaving her racked with guilt with which she cannot deal. It s as if the "Grim Reaper set up his tent," taking the lives of several other of Blanche's relatives as well (Williams 27). Also, Belle Reve, "the beautiful dream of a life of safety and gracious gentility," slips from her grasp, leaving her bereft of even a home (Gantz 104). This loss and the subsequent loss of her teaching position cause her to seek out her married sister, Stella.
When she arrives at Elysian Fields, she quickly realizes that her sister's home is not the haven she imagined it to be, but an entire different world that is totally unfamiliar to her. This realization, combined with the loss of Allan, causes her to cling desperately to her sister. She even goes so far as attempting to persuade Stella away from her husband, a plan that backfires, leaving Blanche more alone than ever. "The suffering and erosion of the past leave her with an incapacity for the present (Gilman 148).
Like Blanche's Belle Reve, the lost home of Amanda's youth, Blue Mountain, is forever on her mind, with its fairy-tale existence of governor's balls and gentlemen callers. "She floats in a mist of old recollections of gentle grace and decorum" (Clurman) Also similar to Blanche, Amanda has lost her husband. However, Amanda's spouse does not die; he deserts her and her two...