Illusion and Reality in A Streetcar Named Desire


#6 - Illusion and Reality

Is illusion necessary to life? Discuss the role of illusion in the play.




I believe that illusion is not necessary to everyone’s life but rather it helps them to avoid the harsh realities that they may have to deal with in their lives. I also believe that a major theme of this play was how our lives can often experience a fierce battle between these illusions. In the case of "A Streetcar Named Desire" there are many examples where the characters are simply hiding in or behind illusions and where the characters may try to destroy or protect their illusions or those of others.

The best example is found by looking to the main character. Blanche Dubois was a troubled woman who throughout the play lives her life in illusions. The story begins with Blanche going to New Orleans to stay with her sister Stella, and her husband Stanley for a while. Here, the illusions are revealed and the battle between the illusions and the characters will begin. What initially leads to her illusions is love. When she was young, "sixteen, I made the discovery - love. All at once and much, much too completely" (1368). She met Allan Grey, the perfect man - he had "a nervousness, a softness and tenderness which wasn’t like a man’s, although he wasn’t the least bit effeminate" (1368).

However, as we are eventually are shown, this illusion wouldn’t last forever. The young couple got married and, to Blanche, were falling more and more in love, when one day "coming into a room that I thought was empty" (1368), this illusion would be shattered. In this room were her husband, Allan, and a older male friend of his. Allan Grey was gay. Soon, Blanche realised that all along he had been trying to let her know and get "the help he needed but couldn’t speak of! He was in the quicksands and clutching at me - but I wasn’t holding him out, I was slipping in with him!" (1368). She was falling farther into the illusion with each passing second with her love, because she couldn’t really believe that he was with her and was for real.

Allan was in fact an illusion himself, by trying to appear straight to everyone. At first, they would try to deny it but the illusion would soon be totally destroyed when Blanche let it slip while they were dancing that "I saw! I know! You disgust me..." (1369). With this, Allan runs outside and kills himself. I believe that Allan killed himself more so because he realised Blanche would no longer help him than because she knew. He believed that if there was anyone who would help him make it through this whole ordeal, it would be Blanche.

Because of all this, Blanche fell into another illusion. She figured that if she were loved again, the way Allan and her were meant to be, then she could be happy again. So, "after the death of Allan - intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with..." (1380 - 1381). The illusion, now, was that out of all these men she would be with, one of them will be the right one for her and will take care of her. This was her desire, to be happy again, to be loved. But soon her intimacies got out of control and she once made the mistake of trying to seduce a 17 - year old student of hers. Because of this, she was told to get out of her town.

When Blanche gets to New Orleans, she decides that in order to not reveal anything, she must create the illusions that she is happy and the reason she is there is because she’s on vacation. This is so that nobody would think less of her. For example, when she first arrives and meets with Stella, she keeps saying that the quality of the apartment that Stella lives is not good enough for Stella to live in. And she was always having baths so no one would see her dirty or tired. Blanche believes that she is too old so she uses the darkness to