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Is This Real Life or Is This Fantasy?

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Siyuan Feng

English 11 S+



Is This Real Life, or is This Fantasy

        In A Street Car Named Desire, Tennessee Williams uses Blanche Dubois and her characterization as someone who is trussed up and flighty to build up a theme of how one uses the exterior to attempt to delude the interior, of attempting to keep up appearances, and how it would ultimately fall apart in the end. In the play itself, it it were to be on stage, Tennessee Will                                                                                        iams allows the audience to see both the interior and exterior structure of the apartment, the contrast between the physical inside and outside already supporting the theme of interior and exterior appearances of the play.

        At the very start of the play, we can already see Blanche sidestepping a question and keeping up appearances. She tells Stella, her sister, that she’s taking a “leave of absence” from her job as a school English teacher. She might not be attempting to delude herself like she would later on in the play, yet she is already deluding others to keep her roll as a Southern Belle. The audience can already glimpse Blanche’s desire to be seen so instead of as who she truly is. Blanche’s snobbishness and elitism in the first scene is also a way she keeps up her facade as the “naive, higher status Southern Belle”, hiding her much darker past. She asks Stella to do her favors, telling her to “Run to the drugstore and get me a lemon-coke with plenty of chipped ice in it!”, musing that she “love[s] to be waited on.” Her snobbish nature here may not also be a lie to others, but also a delusion to herself, believing that she is indeed in that position of power instead of who she truly is now. She also refers to Stanley as a “Polack”, a derogatory ethnic term referring to a person of Polish descent.

        The same can be seen from her fanciness, trunk of fancy clothes, and intense attention to appearances. The author shows Blanche talking about her appearance when she speaks with Stella. Blanche says that, “[She rises] I want you to look at my figure! [She turns around] You know I haven't put on one ounce in ten years, Stella? I weigh what I weighed the summer you left Belle Reve. The summer Dad died and you left us….” She not only talks about her appearance, she flaunts it. Blanche takes pride in her appearances, but is also extremely sensitive about it, refusing to bathe in fluorescent light as it makes her seem unseemly. Her reference to the past in this quote shows her wish to go back to that time, and her fear of old age now, ten years from then. Throughout the play, we see her continuing to fish for compliments and attempt to show her attractive side to others, such as standing under a lamplight to show her figure and silhouette, reinforcing her wish to keep that veneer of a delicate and beautiful Southern Belle.

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