A Streetcar Named Desire

In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams focuses on the past and present to explore the themes of desire, reality and illusion. He uses these themes effectively by reflecting on his genuine love for the Deep South in the USA.   In Williams’ world of the 1940s the Old South was a broken and damaged place but it still had charm. Women in the Old South were expected to be both passive and chaste as reflected in the characters of Blanche and Stella. Williams was affected by his family issues such as his father’s heavy drinking, his mother’s spoiled impracticality and his sister’s mental illness. These concepts are portrayed through some of the main characters.

Williams explores the theme of reality and illusion through the interweaving of the past and the present. Throughout the play, the theme of illusion overcoming reality is shown through the conflict between Blanche and Stanley. Blanche’s ties to her make believe genteel and refined past prevent her from leaving her social and racial prejudices behind. For Blanche, illusion is an important and ultimate force that allows her to retreat into when reality becomes too much for her. At the end of the play, the truth becomes too much to bear and Blanche retreats into her own private fantasies so she doesn’t have to deal with the harsh reality of her life. This manifests in Blanche’s insanity where she loses sense of reality and her delusions become her reality. This is shown in Scene 11. Blanche says, “Whoever you are—I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” At this stage, Blanche thinks that the doctor is the man of her dreams to rescue her and take her on a “Caribbean trip” but he is actually taking her to a mental hospital.   This final statement from Blanche shows her total loss of reality and her own decision to now perceive life as the illusion she has created to survive.

In scene 7, Blanche sings the ballad “It’s only a paper moon” while she takes a bath. This song’s lyrics describe how...