Role of Men in A Streetcar Named Desire: Reality or Illusion? Essay

The role of men in society is extremely important, since they associate with dominance and authority. Men usually overpower women by being extremely violent and malicious towards them. Similarly, in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, Stanley, the brother-in-law of the main character, treats Blanche, the main character, in an inhumane way through abuse and sadism. This creates a grudge and conflict between one another. As a result, the role of male characters and their personalities eventually destroys Blanche’s illusionary world, forcing Blanche to recognize the reality and destroy her security. Blanche always desires a person that is ideal for her, since she has no family members other than Stella, her sister, to protect her. Her terrifying past and her isolated life without her family leads her life into misery. Thus, she seeks for security and protection, in which she decides to create Shep Huntleigh, the epitome of her perfect man, from her imagination.

Shep Huntleigh is an imaginary character that represents the illusionary world inside Blanche’s mind and also portrays ideals of the Old South. This provides her an escape from reality; a realm in which she could not find true love. Shep Huntleigh is a substitute male used to avoid from the harsh environment as well as the poor living style and conditions at Stanley’s residence, since she grows up in a rich environment at Belle Reve, therefore unable to adapt to the sudden changes, especially Elysian Fields, a place of the dead where she is viewed as an outcast. Unlike Stanley, who destroys Blanche’s life and tries to get rid of her without caring, Shep Huntleigh is everything that Blanche seeks in a man, since Blanche requires a man to protect and give her comfort.

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Blanche sees Shep Huntleigh as a man that fits her criteria: “This man is a gentleman and he respects me.” (Williams, 126) 1, since she views Shep Huntleigh as a saviour, as well as a person who really understands her. Not only is he rich, but he is viewed as considerate, polite, and extremely caring through Blanche’s perspective. This shows that Blanche wants a man that has manners, pretensions, and is also aristocratic, living up to the old days when Belle Reve still existed. Therefore, he is the epitome of a perfect man for Blanche, but Blanche eventually believes that Shep Huntleigh is real and this devastates her life as a result. On the contrary, Blanche despises a person that goes against all of her values, such as Stanley. Stanley is the opposite of everything that Blanche desires in a man, since he destroys Blanche’s life by being ill-mannered, revealing all her lies, and eventually raped her likes to be realistic and down-to-earth.

He is a person who portrays the New South concept, where women and financial wealth matters in a society climbing its way out of poverty. Stanley is a realistic and down-to-earth person, since he likes to reveal secrets in a blunt way, thus showing Stanley’s symbolization as an animal: “He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one!” (72)2. Blanche sees him as an animal, since she thinks that Stanley is a man who is extremely impolite, careless, and unaware of his sloppiness and dirtiness. He is viewed as bestial and as a “survivor of the stone age”. His treatment towards Blanche shows his “ape-like savagery” and his animalistic character in which Blanche thinks it is disgusting yet disturbing.

Therefore, Stanley is a threat to Blanche, since he is seen as the more superior figure and his bestial character degrades Blanche into a person without dignity. Blanche also meets another person who she sees as another chance for redemption from her shameful past, who is Mitch. He represents the divide between reality and illusion, since he is trapped in between two people whom he respects, Stanley and Blanche. Mitch is a person who requires protection; he needs a person to comfort him and to relieve his pain, due to his knowledge of his girlfriend’s death and his mother’s upcoming death. He does not know who to choose: Stanley, who is his long-time friend representing reality, or Blanche, who he relies on and is comforted by representing illusion and “magic”.

He thinks that “[He] needed somebody and that [Blanche] needed somebody, too.” (96) 3, leading to the subsequent short-lived relationship between them. Mitch wants Blanche to be with him and even expresses his wish for her to be his potential wife, since he feels that Blanche is the only one who understands him and can ease his pain. Stanley reveals to Mitch the destitute life of Blanche’s past, ruining their relationship and causing both of them to have lost a romantic relationship that would help ease their broken emotional and mental states. Mitch ultimately chooses Stanley over Blanche, since he realizes that he can not deny the truth. Not only that, but he wants a true relationship, not one based on deception and fallacy. Blanche encounters a person whom she desires, whose name is called Allan. He is the perfect figure that Blanche wanted, since he has all the characteristics that Blanche desires.

However, when Blanche realizes that he is a homosexual, she begins to reject. Allan chooses his desire, which is his mutual love for another man, over Blanche’s wish, which is for Allan to only love her eternally without anybody else. As a result, Allan committed suicide and led her into a broken world. Blanche sees Allan as “a boy, just a boy, when I was a very young girl. When I was sixteen, I made the discovery—love.” (95)4. She maintains to hope that she would still have a chance to meet the person whom she desires, yet she thinks that it is impossible due to her age. Even though Blanche still loves Allan, she can not tolerate his homosexuality, since she realizes that he did not love her after several years of marriage. This wholly breaks her heart and infuriates her.

However, Allan dies at a young age, and this forces Blanche to remember the reality. Yet, she tries to refuse it in order to look for somebody who just looks like him, but yet loves her, which represents illusion. Mitch is a person who is extremely fragile, since he has a kind and generous heart towards others. Unlike Stanley, he stands up for Blanche and tries to support her. Ironically, he has no one to support him and so Mitch tries to seek for a partner that cares for him and comfort him. He views Blanche as a person whom he can trust. Mitch chooses Blanche, since he realizes that there is a spark in between them with both similar scenarios. He thinks that Blanche is the person who is right for him, since both have feelings for one another and find their identities by having a relationship.

This causes Mitch to try to know Blanche and see if there is any chance that they could be together. Mitch, similar to Blanche, also lost a lover whom he desired. He keeps the inscription on his cigarette lighter, since he can not let go of his lover, which is extremely similar to Blanche. He also comprehends Blanche’s feelings, since both have experienced the same heart-broken situation. However, he only has sexual desire for Blanche and not mutual love: “You’re not clean enough to bring in the house with my mother.” (121)5. He realizes that Blanche lies to him all along, trying to hide her own feelings instead of showing them. This made him infuriated, since he was seeking for something genuine and that he actually felt betrayed by Blanche.

Mitch actually loves Blanche in the beginning, but at the end, he realizes that she is not the right one, since he feels betrayed and tricked by Blanche. Therefore, Blanche is heartbroken after Mitch refuses to marry her and falls into a breakdown. On the other hand, Stanley is a strong character, bold and self-centred. He does not realize his brutality towards others, since it is his nature. Stanley treats Blanche in a sadistic way, since he believes that she is taking away all his possessions, such as his relationship with Stella, ruining his family, and his friend Mitch. He would do anything to destroy Blanche and to get rid of her without feeling any sympathy and remorse. As a result, he investigates Blanche’s past and use these facts to eliminate her from his life, in order to weaken her and to defeat her in the end.

He is a person who is selfish, and thus he does not understand people well, since every action that he does is physical, not mental, which is why he can not understand why Blanche is lying and hiding from her past. He is a person who lacks imagination, so he is a person who sees honesty as extremely important. Stanley uses brute force in everything that he does, not knowing that he is a physically powerful male, and Blanche thinks that it is disgraceful, since she thinks that “deliberate cruelty is not forgivable”. He is extremely sadistic, since he takes pleasure in obliterating Blanche and watching her slowly disintegrating into a breakdown.

As a result, due to all the hatred that he has brought onto Blanche and his misinterpretations of Blanche’s sayings, Stanley rapes Blanche, which symbolizes his masculine triumph and illusion losing to reality. Therefore, he is seen as the executioner of Blanche: “He hates me. Or why would he insult me? The first time I laid eyes on him I thought to myself, that man is my executioner!” (93)6. Stanley would do anything to save his relationship with Stella with the upcoming birth of the baby. Hence, Stanley is a dominant figure, ruling over the household, trying to keep his relationship with Stella tight. The role of men has negatively put an enormous impact onto Blanche in such a way that it destroys her, leading into her metaphorical death. They greatly made her realize all the mistakes that she has committed, which then shattered her illusionary world. Unable to cope with the situation, Blanche has a mental breakdown and eventually gets rejected by everyone else.

As Blanche sinks deeper into her illusionary world and becomes even further from society, now that her illusion becomes a reality after the rape. In order to protect herself from any harm, she becomes trapped in her illusion and becomes insane. Hence, Blanche then realizes the true world and it eventually destroys her, leading her breakdown into insanity.

Works Cited

Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1975. 1 Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.) 126. All subsequent references to this sources will be embedded in the essay. 2 Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.) 72. All subsequent references to this sources will be embedded in the essay. 3 Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.) 96. All subsequent references to this sources will be embedded in the essay. 4 Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.) 95. All subsequent references to this sources will be embedded in the essay. 5 Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.) 121. All subsequent references to this sources will be embedded in the essay. 6 Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.) 93. All subsequent references to this sources will be embedded in the essay.


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