The theme of disillusionment in A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is a story of Blanche DuBois, a neurotic and fragile woman on a distressed and frantic lurk for someplace in the world to call her own. One of the most significant themes in the story deals with disillusionment. Disillusionment can be described as the disappointment due to the knowledge that something or someone is not as good as thought. Besides, it is the realization that you have been holding on to erroneous thoughts or ideas about situations and other people. To be disillusioned is to be disenchanted when you realize that someone or something is not good as expected to the point of giving up or losing hope. This essay aims to examine and discuss disillusionment as one of the themes in the play.

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In an essay by Ruby Cohn (p. 338), A Streetcar Named Desire is a touching and an emotional portrait of a southern woman who is extinct in the modern world. Blanche DuBois is the protagonist of the play. She is a fading southern belle who went to New Orleans to stay with her husband Stanley Kowalski and her sister Stella.

After Blanche DuBois left her teaching occupation in Mississippi, she arrives in the French Quarter of New Orleans to visit Stella who is her youngest sister. Immediately after her arrival, a disillusioned Blanche discloses to Stella that they have lost their ancestral home Belle Reve following the passing away of the close relatives. When Stanley learned of the loss, he relentlessly and instantly started bothering Blanche (Murphy 14). As the play begins, DuBois further falls into her disillusionment with her flashback to the gone days and ultimately pushing her over the edge.

Besides, part of Blanche disillusionment is the manner she lives in two wholly contrasting worlds: the unrefined ways and the wild ways of the present world and the traditional and the old southern style. The two worlds represent distinct aspects to the personality of Blanche. The refined lifestyle is her happy place, her fake world, her past as well as the brutal modern world of her husband. Stella was as well disillusioned in that she was too painful, too real and full of things that she wished Blanche could get rid of immediately. Such things include having sex with several teenage boys and men even if she did not know them before.

Another incidence where disillusionment is depicted in the play is when Mitch told Blanche that she is not sufficiently clean to come in with the mother (Scene Nine, p.89). In this case, Mitch was disillusioned. From these, we realize that Mitch was expressing his respect and feeling of love towards his mother and his denunciation of Blanche. Mitch cannot accept Blanche promiscuous past in Laurel and says that he doesn’t mind her being a little older than he imagined. With this said, we find that Mitch shared traditional attitudes of male towards sexuality in women. Although he agrees that Blanche has been married, he would like her to be as innocent as she has been pretending to be (Murphy 19).

Furthermore, Mitch was disillusioned and refuses to marry Blanche when he was told the truth about her sexual history while in Laurel. Before then, Mitch had believed in the southern belle act of Blanche and fell in love with her. He later then became suspicious of Blanche who was trying to hide her age. Mitch tried to stop Stanley from forcing Blanche to leave after realizing that Stanley was mistreating her when she is mentally fragile. The attempt by Mitch attests futile, and he remained a broken man dominated by Stanley.

Another inevitable disillusionment results when Blanche desired for a new start in her life (Tennessee 43). Her desire controlled how others perceived her and how she acted. Out of love for her sister, Stella could constantly reassure her about her looks. Tennessee further pointed out that despite Stella’s genuine feeling for her sister; she must patronize and humiliate Blanche and should compliment or lie to her to get along with her (p.36). Since Stella was not truthful with her, Blanche thinks that she is a charming lady and becomes disillusioned. A believe that Blanche had that men yearned for her affected how she acted towards male individuals. Stanley found out the past lies of Blanche and reveals them to Mitch, resulting in her downfall and leading to Blanche’s impending disillusionment. She has however failed to get a man who truly loves and respects her.

In conclusion, several characters in the play were inevitably disappointment after finding out that something or someone is not as good as they thought. Blanche was disillusioned with her flashback to the past days which pushed her over the edge. Mitch was disillusioned when he told Blanche that she is not sufficiently clean to come in with the mother after finding out that she was not honest. Blanche failed to find a man who respects and loves her. It was too painful for Stella to find out that her sister was having sex with men and teenage boys yet she didn’t know them.


Works Cited

Cohn, Ruby. “Late Tennessee Williams.” Modern Drama, vol. 27, no. 3, 1984, pp. 336-344.

Murphy, Brenda. Critical Insights: A Streetcar Named Desire : by Tennessee Williams. Salem P, 2010.

Tennessee, Williams. A Streetcar Named Desire. New Directions, 2015.