ess andCrueltyA Streetcar Named Desire: Condeming Those Who Treat Others With Harshness andCrueltyOne of the main themes expressed by Tennessee Williams in his play, A StreetcarNamed Desire, is to condemn those who display cruelty and harshness in theirtreatment of others, especially those who are weak and vulnerable. Threecharacters who demonstrate these insensitive qualities are Blanche, Mitch, andStanley. Whether the cruelty is deliberate or not, it results in thedestruction of others, both physically and mentally.
Blanche Dubois, the central victim of mistreatment in the play, was herself,dealing out her share of insensitivities during her younger days. When Blanchewas 16, she had a very handsome lover named Allan Gray. She was very much inlove with him and decided to marry him. But by total surprise one night,Blanche found her lover in bed with another man. She tried to pretend thatnothing had happened. However, she was unable to hold what she saw inside, andtold Allan “I saw, I know, you disgust me”( p.96).
To Allan, Blanche seemed tobe a person who accepted him for who he was in a society where homosexuals arediscriminated against. What Blanche said completely devastated Allan and hefound no reason to continue living. Although Blanche had no intentions ofhurting Allan, enough damage was done to prompt Allan to shoot himself, his mindand body destroyed.The harsh treatment dealt by Mitch to Blanche near the end of the play isstrikingly similar to Blanche’s treatment of Allan Gray. Mitch is a friend ofStanley’s whom Blanche falls for during her visit to New Orleans.
Therelationship between Blanche and Mitch had been developing steadily. Bothcharacters felt the need to settle down in life and both saw the image ofmarriage at the outcome of their relationship. It did seem as though the imagewould become reality, until Stan interfered. Stan filled Mitch’s mind withunfavourable stories of Blanche’s checkered past and the relationship quicklyturned sour. Mitch had not believed Stan at first, but when he receivedconfirmation of the truth to Stan’s accusations, he became heart-broken andenraged. Mitch goes to confront Blanche personally and accuses her of being aprostitute and lying to him.
Mitch also says that Blanche is hiding something,as he has never seen her in broad daylight. He then tears the paper lantern offthe light bulb, representing a tearing away of Blanche’s shield from realism.Blanche admits to the accusations but reasons that she has changed her ways andnever did lie in her heart. Mitch appears to forgive her as he goes to kissBlanche. But in the midst of the embrace, Mitch blurts out, “You’re not cleanenough to bring in the house with my mother” (p121) This outrages Blanche, whokicks Mitch out of the house. Just as she was to Allan Gray, Mitch appeared tobe her salvation, but when Mitch exposes her vulnerability, she essentiallybecomes broken down mentally.
While Mitch delivers the blow that mentally destroys Blanche, it is Stanley, hercruel brother-in-law who orchestrates Blanche’s downfall with no remorse. First,he digs up all the negatives from Blanche’s past and hints to Blanche that heknows stories about her, making Blanche feel scared and insecure. Then Stanleyproceeds to spread the news to Stella and Mitch, Blanche’s two closest people inthe play; One of whom (Mitch) , turns on her. Then, on Blanche’s birthday,Stan “surprises” Blanche with a presentbus tickets back to Laurel. The ticketsimply to Blanche that she has worn out her welcome, and makes her feel extremelyuncomfortable. After the incident with Mitch where Blanche becomes mentally andemotionally battered, Stan comes to inflict more damage to her. Stan, knowingthat Blanche would be making up stories about her supposed lovers (ShepHuntleigh) to salvage her pride, pretend to play along with the charade.
Heasks peculiar questions that force Blanche to a point where she could no longerkeep up her act. Then, to deliver the ultimate insult to Blanche, Stanleybrutally rapes her, causing Blanche to go insane, totally destroying her.As shown, vulnerable people who are victims of vicious and cruel treatment feelincredible pain inside and outside when abused.
Their minds are like time bombs,ready to go off when the pain becomes unbearable. Unfortunately, there are toomany insensitive people around who fail to see their cruel nature in treatingpeople. Until things change, society can not be deemed a safe place for thevulnerable and fragile.