Ripping apart the veil of American society

A Streetcar Named Desire - Tennessee Williams

My previous review of this play (which for some reason I have decided to keep) was probably a little to harsh, particularly since I wrote it from memory as opposed to writing it with the play fresh in my mind. Having now finished reading this play for a third time I have been forced to lower its rating even further. Personally, despite wanting to, I cannot feel that I can give it any more that I have given it because I find this play to be incredibly painful to read. It is not that it is a badly constructed play – by no means; nor are the characters shallow – they are actually really well developed; nor is it because it does not have any deep themes. Rather it is because it comes across to me as if it were little more than a sophisticated soap opera (which is probably an unfair comparison, but that is what I thought as I was reading it).

It is not that I don't like dark plays that are critical of society and the social norms, and it is not that I want to hide myself from the reality of what the play is talking about, but rather because Williams brings the play very, very close to home. To be honest, the scenes that you seen in this play you will encounter in the house of your next door neighbour. I personally cannot criticise Williams on the style that he uses, setting it in a working class district of New Orleans, and the fact that it is actually a really popular play (as can be seen through a quick glance over the other Goodreads reviews) goes to show that his style works. However, reading this play makes me feel as if somebody has cut my stomach open an is slowly removing my intestines.

Okay, that may be a simile that people use to describe really bad writing with really bad characters, and this is not the case with Street Car. However, one questions whether it would be possible for a person who has been subject to domestic violence to be able to appreciate this play themselves. However, I do sort of wonder whether this is the case. Below I am asking questions about why Stella remains in the relationship with Stan, but that question, having read this play again, is easily answered – she loves him. <a href=””>Wikipedia has an excellent synopsis of the play, where the writer describes the relationship has being a deeply passionate and primal sexual relationship. It is the fact that Stanley is brute that draws Stella to him, and it is the reason why she puts up with him. She does not see his intense masculinity as a flaw, but the part of him that she loves.

Blanche's character is very complex, to the point that you really know very little about her, and what you do find out is only through what others tell us. It is clear that we simply cannot trust a word that comes out of Blance's mouth. It is clear that she has created an illusion around the world, an illusion in which she lives, but in living this illusion she is destroys her own reality. She puts on the pretence of a Southern Belle, however as we find out she has made a reputation of being slut, which is why Williams uses the motif of the prostitute on the street robbing the drunk.

Yet, as I have suggested below, Williams also uses this play to pierce the illusion that American society lives within. The play was produced a couple of years after the end of the war and people were looking ahead to a time of peace and prosperity. This was a time where the illusion of the happy family living in their house that they owned, with the two happy children was the ideal that was believed. However we are taken into the working class district of New Orleans to be shown a different world, a world that lies just under the skin of the illusion that is American society. It is a male dominated world where women are expected to submit. Yet this is not a feminist play, it is a play about illusions, about people living in a fantasy world and not being able to break out of it – in fact the more the world lashes out at them, the deeper into that world they dive, and when they are confronted with the truth, they lash out in anger.

Could William's have done this play another way? I'm not really sure, and while this may be substantially better than Days of Our Lives, with characters who are substantially deeper, and with much more complexity, I highly doubt that I would be able to bring myself to read it again (though I probably should reread A Glass Menagerie, just to also give it a fairer treatment).


Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/251408222