How is deception presented in A Streetcar Named Desire?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Williams shows deception to be a uniquely human trait in the drama, one that is used to keep consciousness sustaining and something that is used to deceive others and oneself.  Blanche is one of the strongest examples of this element of self- deception.  She is incapable of seeing herself in the most honest of lights.  Blanche has difficulty confronting a pain- ridden past, and so deception is employed to keep such a reality at bay.  It is also this deception, to a great extent, that feeds the antagonism between she and Stanley, someone that she sees as a fundamental threat to the idea of her self- deception.  Blanche comes to need this self- deception in an intense manner and Stanley's desire to take it from her shows one of the first examples of his savagery and her ultimate defenseless states.  For the most part, Stanley is fairly open and direct about who he is and in what he believes, as there is little deception on this point.  Yet, he is incapable of being honest in terms of what he did to Blanche.  He uses deception to conceal the fact that he raped his wife's sister.  Finally, I think that Stella engages in self- deception to a great extent in order to survive with her husband and in the attempt to maintain control of her world when being pulled between Stanley and Stella. She ends up deceiving herself about the nature of her husband, if nothing else for her own welfare and for the welfare of her child.  The "self- control" for which Stella is praised by Blanche might actually be code for self- deception, the ability to control one's own notion of deceiving self is something that Blanche completely lacked.  In this, Williams shows deception of self and of others as an intrinsic part of what it means to be human.

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A Streetcar Named Desire

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