A Streetcar Named Desire American Dream

In Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, how does the play reflect upon the reality of the American dream?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Tennessee Williams’ drama A Streetcar Named Desire portrays three unstable characters whose reality is not the American dream. Blanche, Stella, and Stanley approach life hoping for different outcomes in their lives. What is the American dream?  In looking at the principles of America, the primary dream for everyone is to have a well-lived life. This might include a family, money, success, love, independence, and happiness.  If these are the constructs of the American dream, Blanche Du Bois nor the Kowalskis may never find the American dream. 

The Kowalskis do in some way love each other and want to be together.  With their newborn baby, they may be lucky enough to find a small version of the American dream.  Stella settles into a life very different from her upbringing with Blanche.  From her comments to Blanche, Stella gives up trying to find a place in the life of the plantation.  Blanche dominates that world.

Stella finds a man who is in direct opposition to her previous life.  There is little that is cultured or refined about Stanley.  He is loud, chauvinistic, rude, selfish and crude.  Yet, he does seem to care for Stella if only sexually.  If this kind of life is enough for Stella, then kudos for her dream world. When the problem of her sister is solved, Stella is able to continue on passively surviving in Stanley’s world.

When Stanley Kowalski meets Blanche DuBois, two diverse worlds confront each other.  The Polish steel worker and the aristocratic former Southern belle will never understand one another.  These two distinctive characters represent reality versus pretension and pretending. Blanche never understands the finances of her plantation, so it is lost to bankruptcy.  When Stanley learns that his part of the plantation is gone, he centers on the fact that he has lost money. 

Blanche will never find the American dream. She does not understand the harsh reality of life.  Her dream is the life of the plantation when the women were courted and treated like princesses.  She wants to attend the dances and dinners that were in her past life.

A cultivated woman, a woman of intelligence and breeding can enrich a man’s life – immeasurably! I have those things to offer…Physical beauty is passing. A transitory possession. But beauty of the mind and richness of the spirit and tenderness of the heart – and I have all of those things…But I have been foolish - casting my pearls before swine! 

When she lost her home and money, Blanche resorts to using her body to survive.  In reality, Blanche finally admits to Stella that what she wants is security and someone who would devote himself to protect her. 

Finding no one to help her hide from reality, Blanche is given over to the kindness of strangers.  Her world self-destructs when Stanley rapes and brutalizes Blanche.  She is not able to find the sensitive, delicate world of which she dreams.