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A Streetcar Named Desire

by Tennessee Williams

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How is deception presented in A Streetcar Named Desire?

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In A Streetcar Named Desire, appearances are deceiving in Blanche, for what she pretends to be (a well-off schoolteacher on a leave of absence) is not at all what she is. Appearances are also quite different from reality in Stella and Stanley's marriage. By the end of the play, Blanche can no longer tell the difference between appearances and reality.

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Blanche DuBois is an iconic character because she has created such an engrossing deception about herself, her past, and her present and because of her struggle to continue to maintain this deception throughout the play. She deceives Mitch, her suitor, about her age, her background, and her basic suitability as a future wife for him—but she does this out of desperation, as there are few avenues for survival open to her.

Stella, her sister, is also guilty of self-deception in a number of ways. Raised in the same class as Blanche, she continues to tell herself that her husband's brutish ways don't matter, when they do, and in the end she betrays her sister by believing Stanley over Blanche.

Stanley's self-deception is, in a way, a mirror of Stella's. He pretends that Blanche's characterizations of him don't matter, but they rankle him badly, and lead to his attack on her.

All three of the major characters are revealed to have been surviving, to an extent, on lies, and although it's Blanche whose world completely crumbles at the end of the play, we are left to wonder just how long Stella and Stanley's marriage will survive after what they have just lived through.

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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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How are appearances deceiving in A Streetcar Named Desire?

In Tennessee Williams's play A Streetcar Named Desire, very little is actually what it appears to be on the surface. When Blanche DuBois arrives at her sister's apartment, she comes with plenty of secrets that are only gradually revealed. Blanche appears to be an upper-class schoolteacher taking a brief leave of absence to calm down her nervous condition. She is rather snobbish, criticizing her sister and brother-in-law's small apartment and comparing it to the family's lost home, Belle Reve, which she claims to have let go after many of their relatives passed on.

Blanche, however, is not at all as she seems. For one thing, she drinks heavily, even though she tries to hide it. For another, she is not just taking a leave of absence from her job; she has been fired for having a sexual relationship with a minor. It turns out that Blanche is penniless. She actually lost Belle Reve because of her debt, and she ended up living in a nasty motel, from which she was evicted because of her promiscuity. Indeed, the Blanche of reality is not the same as the Blanche of appearances.

Another prime example of deceiving appearances occurs in the marriage of Stella and Stanley. On the surface, they seem to be very much in love, but in reality, their relationship is far more about lust. Stella is highly physically attracted to her husband, and their physical relationship is active. Yet their bond doesn't seem to go much deeper than that. In fact, Stanley can turn nasty very quickly and even beats Stella at one point. Stanley also rapes Blanche, although his wife refuses to believe that has happened.

In the end, Blanche goes insane. She can no longer distinguish between appearances and reality. She thinks that she is going off with her millionaire boyfriend, but really, she is going to a mental asylum.

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