The Keys to Desire

Desire. If this entire play, with all the scenes, were to be condensed into one, essential word, it would most likely be desire. Desire drives this entire plot, (much like how Desire (the streetcar) drives Blanche to Elysian Fields, which would be considered the inciting incident). This play is titled a streetcar named desire, and through the fact that the word desire is not capitalized, we can see that Tennessee Williams is referring to the actual emotion of desire.   Blanche’s aspirations caused a huge change in her character, and Stanley’s own desire led to the loss of Blanche’s sanity. Desire plays a strong role as the motivation behind all the characters, in that it is a controlling force. While some try to resist it, most succumb to it (desire).

Blanche is a very interesting individual; at first, I thought she was a very vulgar and lustful person, and immediately thought of her as a sort of attention seeker who was very manipulative. As I have reread this play, I see her in a different light (well, figuratively, not literally). She indulged in all her infamous, heinous acts to overcome her guilt over the death of her husband. In the deepest part of her heart, she was trying to overcome the guilt; the problem with that is, the only person who can see Blanche for the delicate character she is, would be Stella. None of the other characters seem to take a look at how Blanche may be internally; they either look at her outer appearance, or of her mysterious past in Laurel. There is little attention paid to Blanche’s mental state, her own emotional state after everything that has transpired in her life. This, to me, seems to represent how women were objectified during the time period of the story, and is a sort of explanation for all the actions, as well as the male dominance, present in the play. The men are driven by desire to achieve these “objects”, yet one of them, Blanche, stands out. This “object” is resilient and manipulative, refusing to be dominated by other people.

Blanche utilizes illusions to make her seem like a pure, innocent girl, creating a feigned persona which only the embodiment of realism, Stanley Kowalski, is able to see through. From the Scene Two, Blanche has been flirting with Stanley, perhaps in order for him to desire her, something that may allow Blanche to have a sort of control over Stanley Kowalski. He (Stanley) does not get caught in Blanche’s web of lies, as he is a realist; he doesn’t believe in illusion. He’d rather fancy a woman who would lay her cards down on the table, a woman who does not have a mysterious history, and Stella seems to fit that role. Blanche realizes that Stanley will not be seduced by her, and instead, she moves onto Mitch Harrold, a gentle man who also seems to be a companion to loneliness.

A message that is commonly interpreted by readers of this play, would be the fact that desire leads to ruin. To provide an antithesis to this message, I’d like to bring to light the fact that Stanley and Stella’s married relationship has a foundation OF desire, giving the belief that while desire may cause destruction, it may also take part in creation. Desire is how Steve and Eunice’s married life runs; Steve does something stupid (like adultery), and after a very physical quarrel, Eunice later comes back to him, most likely out of desire (based on Eunice’s portrayed tone). Desire is able to keep the love of residents in Elysian Fields alive, and so it acts as a foundation. Blanche hopes to be desired, as it would be able to cause Blanche to feel younger, as well as attractive, two things which she has a strong craving for.

Desire can also be used as a sort of relief, as Tennessee Williams, in his A Streetcar Named Desire, projects that when an individual succumbs to their desire, they are able to forget about their troubles. Blanche is a perfect example of such an occurrence; she is haunted by the melody of the Varsouviana Polka, the music that was playing when her husband committed suicide. What’s more, is that Blanche feels guilty for his death, because of her inability to control what she had said to him. The music, the Varsouviana Polka,  plays in Blanche’s mind when she is reminded of her guilt, and Blanche originally tried to get rid of it by succumbing to her desires; intimacies with strangers. The music is able to occasionally be averted through alcohol, but occasionally, it also seems to be able to overcome the effect of drunkenness.

Without the actual emotion of desire, this play would have been radically altered; in fact, it may not have even been in existence. Desire may very easily be known as the essence of this play, as all the characters, and symbols as well, are able to relate to it. Most often, desire is interpreted as a negative quality; however, it is inherent in human nature. We all want things from time to time, and some of us even go to great lengths to satisfy those wants. Those who go are labelled to be selfish, or greedy. But perhaps chasing after one’s own desire may be able to transgress such disparaging qualities, and become something more: ambition. In my opinion, THAT is what I would call Blanche’s attempt to survive in a world that she does not belong in. Not greed, desire, selfishness, or brutality; rather, something of a more ambitious nature.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *