I somehow managed to lose my original polished critical in my Student drive, so this is as close as a replica that I can make from the original:
Self perception is both an illusion and a reality. It’s impossible to ask yourself “Who am I?” without touching on both your illusions and realities of yourself. Sometimes, one proves more powerful than the other, as shown in Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire. As one of the main characters of the story, Blanche Dubois, self perception shifts from one based on both realities and illusions to one completely shrouded in facades of who she thinks herself to be, we see how an individual needs a strong balance of both illusion and reality in order to maintain a safe self perception. Williams argues that when an individual’s self-perception begins to rely too heavily on illusions or realities to reconcile what is real, they will slowly become more focused on this, leading to insanity.
Before the story begins, Blanche Dubois is a woman who is mentally stable. Her self image is supported by both fantasies and realities. She understands that her attractiveness is fading slowly as she ages “Physical beauty is passing, a transitory possession”, though she keeps herself under the impression that she is still attractive and sexy with her many intimacies with men from Belle Reeve, her original hometown. While she lets the illusions show to others on the outside, she keeps her reality check on the inside, always knowing that who she really is is not who she is showing to the outside world.
Upon her moving in with Stella, her sister, her shift to becoming reliant on her fantasies are well underway. She talks about how she met and fell in love with a rich, married man, Shep Huntleigh, and was planning to use his money to create a new life for herself and Stella, somewhere away from her personal antagonist and Stella’s husband, Stanley Kowalski. Her self perception and illusion as a young, attractive woman remains powerful as she sees herself enough to catch this rich mans’ eye, assuming he will prefer her over his own wife. Rarely is she seen discussing the realities of her physical self, instead sinking deeper and deeper into her illusion of her being young and attractive. Blanche’s illusions about herself are so powerful, that she begins to take them as reality, a reality that will soon be shattered.
Nearing the end of the play, Blanche is completely immersed in her illusions. Her self perception has become so reliant on her illusions; she is unable to tell what is real or not. She talks to herself, pretending she is addressing a crowd of admirers, talking about her attractiveness. Later, she is ready to depart from the house with Shep Huntleigh, her millionaire admirer, on a cruise. It is easy to see that by sinking so far into her fantasies, Blanche has completely bent her self-perception on her illusions, so much so that her illusions have become her realities. She is no longer mentally stable, taken away to an institute as opposed to her beloved cruise with Shep.
It’s impossible to reconcile the difference between illusion and reality, as your self perception relies so heavily on it. Blanche Dubois is a clear example of someone who has failed to reconcile this difference, instead submerging herself completely into a world of fantasies and lies. This leads to complete insanity by the end of William’s play. Her façade becomes her reality, and her true reality is buried underneath, never to show face again. Ask yourself: Who am I?