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A streetcar named desire condeming those who treat others with harshness and

A Streetcar Named Desire: Condeming Those Who Treat Others With Harshness and

Cruelty

One of the main themes expressed by Tennessee Williams in his play, A Streetcar

Named Desire, is to condemn those who display cruelty and harshness in their

treatment of others, especially those who are weak and vulnerable. Three

characters who demonstrate these insensitive qualities are Blanche, Mitch, and

Stanley. Whether the cruelty is deliberate or not, it results in the

destruction of others, both physically and mentally.

Blanche Dubois, the central victim of mistreatment in the play, was herself,

dealing out her share of insensitivities during her younger days. When Blanche

was 16, she had a very handsome lover named Allan Gray. She was very much in

love with him and decided to marry him. But by total surprise one night,

Blanche found her lover in bed with another man. She tried to pretend that

nothing had happened. However, she was unable to hold what she saw inside, and

told Allan "I saw, I know, you disgust me..."( p.96). To Allan, Blanche seemed to

be a person who accepted him for who he was in a society where homosexuals are

discriminated against. What Blanche said completely devastated Allan and he

found no reason to continue living. Although Blanche had no intentions of

hurting Allan, enough damage was done to prompt Allan to shoot himself, his mind

and body destroyed.

The harsh treatment dealt by Mitch to Blanche near the end of the play is

strikingly similar to Blanche's treatment of Allan Gray. Mitch is a friend of

Stanley's whom Blanche falls for during her visit to New Orleans. The

relationship between Blanche and Mitch had been developing steadily. Both

characters felt the need to settle down in life and both saw the image of

marriage at the outcome of their relationship. It did seem as though the image

would become reality, until Stan interfered. Stan filled Mitch's mind with

unfavourable stories of Blanche's checkered past and the relationship quickly

turned sour. Mitch had not believed Stan at first, but when he received

confirmation of the truth to Stan's accusations, he became heart-broken and

enraged. Mitch goes to confront Blanche personally and accuses her of being a

prostitute and lying to him. Mitch also says that Blanche is hiding something,

as he has never seen her in broad daylight. He then tears the paper lantern off

the light bulb, representing a tearing away of Blanche's shield from realism.

Blanche admits to the accusations but reasons that she has changed her ways and

never did lie in her heart. Mitch appears to forgive her as he goes to kiss

Blanche. But in the midst of the embrace, Mitch blurts out, "You're not clean

enough to bring in the house with my mother" (p121) This outrages Blanche, who

kicks Mitch out of the house. Just as she was to Allan Gray, Mitch appeared to

be her salvation, but when Mitch exposes her vulnerability, she essentially

becomes broken down mentally.

While Mitch delivers the blow that mentally destroys Blanche, it is Stanley, her

cruel brother-in-law who orchestrates Blanche's downfall with no remorse. First,

he digs up all the negatives from Blanche's past and hints to Blanche that he

knows stories about her, making Blanche feel scared and insecure. Then Stanley

proceeds to spread the news to Stella and Mitch, Blanche's two closest people in

the play; One of whom (Mitch) , turns on her. Then, on Blanche's birthday,

Stan "surprises" Blanche with a present...bus tickets back to Laurel. The tickets

imply to Blanche that she has worn out her welcome, and makes her feel extremely

uncomfortable. After the incident with Mitch where Blanche becomes mentally and

emotionally battered, Stan comes to inflict more damage to her. Stan, knowing

that Blanche would be making up stories about her supposed lovers (Shep

Huntleigh) to salvage her pride, pretend to play along with the charade. He

asks peculiar questions that force Blanche to a point where she could no longer

keep up her act. Then, to deliver the ultimate insult to Blanche, Stanley

brutally rapes her, causing Blanche to go insane, totally destroying her.

As shown, vulnerable people who are victims of vicious and cruel treatment feel

incredible pain inside and outside when abused. Their minds are like time bombs,

ready to go off when the pain becomes unbearable. Unfortunately, there are too

many insensitive people around who fail to see their cruel nature in treating

people. Until things change, society can not be deemed a safe place for the

vulnerable and fragile.



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