Madness in A Streetcar Named Desire

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A Streetcar Named Desire revolves around a theme of progressing madness. Blanche is the focal point of the madness because she has a low self esteem and her behavior is delusional. Her delusional behavior consists of her alcoholism, promiscuity, and compulsive lying. She constantly tries to cope with the madness, but the people around her drive her deeper into a delusional mental state. Many aspects of her life; however, make her madness more justifiable. Blanche’s increasingly unstable state culminates in her being committed to an asylum. The cause and effect of Blanche’s madness are used to bring the play together as a whole and show how madness affects everyone in the play.


In A Streetcar Named Desire Blanche drinks, has sex and lies compulsively to help boost her own self esteem. Blanche’s husband commits suicide after Blanche finds him in bed with another man. The death leaves Blanch feeling lonely. Her promiscuity stems from the fact that she feels unwanted. In the play Blanch flirts with the mailman, is fired for fooling around with a student, and clings to Mitch, a man with little to offer. In addition, Blanch constantly wears cheap provocative clothing to draw men’s attention. Even when Blanche is dating Mitch she flirts with the paperboy. Her promiscuity can be seen as delusional, but is justifiable. Blanche is aging and feels that time is moving on making her less attractive. A poor self image in combination with the loss of her husband makes Blanche feel ugly and unwanted. The “delusional” behavior of dressing provocatively and flirting with younger men is therefore her way of contradicting the thought that she is old and ugly. Her solution; however, is a momentary solution that doesn’t last after the flirtation or sex. As a result of the momentary satisfaction Blanche is forced into other types of delusional behavior to help “build up” her self esteem when she isn’t around men.


Drinking and compulsive lying are the two other eccentric attributes that make up her troubled personality. In the first few scenes of the play Blanche is seen drinking whiskey and lying about how much whiskey she has consumed. Drinking makes her feel confident, but she doesn’t like the fact that she has to drink to feel good. Therefore she lies about how much she drinks and says that she barely drinks at all. She lies about her background and tries to make herself appear pristine. She tells Stanley that she is a Virgo, which means virgin. Although she doesn’t say she is a virgin she constantly hints at being pure. Blanche’s eccentric behavior is the root of her lies. She recognizes that her behavior is eccentric, but doesn’t want other people to look at her in a negative light.


Blanche wants to marry Mitch because she feels it will put an end to her misery and self esteem problems. Stanley unmasks her true form; however, and tells Mitch about Blanche’s background. Mitch then refuses to marry her.


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It is a few hours later that night Blanche has been drinking fairly steadily…she has decked herself out in a somewhat soiled and crumpled white satin evening gown and a pair of scuffed silver slippers…she is placing the rhinestone tiara on her head before the mirror of the dressing-table and murmuring excitedly as if to a group of spectral admirers (1)





Once Blanche’s dreams are crushed she immediately goes back to the bottle. She also begins pretending that people are admiring her beauty once again. This scene reveals that she has lost even more self esteem. Now she is pretending people are admiring her while simultaneously drinking alcohol. Although this scene shows some delusional behavior it is justifiable because of the enormous blow Blanche takes to her self esteem once again. The small self esteem that still remains soon disappears when Blanche is raped by Stanley. Once her self esteem is completely gone Stanley commits her to the asylum and Blanche goes willingly proving that she no longer can cope even with the alcohol.


Madness in A Streetcar Named Desire revolves mainly around Blanche. Throughout the play her actions become increasingly delusional. All around here; however, others are delusional as well. Stella won’t leave Stanley even though he is abusive and controlling. Just as Blanche’s madness gets worse Stella’s madness gets worse too. She becomes increasingly unhappy as Stanley’s behavior becomes more disruptive. Stella says, “People have got to tolerate each other’s habits” (65). This quotation is the exact reason why madness continues to worsen for everyone in the play. Just as Stella tolerates Stanley, Blanche allows men to take advantage of her. The play centers around madness, how it progresses overtime, and the failure to find a permanent way of coping only leads to delusional behavior and eventually, breakdown.


Blanche’s madness spirals downward as a result of her own actions as well as Stanley’s, Stella, and Mitch’s reactions to her delusional behavior. Constant disappointments only make her problems worse until she reaches a point at which she can no longer mentally deal with her problems. Her situation runs parallel to the other characters in the play. Each one suffers; however, their problems are not as openly exposed as that of Blanche’s problems. Blanche’s madness and eventual downfall combined with the ensuing problems of the other characters in the play help to further the novel as a whole.


A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennesse Williams


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