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A Streetcar Named Desire

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The Desire to Justify Cruelty

When do we overlook malicious behavior? Is our emotional appeal to like a person enough for us to look past deliberate cruelty? Bound up in the play A Streetcar Named Desire is the fundamental question of how the characters are dialectically cruel and the ways they justify their desires. By means of a theme of cruelty when whiteness is evoked, author Tennessee Williams displays when we justify the actions of others to reinforce gender identities, and the emotions which act as a vehicle for judgments.

Blanche lives in a fantasy world where truth and logic are replaced by a fake humanity. At one point she says,

I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don't tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it! -Don't turn the light on! (117)

Fantasy is her primary means of self-defense. She is not deceitful out of malice. They are created out of an incapacity to see the truth. Just as Blanche is portrayed in the beginning of the movie coming out of clouds of smoke, she presents things not as they are, but as they ought to be. Why does Blanche choose fantasy over reality? She creates this fantasy world to hide the hurts from her youth. She claims innocence when confronted by Mitch in scene nine,

Mitch: You lied to me, Blanche.

Blanche: Don't say I lied to you.

Mitch: Lies, lies, inside and out, all lies.

Blanche: Never inside, I didn't lie in my heart.... (119)

At this point male logic says that she is un-truthful, and therefore a liar who will be judged by that. A classification system is formed where on one end a person has a perfect trust and is not questioned because truth is tested and accepted. Yet on the other end of the spectrum falls Blanche Du Bois. She is treated with little respect. Ultimately as a person who can be raped. Was this a persona that she created or was this card dealt to her?

Blanche says at one point, "Some things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable. It is the one unforgivable thing in my opinion and it is the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty" (126). Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable because it stems from a lack of respect which she can never ever earn back. However, we learn later that she had committed the unforgivable sin, upon catching her young husband having intercourse with another man later on a dance floor she passionately commented, "I saw! I know! You disgust me..." (96). Her disgust was a way to wound her husband because of the pain and suffering she felt from his infidelity. This was how Blanche exercised her agency. Yet, inside of her a hysterical void was opened up based on a legitimate feminine desire for love. This translated to her turning to men sexually to fill her emotionally. Later, Blanche's sister Stella remarks to Stanley at one point that it was men like him who made Blanche the way she is. What Blanche desired was to be captivating and trusted.

One form of cruelty in Street Car Named Desire is when whiteness is evoked as an ideal. Whiteness is the principal of moral goodness and purity. When Stanley evokes whiteness as a virtue and moral code sympathy is lost for him. It was whiteness that shapes Stanley and assists his definition of himself as a man. Stanley, A factory worker is more ambitious than any of his friends. He is childish; he only cares about what he wants and is very rude. He is so concerned with getting his own way, and hurting Blanche, that he has no regret about hurting Mitch, his friend, by telling him the truth about Blanche's past sexual escapades, which leads her to living with Stella and Stanley. He is a very dominating: he overpowers his timid wife, Stella, constantly, to keep her from leaving him. He is very proud of his American heritage, several times referencing to his being in the United States Army and is enraged when Blanche calls him "common," or a "Polack." He seems incapable of refinement, and does everything whole-heartedly: he claims to love Stella



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