Category: Literature
Characters Lost in the Past

The drama A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is the lyrical work, which shows the decline and fall of its protagonist Blanche DuBois. This character plays the essential role in the play, as it is the symbol of tenderness, sensitivity and delicacy, which are chased by the brutality and savage of the modern world. Blanche is a woman with a past, which included deceit and artificiality, but she attracts attention with her role of a victim, who does not have inner strength and power to adapt to the outer world.

At first sight, Blanche seems to be a superficial woman, and her emphasis on the former social status and outer attributes seems to be ridiculous. However, her behavior is symptomatic of the society where she lives. Blanche is the manifestation of lost dignity of her family. In general, this character is the symbol of the past in the post-war America. Despite the fact that the life has been transformed and its rules have changed, Blanche continues to live by the old regulations, as if she does not notice that her way of life is not suitable for the altered world. She is totally different from her autonomous sister Stella, who manages to adapt to the ferocious world. To compare, Blanche is a woman who lives for others. She takes care of the dying family members, while Stella is building her life. Blanche’s major problem is inability to adjust to the new world, different social status, and unknown reality. The matter is that she is stuck in the past.

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Although at first glance, this woman just seems to be a beautiful doll, who wants to continue her wealthy life through marriage, the audience manages to recognize a victim in her. She is unable to eliminate her past dream and is sincerely afraid of losing beauty and financial capabilities. Blanche takes certain steps in order to change her life, but the problem is that she cannot change her spiritual world. She is a ghost of past American values, where the woman was not a strong member of the society, but a person who had to be supported by the man. Blanche is sensitive and vulnerable, and cruel world psychologically ruins her. This woman feels unsecure and wants to marry again in order to obtain confidence in the future and strong male support. Onyett emphasizes that Blanche performs the role of the classical tragic hero, who has lost the dignity, culture, and sense of identity. However, unlike classical hero, she has not achieved anything instead. She is a fragile and self-deluding individual, who fiercely fights for her life, and whose efforts are futile. According to the researcher Corstes, her rape is the manifestation and symbol of a social shift, which has occurred in postwar America (2022).

The audience experiences sympathy towards this woman because she could be compared to a beautiful flower, who has been placed into the disastrous conditions of the desert. She tries to find the solution, but her past life, faded beauty, and former habits distract her from the new reality, which she has acquired. Her world has been ruined, and she seems to be a lost child, who tries to find the way-out but cannot do it because of lack of knowledge and experience. In fact, Tennessee Williams masterfully represented the sufferings of the weak woman in the cruel world. He has shown the hardships, which a woman experiences, and the psychological trauma obtained.

While drawing parallels with other modernist writings, the drama Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neil has to be mentioned. The protagonist Edmond might be also perceived as a tragic hero. As well as Blanche, he experiences the fall from prosperity towards poverty. This man has endured many sufferings in his life. For example, his mother has an addiction, his father behaves like a tyrant, and his elder brother has confessed Edmund about the hatred he feels towards him. Similar to Blanche, Edmund appears to be deprived of family. In Blanche’s case, her relatives are dead in reality, and in the case of Edmund, they are dead psychologically. Despite the fact that they are live, they do not provide their son with love and care. Moreover, like Blanche, Edmund experiences the separation from his brother.

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These two characters are similar in their inability to adapt to real life. Blanche is a woman stuck in her past, and Edmund is simply unable to live because of the difficulties, which he has experienced. Both characters suffer from the psychological pain. Another mutual feature, which unites Blanche and Edmund, is their aspiration for better future. Blanche waits that a strong man will come to her and will return her the past wealth and life full of opportunities. By contrast, Edmund could be perceived as a dispossessed young king, who anticipates that his mother will grant him peace and security. The problem of these heroes is similar because they do not take the active actions. They appear to be weak in life; and for that reason, life destroys them. The difference between the characters relates to the fact that Blanche experiences the psychological anguish, whereas Edmund endures the physical sufferings because of tuberculosis. Another mutual feature is the urge for beauty. This characteristic can be found in both heroes. For example, Blanche constantly looks in the mirror because she is afraid that her beauty will  disappear with the course of time. To compare, Edmund searches for the beauty in the world of dreams, and it becomes the major reason for his estranged way of life.

In general, these two plays are connected by the explanation of the reasons of human tragedy. The authors show that certain kind of people is just inappropriate for life. It means that they are not psychologically and emotionally ready for leading successful lives. The works are distinct from other literary pieces because in most cases, writers predominantly pay attention towards the strong individuals, able to control their life and become the rulers of their fate. These works, on the contrary, show weak people who experience sufferings not because of their actions, but in large, due to their inborn abilities and life perception.

In conclusion, it has to be stated that the audience may sympathize with the characters of Blanche and Edmund because they are unique people who are too vulnerable and sensitive for life. The readers understand that these people are unable to adapt towards the cruel life. The characters’ psychological and physical states are too weak, which is their major problem. The readers realize that these individuals are doomed to sufferings, and sympathy is the only emotion which could be experienced in this situation. The thing is that these heroes exhibit decent and even noble moral traits. The essence of their difficulties is lack of determinacy and action. In general, these individuals simply wait for the change. Both authors have shown that the waiting for a change will not bring it. The major message sent is that people have to remain active, fight, transform themselves, and adapt to the world in order to succeed. Otherwise, life is not worth living because dreams without actions are inefficient.

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