English III Honors
7 June 2010
How is the truth revealed in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire?”
Stanley, Stella, Blanche and the Truth
The truth is mutating, subjective in Streetcar, with each of the principals having a
different relationship with the idea of “truth.” Stanley Kowalski is straightforward to the point of
crudity while Blanche very much denies realism. Stella, on the other hand, recognizes the truth
but tries to stay away from getting hurt by the harsh reality. Tennessee Williams, in A Streetcar
Named Desire, expresses these characters’ relationship with truth through their perspectives on
the past and on the truth itself.
Stanley is the only character in the play who views truth as an indispensible part of his
life. He is simple and honest; his conversations are curt and true. With such manner, he
demanded on knowing the reality of Blanche’s past. He is so obsessed with truth that he goes to
any lengths to obtain the truth, regardless of his wife and her sister’s feelings. Stanley also uses
the truth about Blanche’s past to crush her emotions and force her to leave. Unlike Stanley, Stella
refuses to believe what her husband says about Blanche’s corrupt past. She somehow recognizes
certain truths in Stanley’s account; but she is not willing to accept the cruelty it brings to her.
Stella knows that admitting those ‘rumors’ parallels with seeing her own sister as an indecent
person. The truth about Blanche’s past is so overwhelming for her to handle that Stella chooses
not to confront with but to deny it. She protests: “What—contemptible—lies!” (Williams 7.120)
In denying every account Stanley gives to her, Stella shows her desperate attempt to run away
from facing the hurtful and unkind truth. Blanche maintains a different relationship with truth.
To her, realism does not exist. She lives, or at least imagines living, in a magical world in which
there are no truths present, only fantasy. She is never honest but tells lies to conceal her past.
After the death of her husband, Blanche lives in the illusions she created and tries to fulfill her
ideals. Like Stanley, Blanche manipulates the truth, but to deceive people. She covers the light
bulb with a lantern to hide her age and when asked she says she only tells what “ought to be
true.” In other word, Blanche is in total control of her past that she can manipulate it in whatever
way she wants. Yet Stanley is there to confront her and willing to crush all the illusions she has
created. By expressing his characters’ conflicting relationship with truth, Williams has created a
dynamic play where the principals are constantly forced to interact, confront, avoid or driven by
the seemingly static truth.
The conflicts among the characters’ views on the truth and their past play a crucial role
on the plot development of the narrative. At the beginning of the play, readers are introduced to a
sensitive, fragile woman who almost seems like she has just walked out from a different world.
They then watch her being on total control of what she would like people to see her, through her
trickeries and deceits. Yet when her past is revealed, the audiences begin to sympathize with a
victim of the brutal society. Through his characters’ relationships with truth, Williams presents a
world in which the truth can be the center of human conflicts and values.
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: New Directions, 2004.