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The playwright, Tennessee Williams, allows the main characters in the plays A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie to live
miserable lives which they try to deny and later change. The downfall and denial of the Southern gentlewoman is a common theme in both plays.
The characters, Blanche from A.S.N.D. and Amanda from T.G.M., are prime examples of this concept. Both Blanche and Amanda have had many
struggles in their lives and go through even more through out the rest of the plays. The problem is that Williams never lets the two women work through and move on from these problems. The two ladies are allowed to destroy themselves and he invites us to watch them in the process (Stine and Marowski 474). The downfall, denial, and need to change of the two women is quite evident in these two plays.
First the troubles of Blanche and Amanda need to be recognized.
Blanche hides her drinking problem so well when she arrives and sneaks a shot of whiskey (William A Streetcar Named Desire, Scene 1. Page 18.
Lines 12-17) that when she is later offered a drink, she acts as though she has no idea where they keep them (Williams, A.S.N.D. 1.19.12-15). Amanda cannot accept that no gentlemen callers are coming for Laura, her daughter, thus making it harder for Laura to accept it (Williams, The Glass Menagerie, 1.28.1-5). Blanche and Amanda both do not allow themselves to accept their problems and work them out. They deny these problems which feeds them making them larger and even more complicated. When Stella offered Blanche a second drink she stated, One s my limit. (Williams, A.S.N.D., 1.21.14-15) Blanche is very self-destructive (Hassan 326). She is her own worst enemy because of how she handles her problems. Amanda comments at the end of the play that Tom shouldn t think about his poor mother and sister in a very sarcastic way (Williams, T.G.M., 9.114.1-3). She tries to push her problems off on him and not deal with them herself. By pushing the blame off on Tom, she feels as though she did nothing wrong and it is everyone else s fault. If the two women had just accepted that they were at fault too and not just everyone else they could have moved
on with their lives.
Both Blanche and Amanda s biggest problem is that they deny the
truth. Blanche denies her drinking problem. She also denies the fact that she was a prostitute. She even made such an unbelievable comment that, I take for granted that you still have sufficient memory of Belle Reve to find this place and these poker players impossible to live with. (Williams, A.S.N.D., 4.70.1-3) She denies that she ever sunk lower than Stella when in truth, she was much worse. She was the one who lost her job for sleeping with a seventeen year old and was kicked out of the town for being a slut by the mayor. She had the gall to lecture Stella on her choice of men. You can t have forgotten that much of our up bringing, Stella, that you just suppose that any part of a gentlemen in his nature! (Williams, A.S.N.D., 4.71.13-18) Blanche speaks to Stella as though it is absolutely terrible that she married Stanley, of all people, when she slept with more people than she could even remember. She shows the do as I say, not as I do philosophy while though at first, Stella is not even aware of her sister s
past. Amanda on the other hand, just shrinks poor Laura s self-esteem and confidence more than it already is by bragging about how she had
seventeen gentlemen callers over one evening when she was Laura s age.
Amanda also refers to her husband s leaving her and her children as, he fell in love with long distances… (Williams, T.G.M., 1.23.28). She cannot admit the truth that he just left them. She cannot even admit to herself that Laura is crippled, she only refers to her as different. Also, when Amanda looks back at her past, she tends to only remember the good things that happened. She has blocked out the things that she did not enjoy and has exaggerated the past to an extent. At one point in the play, she brags about her seventeen gentlemen callers Tom, her son, asked her how she entertained them in which she replies that they had very interesting conversations because in her day, they understood the art of conversation (Williams, T.G.M., 1.26.6-8). She thoughtlessly flaunts her teenage popularity in front of Laura who would be lucky to have one friend at all, let alone seventeen gentlemen callers in one evening. The conformity of the two women s similarities is uncanny. Both women have so many problems, yet they find ways to forget the real problems and gainsay their way into not dealing with them. As time in the plays progress they start to think more about them and realize what needs to be done.
As both plays near their climaxes, both women start to come to
terms with the truth. That they need to change. But, as earlier mentioned, the playwright makes the audience watch in horror as they only fail at their attempts to better themselves. Blanche says, I m going to do something. Get hold of myself and make myself a new life! (Williams, A.S.N.D., 11.65.1-3) She is forced to face the truth when she and Mitch, a man she went on a couple dates with, discuss her past marriage (Williams, A.S.N.D., 6.95.26-30) and what became of her husband (Williams, A.S.N.D., 6.96.11-14). Mitch even faces her when he finds out about her very tainted past, he tells her that she lied to him. She replies that she never lied to him in her heart (Williams, A.S.N.D., 9.119.1-4). That was not good enough though, she never regains the trust of Mitch. To make matters worse, he tells her he wants what he deserved all along, sex. Blanche s only hope for happiness is blown away by things that happened in her past. She is later raped by Stanley, her sister s husband, but is not even believed
when she tells people. Amanda decides that Laura will probably never
receive any gentleman callers on her own and she asks Tom to bring
someone home for dinner for Laura. He ends up bringing home Laura s
high school crush, Jim, which terribly embarrasses Laura. Amanda wants
the best for her children but once again, things don t work out. Jim turns out to be very sweet and kind to Laura but he is also engaged to another girl. Amanda s good efforts have awful outcomes. Laura is devastated and Tom decides to follow in his father s footsteps and leave. [Amanda] is not only disappointed in her efforts to find a husband for her shy crippled daughter but is, in every way, deleted by a crude and pushing modernity which neither understands nor respects her dream of gentility. (Krutch 326) Both women are left in shambles at the ends of the plays.
In conclusion, Blanche Dubois and Amanda Wingfield live parallel
lives in the plays A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie. Both women live sad lives because of the many hard and trying times they have gone through. It has been said that they are the same because they both show attempts of a woman to keep a grasp on her elegant past (Stine and Marowski 456). Both women are unsuccessful. Blanche ends up being taken to a mental institution and Amanda is left to deal with her son s leaving and her daughter s broken heart. By the comparisons mentioned, we can now recognize the analogus characteristics and lives of Blanche and Amanda. Tennessee Williams wrote very similar plays in the aspect of common themes. A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie were very disturbing plays due to the sadness of the lives of characters Blanche and Amanda, thus proving the issue of common themes.
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