The blurring of fantasy and reality within “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “All my Sons” arguably provides an essential aspect towards the overall message and morality within each of the plays, of which the author deliberately determines the reader to explore. I will explore this meaning and also determine to what extent these are of importance and the effects they have on the features, characters, setting and other aspects within the plays, both American literate.
Tennessee Williams had several inspirations before writing the play, one of them being novelist D. H. Lawrence, who debatably offered Williams a depiction of the concept of sexuality; becoming one of the key perceptions within the play. Another found to be influential upon Tennessee Williams was the American poet Hart Crane, despite his distaste for other young American literate play-writers.
Crane had a seemingly disastrous life and death after displaying his open homosexuality and determination to create poetry that was unique and individual; that fails to follow in the footsteps of many other European writers, perhaps contributing to the main themes. Other critics have also seen this outlook of the past through Williams’ eyes, for example, C. W. E. Bigsby stated that he “acknowledges the impossibility of recovering the past. Indeed he accepts the equivocal nature of the past, stained… by cruelty and corruption.
This could be seen as being displayed through the character of Blanche; who is swallowed within the past, making this all the more of an important issue by the controversy that surrounds her psychological frame of mind, but could arguably be the portrayal of Crane Hart. Williams sets A Streetcar Named Desire just after the Second World War in New Orleans, Louisiana, set in mostly the Kowalski apartment in a poor but lively and charming neighbourhood: the French Quarter, which may be seen as in complete opposition to the one Miller explores within All My Sons.
It is also based over a longer period of time; months in fact. Williams seemed to base his play around the working-class within society and highlights the problems within this group of class; through Blanche Dubois and Stanley Kowalski as oppositions, exploring and defining the severity of the differences when one clashes with another, as Blanche is introduced as a seemingly innocent, graceful yet deluded woman and Stanley as a brutal, handsome and both emotionally and physically aggressive character.
Arthur Miller based All My Sons in August 1949, in the mid-west of the USA and the events occur and graduate over two days; from Sunday morning until the following morning at approximately two ‘o’ clock. Joe Keller, the main character within the play; that is based questionably mainly around the failure of the American Dream and idealism versus practicality, is a man who cares for his family solely above his duty to society, even sacrificing his honour.
The author originated Joe’s crime from a true story; an event which occurred in the Second World War where a manufacturer knowingly shipped out defective parts for tanks, which resulted in the death of many soldiers and the manufacturer becoming convicted, so perhaps the play is based around the morality of a man. The first aspect of the theme of fantasy and reality that is explored within each of the plays is the delusion of values; in All My Sons, Joe Keller is seen to be deluded of his values and places his immediate family above all else, even his wider responsibility to the men dependent upon his work without doubt.
This then promotes a questionable argument to the reader as to whether Joe Keller was indeed at fault highly, and is truly dependent upon whether he should have considered the soldiers to also be his family and if his duty to wider society is just as important as his family by blood. Arvin R Wells (1964) states that, on criticism of the novel, that for Joe Keller “the question for him was not basically out of profit and loss; what concerned him was a conflict of responsibilities – his responsibility to his family… ersus his responsibility to the unknown men”, which then mirrors this view.
Kate also displays a delusion of values when she believes that Larry is still alive although there is a great chance that he is not, and she displays her disgust at Anne’s decision concerning Chris and her delusion by saying to George in scene 2, “You’ll see she’s the most beautiful-“, meaning that she wants to involves others into the delusion she is involved within.
Miller also shows this aspect of fantasy of reality through the blinding of Kate by Joe Keller, as when Kate confronts him about the lie he has been telling and states that Chris may view this as morally wrong, Joe tries to persuade Kate into his blindness of values by saying “for you Kate, for both of you, that’s all I ever lived for… ” which is an emotional tactic upon her to force her, of a sense, to believe in the delusion that the character of Joe Keller stands for.
Williams also displays a delusion of values as an aspect of the characters, most obviously by the presence of Blanche but also by another less obvious character; Stanley Kowalski, as he believes that because of his physical characteristics and traditional manhood it is acceptable for him to be physically abusive and in a particular scene; raping Blanche for his own justification and believing that “we’ve had this date with each other from the beginning. ” Another aspect each of the authors cover within the plays is that the delusion an individual upholds is always demonstrating the perfect, idealist aspect of life.
Miller portrays this differing from Williams, and is rather unique in All My Sons as Kate holds a practical set of values to surround herself with the dream of perfect family life, which can only stand because of the view she upholds about Larry Keller; that his physical form is still in existence. Whilst the final scene is arising, Kate is still cheery and the atmosphere is slightly uplifted due to her presence, e. g. “Listen, to hell with the restaurant! I got a ham in the icebox, and frozen strawberries, and avocados”, all of which are symbols of happiness and pleasure; still portraying the veneer she and Joe live within.
She also uses another story that has famously arisen in the papers and she uses that story to prolong her perceiving of her perfect life and to compare with her own; “There was half a page about a man missing even longer than Larry, and he turned up from Burma. ” Noticeably, Miller also displays this view through the character of Joe Keller. When Kate informs him that Chris may be angered when he realises Joe’s past actions, he is surprised and says “He would forgive me! For what? ” as if he has committed no actual crime and that Chris is the one who is morally misled.
Williams also portrays this view through Blanche strongly, one of the aspects being her view of the Deep South; the ideal, respectful gentlemen and her capture of love and romance, as she perhaps unconsciously lies to Stanley saying that Mitch “returned with a box of roses to beg my forgiveness! ” The clothing that she wears also shows her idealistic world in which her psychological state lies within and the overall impression of the Deep South, when she has been denied a husband by Mitch she again says to Stanley that; “Our attitudes and backgrounds are incompatible.
C. W. E. Bigsby famously commented on this view of Blanche when he stated that “her marriage to a homosexual husband had in effect been a logical extension of her desire to aestheticise experience, her preference for style over function. ” This comment indeed displays the view of what the reader doubts; that she is lost in the past and adds a suggestion of whether she would prefer to be lost in this way than to be in reality that is so different than the beautiful dream and characters she associates herself with.
Both authors also use the split of fantasy and reality to display the blinding of individuals from the realistic truth. Williams again shows this through the presence of Blanche, as she refuses to accept Mitch’s actions in the day beforehand, and lies in line with her ideals to Stanley expanding on this immeasurably, whether this lie be known to Blanche or not; the reader cannot contemplate. She also says that she received “a telegram from an old admirer of mine”, which is again far from the truth and as an audience, we do not know whether this ideal gentleman whom she describes is in fact real.
Miller also presents this aspect through the character of Kate seemingly, in that she refuses to accept Anne and Chris’ engagement and further plans to wed, deducted from the delusion she holds that Larry is still alive. This message is repeatedly implored throughout the entire text, when she announces that “He’s coming back and everybody has to wait” with a sense of sureness, almost as if she is trying to force the delusion upon herself also. She also addresses Anne near the start of the novel in order to explore this message immediately; “Deep, deep in your heart you’ve always been waiting for him.
Miller himself expanded on this concept, stating that “her guilty knowledge so obdurately and menacingly suppressed, can be interpreted as her to deny her son’s death also. ” Kate is perceived to be swallowed with guilt and that Joe has forced her to succumb to a world where she has to believe that her son is alive in order to live normally, however it is arguable that she could have done this out of pure love for her family and husband, and the longing for an ideal life could be all that is behind her clinging to the delusion.
Another concept the authors explore within each of the plays is the fact that individuals delude one another for a reasonable understanding, perhaps in order to live onwards. Williams does this intentionally by the presence of Eunice, as in scene 11, she deludes Stella into disbelieving Blanche’s accusation about Stanley for the wellbeing of her family. “Don’t ever believe it. Life has got to go on. ” Stella also adds to Blanche’s mental state by almost encouraging her when she says “Blanche is. She’s going on a vacation. However, arguably they do this for the good of the other, so Blanche is settled with her future, and so that Stella can “keep going” in the words of Eunice.
Miller explores this by the blatancy of Joe leading Kate to believe that Larry is not dead and to obtain his own moral values, so she and the family are content to an extent. One of the ways in which Joe Keller does this is by taking Kate’s view and backing it to Chris; “From Mother’s point of view he is not dead and you have no right to take his girl. This therefore, may add to the blindness of truth that she already holds and give her false hope, unbeknown to her. Benjamin Nelson (1970) comments on this view of Joe Keller; saying that in the man’s eyes “there is nothing dishonest in a plea to the two values upon which he has based his life: the worth of individual effort and the sanctity of family loyalty born of love. ” Arguably, Joe in his own mind, is acting on the ‘right’ thing based upon his values. The setting also displays the fine line between fantasy and reality within each of the plays.
Williams achieves this by firstly lining the flats upon one another, showing a reflection of Stanley and Stella’s relationship, which could relate to the fantasy aspect of both of their relationships in which the foundation relies upon desire. New Orleans contrast with Belle Reve displays that Blanche’s past is unrecoverable and because of the exact opposition between the two settings, this highlights her fantasy lifestyle; “They mustn’t have understood – what number I wanted… ”
Miller also demonstrates this theme through the original setting, as highlighted by a critic named Graham J. Northrup, stating that the original set included “‘tall planted poplars’… which created a secluded atmosphere. ‘ The physical separation from their neighbours is the echo of Joe and Kate’s desire to hide the truth of their actions from the community. ” The setting is also to displays the focus of deluding others to succumb and believe their veneer of the idealistic perfect lifestyle; the status Joe attempts to gain within the community.