Study Guide

A Streetcar Named Desire Madness

By Tennessee Williams

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A Streetcar Named Desire features a gradual descent into madness, brought about by loss, depression, financial ruin, and the cruelty of others. At first, this so-called "madness" is just an attempted escape from reality—an altered self-image and a polished persona that doesn’t accurately reflect the character below.

As the play progresses, however, this self-deception intensifies and deviates further and further from reality. By the play’s conclusion, the main character can no longer distinguish between her fantasies and the world around her.

Questions About Madness

  1. Does fantasy help Blanche deal with the world, or is it more destructive than beneficial?
  2. If Stanley hadn’t raped Blanche, what would have happened to her? Would her mental health continue to decline?
  3. When does Blanche most intensely indulge in fantasy? What brings about these retreats from reality?
  4. At the end of the play, has Blanche really lost touch with reality? Does she belong at a mental institution?

Chew on This

A Streetcar Named Desire argues that self-delusion is necessary, and fantasy is superior to reality.

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