Throughout his extensive works, Williams presents the idea of madness differently. Arthur miller notes that Streetcar ‘more than any of Williams’ other works before or afterward, approaches tragedy and its dark ending unmitigated.’ There can be no doubt that there is a preoccupation with insanity, triggered perhaps by Williams suffering directly from the effects of madness within his own family. After the institutionalisation of his sister Rose, Williams became obsessed with the idea of hereditary mental illness, and he portrays these concerns through Blanche. Jacqueline O’Connor suggests that Blanche’s madness is presented in different ways; ‘embracing illusion to the extent of inhibiting the ability to survive, an exhibition of extreme nervousness and hypersensitivity so pronounced that it restricts interaction with others. (O’Connor, 1997) With this in mind, multiplicities of interpretations are created regarding Blanche, and her many faces are presented in different lights throughout the play.
Let us begin our exploration into the descent of Blanche by addressing her entrance into the play at the beginning of Scene one. Blanche’s first line is said with ‘[faintly hysterical humour]’ , allowing the audience to form an opinion that is perhaps inexplicably over-excited and agitated. ‘They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries’ displays an ironical hint at the metaphorical journey that Blanche has yet to complete, one that has summed up her life to date, only to be completed by a trip to the Cemeteries. To begin with, characters introduced at the beginning of Scene one are described, appearance wise, in little detail. However with the arrival of Blanche, Williams provides a detailed description of both her appearance and mannerisms, even embedding the image of a moth inside the reader’s imagination. Perhaps this detail is to indicate what we will soon discover about Blanche, that her ‘delicate beauty’ is more than a priority to her; indeed it is everything.
As Blanche wearily realises that Stella’s residence is far from desirable, her attentions turn towards perhaps her second priority; alcohol.