In 2002, the United States was on high alert, having just suffered a brutal terrorist attack a year before, and now entering into a war that could last for years or even decades. Journalists from The New England Journal of Medicine began recording the effects these traumatic events had on individuals and eventually realized the severe consequences of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and came up with guidelines on how to diagnose and help it. After studying their article, similarities can be found between popular characters from specific playwrights, particularly Tennessee Williams. Tennessee Williams was famous for his dismal and sorrowful themes that surrounded his characters, especially Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche was plagued with an inescapable loneliness that she tried so hard to overcome. Many say that she refuses to accept reality and lives in a delusion, but Blanche actually fits all the criteria for PTSD described by researchers for The New England Journal of Medicine. The delusions and bizarre behavior that Blanche expresses throughout the play can be explained by the guidelines and effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder she developed from the loss of her home and the deaths of her family and husband.
Williams characterizes Blanche as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by using her past to fuel her bizarre moments of theatricality. Blanche finally admits the death of her husband, Allen, was more tragic then expected. After admitting he was homosexual, Blanche was still committed to their marriage. Allen eventually committed suicide, unable to face his own reality and inner feelings. Not only did Blanche lose the man she loved, but also the home she grew up in. Blanche and her sister’s, Stella, plantation named Belle Reeve went bankrupt. Blanche expresses her resentment for staying home alone to watch all their family members die while Stella left to marry Stanley. No matter the circumstances, Blanche has this feeling of inescapable loneliness plaguing her every move. By the time Blanche finally reunites with her sister, Tennessee Williams has made it clear that her mental state is far from exceptional, and for a good reason. The American Psychological Association defined Post traumatic stress disorder on their website as “an anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident, or natural disaster.” Blanche’s extreme anxiety comes from not only one event, but also multiple tragedies that would be difficult for any human being to endure. Some may argue that her obstacles are far from that of traumatic if compared to soldiers or prisoners of war. However, in The New England Journal of Medicine, Rachel Yehuda, a Ph.D., states, “the defining characteristic of a traumatic event is its capacity to provoke fear, helplessness, or horror in response to the threat of injury or death.” The entire play is surrounded by the helplessness and horror that Blanche has for the fear of being alone, yet again. Yehuda also later says, “To be given a diagnosis of PTSD, a person has to have been exposed to an extreme stressor or traumatic even to which he or she responded with fear, helplessness, or horror and to have three distinct types of symptoms: reexperiencing the event, avoidance of reminders of the event, and hyperarousal for at least one month.” After clarifying that Blanche indeed experienced a traumatic event, she must fall into the three guidelines to be diagnosed with PTSD.
Blanche constantly suffers through flashbacks and reminders of the tragedies she has been through in her life. Blanche feels guilty for the death of Allen, causing her to hear delusions that do not exist. At the time of Allen’s suicide, a polka song played in the background until it was drained out by the sound of his gunshot. Blanche goes through the play constantly hearing the polka song, only to end with the same sound from his