Peter Tim Soriano
16 December 2013
Illusion and Mendacity
In Tennessee Williams’ plays Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire, several characters suffer by lying and by being unaware of reality. Both plays demonstrate and signify the themes of illusion vs. reality and mendacity through past trauma, alcohol abuse, and through strained family and marital relationships. In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick is an example to all of these factors through his past with his friend skipper, his abuse of alcohol, and the lack of love he shows for his wife, while in A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche encounters similar problems as Brick with her past trauma and her ...view middle of the document...
When I was sixteen, I made the discovery – love. All at once … the boy I had married and an older man who had been his friend for years….” (95) Blanche explains to Mitch how she lost her husband when she failed him in ways that she cannot explain. She could not give him the help he needed and as a result, he committed suicide. Since then, Blanche has been living her life based on lies and does not know what reality is anymore as she says, “I don’t want realism. I want magic!” (117) After Mitch finds out that she has been hiding her age from him, Blanche confesses that she does not want reality instead she wants magic. In the same quote, she also confesses that she does not tell the truth, but tells what ought to be truth. Blanche’s past traumas relates Brick’s past trauma’s in a way that they both lost someone important in their lives. When Blanche lost her husband, and when Brick lost his friend Skipper, both Brick and Blanche find themselves living in illusion to escape reality, through abuse of alcohol.
The abuse of alcohol is shown in both plays with Brick, and Blanche. From the beginning of the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, it reveals that Brick is an alcoholic. He uses alcohol to escape from reality ever he lost his friend Skipper. At one point, Big Daddy talks to Brick about his issues and he asks Brick if the doctor had lied to him about the cancer results, Brick answers by saying that “Mendacity is a system that we live in. Liquor is one way out an’ death’s the other….” (94) Brick reveals to Big Daddy that the doctors lied to him about his cancer results telling him that he is free of cancer when he was not. He then tells Big Daddy that the reality is, the system that they live in is filled mendacity and there are two ways out, one is alcohol and one is death. In Brick’s case he uses alcohol. With Blanche, in various occasions in the play is seen drinking alcohol which indicates her personality of being troubled. Like Brick, she uses alcohol to escape from reality. Blanche’s alcohol issues are revealed as soon as she arrives at the Kowalski’s residence. When she asks Stella for the liquor, Stella offers to pour the drinks herself and asks Blanche what she wants to drink. Blanche replies saying, “Just water, baby, to chase it! Now don’t get worried, your sister hasn’t turned into a drunkard, she’s just all shaken up and hot and tired and dirty! You sit down, now, and explain this place to me! What are you doing in a place like this?” (19) Blanche attempts to keep her alcohol problem a secret as it threatens her reputation because it contrasts the image of women in the 1950’s. She tells Stella not to get worried about her alcohol drinking just to change the subject to avoid having Stella accuse her of her alcohol problem. Thus, both Blanche and Brick attempt to escape reality and into their own fantasies through the use of alcohol and mendacity.
Both plays display many different themes like theme illusion vs. reality, theme of light,...