In Scene One, Blanche takes a streetcar named Desire through Cemeteries to reach Elysian Fields, where Stella and Stanley live. Though the place names are real, the journey allegorically foreshadows Blanche’s mental descent throughout the play. Blanche’s desires have led her down paths of sexual promiscuity and alcoholism, and by coming to stay with the Kowalskis, she has reached the end of the line. Blanche’s desire to escape causes her to lose touch with the world around her. By the end of the play, Blanche can no longer distinguish between fantasy and real life.
The tension between fantasy and reality centers on Blanche’s relationship with both other characters and the world around her. Blanche doesn’t want realism––she wants magic––but magic must yield to the light of day. Although Blanch tries to wrap herself in the trappings of her former Southern belle self, she must eventually face facts, and the real world eclipses and shatters Blanche’s fantasies. Throughout the play, Blanche only appears in semi-darkness and shadows, deliberately keeping herself out of the harsh glare of reality. She clings to the false, illusory world of paper lanterns and satin robes: if she can keep up the appearance of being an innocent ingénue, she can continue to see herself in this fashion rather than face her checkered past and destitute present. By maintaining an illusory exterior appearance, Blanche hopes to hide her troubled interior from both herself and the world at large.
When Stanley tells Stella the sordid details of Blanche’s past, Blanche is offstage bathing and singing “Paper Moon,” a song about a make-believe world that becomes reality through love. But Blanche’s make-believe world does not overtake reality: her fantasy version of herself crumbles. At the end of the play, Blanche is taken to a mental asylum, permanently removed from reality to her own mind.
Fantasy and Delusion ThemeTracker
Fantasy and Delusion Quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire
They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!
Stella, oh, Stella, Stella! Stella for Star!
Now let’s cut the re-bop!
After all, a woman’s charm is fifty percent illusion.
The kitchen now suggests that sort of lurid nocturnal brilliance, the raw colors of childhood’s spectrum.
Please don’t get up. I’m only passing through.
You left nothing here but spilt talcum and old empty perfume bottles–unless it’s the paper lantern you want to take with you. You want the lantern?