Saturday, August 1, 2020

A Streetcar Named Desire: Scenes 9-11

        The thematic portrayal of good versus evil is a common convention seen throughout the illustrious history of storytelling. For the most part, these representations are depicted as exaggerated, larger-than-life characters, as evidenced by the boisterous image of God and Lucifer in the Holy Bible, the epic, earthen heroism of Beowulf and his struggle with Grendel, Shakespeare’s corrupted goodness via a malevolent, supernatural force in Macbeth, and outer-space fantasy like Luke Skywalker’s temptation by the Dark Side in “Star Wars.” What Tennessee Williams presents in A Streetcar Named Desire, however, is the subtle exhibition of good and evil that can be found in anyone, anywhere, and one that comes to a head by the play’s end. 

        Allan Lewis writes that “the insensitivity of Stanley Kowalski is pitted against the delicacy of Blanche DuBois” (American Plays and Playwrights – 63); there is a little bit of Heaven and Hell found in these characters. While Stanley clearly revels in the delights of the modern man: strong, brash, and carrying a diaphanous veil of diplomacy over his pugnacious unilateralism, Blanche struggles to reconcile society’s fading benevolence with the growing decay of humanity. “Deliberate cruelty is unforgivable,” she proclaims to Stanley in scene ten. “It is the one unforgivable thing, in my opinion, and the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty of” (108). While it is true that T. Williams refuses to portray Blanche as some paragon of virtue, she nonetheless maintains the soul of the playwright’s narrative--a strong hope, but with a tenuous grasp.

        Blanche’s confrontation with Mitch in scene nine offers the most illuminating glimpse into her character: “...[The] searchlight which had been turned on the world was turned off,” she admits, “…and never for one moment since has there been any light that’s stronger than this kitchen candle” (77). This fading light from a brighter past becomes the final spark for Stanley’s future, like the shimmering twinkle of a white dwarf. “Blanche cannot triumph,” writes Lewis, “for the world belongs to the Stanleys” (American Plays and Playwrights – 63). The resulting confrontation, and subsequent rape, not only shatters Blanche’s state of mind, but sets the nail in place atop humanity’s casket. And when Stella chooses her side with Stanley, she provides the hammer.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Empty Alleyways

      I slowly remove the blade from the poor soul's abdomen. With every tug upon the knife's handle, there is a corresponding laceration, the blade unavoidably snagging on some spongy organ as if the body is somehow unwilling to give up the fight, even long after the light has left nothing but its shadow across the old man's eyes.
      His demise stems not from necessity, nor rage or retribution; I killed him to gain a peace of mind. I needed to calm the bloody tide undulating beneath my skin; I wanted the sirens in my head to quit their cacophony. But what I desired most lay deep inside of him.
      "I'm sorry, sir. I really am," I say to the moribund drifter. It's always a peculiar feeling, fleeting, the ecstasy of respite so entwined with my genuine dismay for what I've done to achieve it.
      I crouch by the old man's side, careful to avoid the crimson life spilling out into the dirty alleyway. I gently clench his tremoring fingertips in one hand while slowly rubbing his chest with the other. He struggles to speak between leaden breaths, but fear and death have formed a noose around his tongue. I move a hand to his temple. He jerks away.
      "It's gonna be okay. You're gonna be alright." I speak convincingly, like a stage actor who's well rehearsed.
      The old man's breaths peter out into a cold, dense cloudy bulb, visible only by the faint illumination of a distant streetlight. His final moments shimmer in the dark like a winter campfire's waning embers.
      "I called 911. They said an ambulance is on its way. You'll be good as new before the sun gets up."
      And just as quickly as the words escaped my mouth, so to did the life from the old man. The elderly derelict lay motionless in one of the universe's many dark corridors, its alleyway just as lonely and desolate as the next. It's sad to think that the marrow of a man could be equally barren had it been born a billion lightyears away.
      Reaching to the empty face before me, I lower his eyelids over a pair of vacant eyes, the closing curtain for this weary, one-man show. And while standing in this dark and damp alleyway, engulfed in the night's icy silence, underneath the specter of a blue moon, towering above this listless corpse, a wicked euphoria begins to stir.
      It's like an opioidic wave crushes through me, muzzling the wretched howls of the hounds in my head, stilling the tumultuous blood in my veins, cradling this vicious urge asleep. I could not feel this way on my own, and I made sure the old man felt enough for the both of us.
      This feeling is short-lived, however, as the faint wailing of a cop car's siren amplifies, shaking me from my grim ecstasy. The sensation soon dissipates into the ether, it's existence surviving only in feeble memory.
      I survey the environment before shuffling forward, my feet sidestepping the frosty red puddles on the ground, abandoning the old man's corpse on my way out of just another empty pocket in the universe.