Hegel’s Streetcar Named Desire 

It could be simply remarked that as we all transverse through life as “emerging subjects” (Butler 30) we acquiesce to the simple directive formulation of “taking a street-car named desire, then [we] transfer to one called cemeteries and [then arrive in finitude] at  — Elysian Fields!” (Williams 6).  Not to say that our desires will be the death of us — as Tennessee William’s hastily purports — but rather to say that our life is motivated by desires “tacit pursuit of metaphysical knowledge” (Butler 25) and this act of desire (as verb) acts desirously (as adverb) to find Desire (as proper noun).  Metaphorically speaking, we could say that all life is like driving in a car and our path (our road) to which we drive on is rigidly defined to the bounds of reason, but it is our desire to desire Desire that motivates us to get into the car to begin with and hit the petal to the metal.  From the onset of this metaphor it could feel like if all potential courses of movement are ‘reason bound’, then all our desires have a reason and the manifestation of sorts is paved before us.  But, however, this feeling is false insofar that our reasonable course of action (path) does not exist until we desire to progress into the abyss of the non-path — almost, as if to say, we are driving down a road that is not a road but the process of transversing forward paves a road as we go, like the car creates the road as it goes.  Reason, as it were, is a continuous unfolding of means to ends, to means to ends, etc..  It is this sentiment of the road-creating-car that breaks the religious undertones of the Hegelian system, insofar that there could be the semblance of intuition that logical hierarchy may dictate the path is determined and we are merely just ‘following’ the road; — causa prima — conversely, it is our desire that moves us to move and push through the reasoned-governed-world and forge our path that vacillates towards the Absolute — causa sui.  

Blanche Dubois — our proto-Hegelian agent of desire-seeking and protagonist — does not seek anything but purely to be recognized as a subject and from the convergence of her arrival at Elysian Fields she immediately shutters in the darkness of low-light to not expose her travel-weary face and avoid a falsely attributed recognition of self by the Other — her sister, Stella.  But, however, as the plot continues to unfold the story embarks through a bidirectional tripartite dynamic; — not unlike Sartre’s No Exit in form, but bi-directional — as the three characters get locked into a circular process of recognition seeking:  Blanche seeks recognition in Stanley, whereas Stanley seeks recognition in Blanche; Stanley seeks recognition in Stella, whereas Stella seeks recognition in Stanley; and Blanche seeks recognition in Stella, whereas Stella seeks recognition in Blanche.  It becomes a matter of logical necessity that this sixfold dynamic must have a breaking point as the respective ego of all three will not acquiesce to mere understanding of their otherness.

It is implied by Williams that there was a degree of balanced recognition between Stella and Stanley prior to Blanche arriving on scene and is her presents and persistent desire-seeking that has, as it were, thrown a wrench in the mix and disturbed the relative balance.  So, in this regard, it becomes a matter of necessity that Blanche is destroyed!   To be fair, before destroying her they did attempt to understand her desire for recognition by attempting to help her find a conduit for her sensual predilections through Stanley’s bowling buddy Mitch — but, this ineffective pragmatic solution does nothing to curb the problem-at-hand and the conflict persists.

The failed attempt to bring about understanding of Blanche and her negatively construed desire for recognition from the Other eventually leads to the final resolution of her destruction which is enacted twofold:  in scene 10 her body is destroyed as she is raped by Stanley and in the final scene her mind is destroyed as she is shipped off to the insane-asylum without much hesitation and wherewithal for her as an Other.  From the perspective of Blanche, it may have been preferred that they actually killed her — and saved her from the gut punch of a symbolic death and the fatality of her essence, as her existence endures.  So foolish of a toil to “cast pearls before swine” (William 156); “the game is seven card stud” (Williams 179)— balance is restored.

 


Sources:

Butler, J. (1987). Subject of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth Century France. New York, CA: Columbia University Press.

Williams, T. (1947). A streetcar named Desire: A play. New York: New Directions.

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