‘Desire is both liberating and imprisoning’. Compare and contrast the ways in which two of your chosen writers present relationships in the light of this comment Tennessee William’s ‘A Street Named Desire’ explores and contrasts two settings, the more accepting, and open minded society and the ‘Southern Belle’ in urban New Orleans 1940, while Ian McEwan’s ‘Enduring Love’ is about endurance, or survival, and sets love in its different forms, from unconditioned, romantic, idealised and obsessive. In contrast to William’s play, McEwan’s novel is set in late twentieth century Britain, aiming at dealing with timeless concerns such as morality and love, while the play focuses on social realism.
Associating the main characters, both texts involved different forms of love as its ‘liberating and imprisoning’. Interlopers appear in both texts, creating a triangle of characters of which change the dynamics of a stable relationship and test the essence of their love. While McEwan’s novel ‘Enduring Love’ focuses on the theme love, it also emphasises how love can be obsessive and intimidating as it can be supportive and redeeming. In many ways, the novel is a compelling study of an individual who has to endure love that is unreciprocated. Williams’ ‘A Street Car Named Desire’ is a mixture of sex, violence and morality. As some reviews make clear, it was to some extent a ‘success de scandale’, dealing with sex and desire something at that time was not encouraged till the emergence of this play. In the opening chapter in ‘Enduring Love’, Joe explains running towards a balloon as ‘sprinting away from our happiness’ revealing the significance of the event.
Infact from that point onwards, the relationship of Clarissa and Joe deteriorates just like the balloon quickly gets out of control and dives into danger, so does their relationship. Similarly to William’s play, the infiltrator is Blanche, her appearance is made significant as she beholds clear class snobbery, with the desperation to flirt. Although indifference to ‘Enduring Love’s’ unknown intruder at the time, Blanche is Stella’s sister, Jed is a complete stranger to Clarissa and Joe. She is focused on as the stage directions describe her more in detail than any other character. It was important for Williams to be descriptive in the stage directions as he wanted the reader to easily imagine it. As Blanche arrives in Elysian Fields, it is significant to note that in classical mythology Elysian Fields are equivalent to paradise.
As ‘Enduring Love’s’ setting was situated around a runaway balloon signifying the happiness going away, Elysian Fields are an obvious irony as they are the dwelling-place of the dead. That is shown later on into the play, as her fate will be the living death of the asylum. After the balloon incident in ‘Enduring Love’, social misfit Jed Perry fixates on the main protagonist, rational Joe Rose. Joe’s fate goes downhill as the two initially meet, introducing to the reader a de Clerambault sufferer who develops an erotic obsession with Joe. Joe becomes entrapped by Jed’s obsession. As Joe starts to become aware of it, neither Clarissa nor the reader are quite sure on whether Jed is in fact stalking Joe, or Joe is fabricating the story. Clarissa, a beautiful, intellectually independent woman of decided opinion who is potentially Joe’s love of life, does not believe him about Jed which becomes the underlying problem to their relationship. McEwan says that ‘Novels often end with the message that the one who trusted her heart wins through, when in life clear thinking and the rational see you through.’
This relates as although Joe suffered to interpret emotions correctly, his rational mind still allowed him to see through and come to terms with Jed’s Erotomania. On the other hand, despite Clarissa intellectual traits, she failed to read the sign of danger accurately until she was bluffed by a threat to her life. The dominant theme in ‘A Street Car Named Desire’ is contained in its memorable title. There really was a streetcar in New Orleans that had ‘Desire’ as its destination and then to ‘Cemeteries’. This also defines Blanche’s journey, as she was driven by desire but then ended up in the ‘living death’ of the asylum. As Williams was working on the play, he wrote an essay stating they have ‘some symbolic bearing of a broad nature’.
Struck by the names of the two streetcars, he carried out the use of the streetcar names to symbolise sexual passion. When the sisters, Blanche and Stella, would speak about sexual desire they would conceal it by talking in metaphors ‘that rattle-trap street-car’. The force of desire affects both Blanche and Stella in different ways, imprisoning them. For instance, Stella has abandoned herself and her integrity for her love for Stanley. Although her streetcar does not stop at ‘Cemeteries’, she still loses Stanley. The force of desire has also affected Blanche, as her past daunts her and her future is foreordained. Her encounter with men and her nature prevents her from being the housewife she hopes to be. In contrast to William’s play of which presents mostly negative effect of passion, McEwan presents a contrast between functional and dysfunctional love. Joe’s inner thoughts imprison his mind, leading him to think him and Clarissa ‘lost the trick of love’.
Their passion is on the verge of losing its essence completely as Joe fails to communicate with Clarissa on the night the intruder Jed called. “I know I made my first serious mistake when I turned to my side and said to her, ‘it was nothing.” Joe has decided to escape when he wasn’t trapped, leading him to become imprisoned by the beginning of his lies in desire to do no wrong in Clarissa’s eyes. An article by Tedd McCarthy about the third party that potentially disrupts the notion of the relationship said: ‘the novel is greatly interested in exploring how much strain a love can take and in charting the same ways in which intimacy is eroded.’ McCarthy suggested that the introduction of an intruder tests the relationship, which is true. The phone call has shown Joe’s vulnerability and as the novel continues, the psychological power the intruder had on Joe’s frame of mind imprisons his thoughts and results into his paranoid character.
In ‘A Street Car Named Desire’, Blanche is imprisoned by her past and her mind, lying to herself and others allows her to make life appear as it should be rather than it actually is. Music is used by Williams to dramatize the state of Blanche’s mind, playing the music from her lover’s funeral and gunshots. Blanche is also seen to bath frequently, which suggests her attempt to wash away her sins that she is imprisoned by. The play utilises props, music, lighting and language to contrast and convey its ideas, ‘Enduring Love’ on the other hand uses the first viewpoint of Joe, and different text types to convey its ideas. In addition to Blanche’s attempt to purify herself, she is also shown to be looking for a secured life she wants to begin, and marrying Mitch who is continuously complimented and liberated by Blanche, could lead her to being a ‘respectable woman’.
The effect Blanche has on Mitch by her flattery is allowing him to envision a happy and secure life, despite the death of his mother, and he finally has the confidence to not worry about being isolated. In both ways, Blanche and Mitch liberate each other as they are beneficial to each other. Although in other ways, Mitch is imprisoned by others’ opinions of Blanche, unsure about herself modestly, claiming she is not ‘clean enough’. Blanche seems to be disturbed and entrapped by the demands society has of her, which consists of purity and modestly, with etiquette of an upper-class, like the society she grew up in with her sister. She still beholds certain attitudes from the past, it’s shown when she refuses to leave her prejudices against the working class at the beginning of the play, dissatisfied by the area and the state of the Kowalski’s home. Blanche decides to lie, just like Joe did to Clarissa. In Blanche’s part, the relationship with Mitch is not given a chance.
She sees marriage as her only possibility for survival, although her reputation makes her an unattractive marriage prospect. During the twentieth century, women were highly dependent on a man’s reputation to have a reputation of their own, or to be considered of any superiority. Whereas, it is intriguing to understand the picture Ian McEwan paints, which is despite the commitment and affection Clarissa and Joe have, their relationship is also prone to be affected by the power of an intruder who can potentially destroy the relationship. The thought and lack of confidence in her partner worries Clarissa, she becomes doubtful and unsettled about Joe, ‘is Parry even real?’ As it imprisons her, it also imprisons Joe as he is left confused and constrained with no power of his surroundings despite trying in every way possible to avoid any interaction with Jed.
In Adam Mars Jones essay, he takes the view that ‘Jed subsequently develops an obsessive interest in Joe, an interest that is partly religious, partly sexual and wholly crazed.’ That clearly signifies the importance of Jed’s condition that McEwan is emphasising; De Clerambault syndrome which potentially has the power to make the diseased in belief that someone loves him. His imprisonment in the belief of God, and he is ‘just a messenger, its God’s gift’ leads him to insane acts, believing Joe loved him and was testing his commitment. McEwan is concerned with conveying in the superiority of the scientific and rational approach.
On the other hand, the intruder in ‘A Street Car Named Desire’ does not hold the same mental problem as Jed. Jed is never sane, Blanche only suffers a mental breakdown, but both end up in institutes for the mentally unstable. Both texts have different aims by their authors, ‘A Street Car Named Desire’ presents a small cast of characters in one location over a brief period of time, on the other hand ‘Enduring Love’ has a wider focus, with a wider range of settings and characters. Despite the situation Jed has imposed on Joe and Clarissa, it tested their relationship. All the way up to chapter 11 did Clarissa stick to her initial judgment that Jed was harmless, the situation created complexity and imprisoned them. Jed has also created a communication problem between the couple; Clarissa no longer believed Joe and questioned his statements. ‘His writing’s rather like yours’ undermining Joe and disbelieving his words, which would not have happened usually. Meanwhile, the situation which imprisons Joe and Clarissa, it is Stella’s sexual passion for Stanley which is what gives her physical thrill.
She is set to believe that she needs a masculine, dynamic protector, as her life at Belle Reve did not prepare her for independence as a woman. It could be argued what once liberated her, has imprisoned her in the long run, as Stella has let go of everything she Belle Reve’s way of living taught her, the upper middleclass ways. In comparison to Stella and Stanley’s relationship that is stimulated by sexual desires, Joe and Clarissa mentioned wanting a child together, but due to Clarissa’s infertility that stopped them. Whereas it should be noted that they were together for seven years childless, proving their relationship to be more than just sex. Her feeling of loss and emptiness imprisons her, which is later on in the novel liberated by adopting a child which reconciles their relationship.
In Stanley and Stella’s situation, they are liberated by nature of love. Stanley’s approach to woman could not be categorised with dignity as he is demonstrated to behave aggressively, which is later on shown when he rapes Blanche. Women liberate him as they ‘excite’ him. In conclusion, both McEwan and Williams have effectively explored passion, illustrating a sense of liberation and imprisonment. In both texts, relationships, the characters or events that happen were all shown to liberate or imprison people. Both authors has different intentions, whilst Williams was writing about the effects of sexual passion and mental fragility that a human can convey, McEwan embodied the delusional behaviours and stalking that could potentially ruin a loving relationship. The characters are shown to be driven to extreme lengths for the love for others. 2033 including quotations