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To What Extent Is ‘True Love’ Unattainable in the Texts ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘1984’?
Although both ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘1984’ feature characters that are striving for or are in a relationship, both feature society’s that arguably hinder the pursuit of ‘true love’. The debate with both texts is if ‘true love’ is actually attainable. There is also a whole other interpretation that there is ‘love’ between a person and something inanimate – the government in ‘1984’ and material wealth in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.
In both texts ‘true love’ and the pursuit of it is arguably presented as something that isn’t real, a fantasy, a fairytale. True love isn’t something that can be attained rather it’s something to aspire to in the realms of imagination. One of the biggest presentations of this view is Williams’s portrayal of the character Blanche. Her romantic world is constructed as something that no longer exists within the confines of modernity, it’s often seen as illusionary. She states that “we are going to pretend that we are sitting in a little artists café on the Left Bank in Paris” – the fact that she’s pretending is a reflection of her character, her romance is a concept in her head which is also obsolete in the world she now inhabits. With her short-lived ‘love’ affair with Mitch she exclaims that “I don’t want realism, I want magic!” perhaps a microcosm of the view Williams is presenting, true love is for a place in fairytales just like magic, an unattainable fantasy. The ‘magic’ Blanche craves is simply not compatible with reality. In ‘1984’ the attainment of love is also perceived as fairytale-esque. Winston’s dream of spending time with Julia in the Golden Country is pure escapism from the dystopia they inhabit. As Winston and Julia briefly meet, he observes how alluring his ‘love’ for her is and feels “It was as though it were a kind of liquid stuff that poured all over” “ and got mixed up with the sunlight that filtered through the leaves.” This captivating language used by Orwell can be argued to contrast the harsh and bleak reality around them; the spark of love cannot endure as the “liquid stuff” will evaporate. In ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ the relationship between Stella and Stanley could also be seen as fairy-tale centred around “brutal desire” as Blanche points out (ironic as Blanche is living in a complete fantasy world). As Kate Kellaway says in The Observer “it is embarrassingly clear that the streetcar named Desire is, in their case, on a one-way street.” This isn’t too dissimilar from the relationship in ‘1984’, both are trying to seemingly escape and use their love as a means to do something productive in life.
In both texts there’s a theme that love or romance isn’t allowed, so the goal of ‘true love’ is unattainable/ not real. All manner of relationships in ‘1984’ are a mechanical exercise devoid of love. Love is a spontaneous progressive emotion that blossoms over time which isn’t the case in Oceania. It is regulated by The Ministry of Love, so in this sense love cannot be real. There are three types of love: ‘Forbidden Love’ whereby a couple are prohibited from seeing each other; ‘Lustful Love’ which is an act of revolt against the government and finally ‘Forced Love’ whereby a couple are forced together if it benefits society. This is used purely for procreation; a “duty to The Party” as Winston’s former wife put it. None of these can be said to be real or true love as Orwell is depicting a world where ‘love’ is a façade for something other. Orwell chooses words like ‘duty’ to remove a sense of humanity and offers an insight into the militarisation of people. As George Orwell was a socialist and a member of the Reformist Think Tank – ‘The Fabien Society’ he likely gathered a lot of political knowledge and gained an understanding of totalitarian Stalinism. Furthermore The Fabien Society as a ‘gradualist’ or ‘reformist’ group will have a projected agenda for social change, many theorise Orwell exposed the knowledge and plans the society were aware of, in the words of The Independent, it “haunts us with an ever-darker relevance” . I believe that along with other messages or warnings about the expansion of communism in the Soviet Union that he was stating that systems such as these will lose humanity and ‘love’ will eventually have no place in such a society. The Party’s “real, undeclared purpose was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act” seemingly supporting the view of Orwell’s message. The use of technical code was perhaps a technique for Orwell to further create a world of obedience and control and to also establish The Party had control over language, where love will “wince and stiffen” as Winston’s former wife did. As The Ministry of Love is an inversion, Orwell creates a sense of tension and dread in relation to it, love is something wrong and you should be fearful for participating. Winston “sat on the edge” as “he thought again of the cellars”. In ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ we see a world on the surge of capitalism, a world where people wanted to advance the social ladder with relationships as leverage for that. Stella and Stanley use the American Dream as a footing. Arguably love or romance isn’t allowed in this place of growth, near the start of the play Stanley “heaves” a package of meat at Stella. Stanley is being the typical ‘breadwinner’ and is providing and in turn liberating his household here - being a provider supersedes the concepts of love in the sense that progression takes priority. This could be compared to 1984 by the fact the progression of governance takes priority. The aggressive almost brutal way in which to gain capital or resources in the face of love is a price you have to pay and this is perhaps an expose of the nature of capitalism whereby profit and the individual is centre rather than people and the collective. Arguably capitalism has a lack of humanity and compassion creating people that “acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits!”. Stanley wants to climb the social order and is demanding when an opportunity arises, “I don’t want no ifs, ands, or buts! What’s all the rest of the papers?”. This maniacal outburst establishes the level of devotion to his materialistic cause.
However, the couples in both texts still arguably have love or perceived love for one another. Perhaps ‘true love’ isn’t what you picture but merely how you can make the most out of the given situation and is the acceptance of people. After Stanley beats Stella he calls for her with ear-splitting urgency, “Stell-ahhh”, there is definitely a level of care and love shown here. The use of making Stanley say her name like that emphasises his exasperation for her to come back. Furthermore, after being beaten she “catches his head and raises him level with her” as she goes “blind with tenderness”. Clearly there’s a devotion shared between the two of them, language like ‘catch’ and ‘tenderness’ suggest a compassionate accepting relationship whereby they look out for each other. As Julia and Winston cunningly meet in Victory Square or adventure in the Golden Country they show a level of devotion to each other.
In both texts there’s a concept of ‘realism’ and through this, true love is presented as not being possible. In ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ Stanley and Stella’s relationship could be Williams way of stating the ideas of blissful idyllic love are not possible, as seen through the violence and arrogance of Stanley’s character. The character Blanche cites their relationship as being partially if not completely soulless, much like the eyes of Big Brother, and the only ‘love’ Blanche seems to get are one night stands which is seen as a soulless sexual act. The Parsons, the neighbors of Winston, are a completely dull family (with Mrs Parsons having "dust in the creases of her face") and could represent the view that although people can be together there isn’t always love and it can be completely devoid of passion. Another element of true love could be seen as setting up a family, which is completely smashed a part in Orwell’s characterization – they are not a happy family, in fact, the parents are in constant fear of their children as they may report them to the Thought Police - they are completely indoctrinated by the Inner Party. External factors are a part of the ‘realism’ that true love doesn’t work, Orwell again subtly refers to the militarization of people “Mrs is a word somewhat discountenanced… you were supposed to call everyone comrade”. Orwell’s description of this family enhances our ideas that love realistically isn’t present. The surroundings “had a battered, trampled-on look” the boy had a “savage voice”. Hopeless language is used to show an inherent absence of love.
On the other hand, there’s an interpretation to what ‘true love’ actually is. What is the definition of it? Arguably in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ true love is attained through the American Dream/material wealth rather than another human being. When Stella talks about Stanley to Blanche she states “No. Stanley’s the only one of his crowd that’s likely to get anywhere” and then shortly afterwards describes an attraction towards him as “a drive that he has”. Is this a love for Stanley as a person or is this a love of capitalist progression? ‘Getting anywhere’ is highly reminiscent of ‘survival of the fittest’ an attribute commonly attributed to capitalism. Williams does this in my opinion to highlight that Stella has chosen the best ‘mate’. This isn’t a love for Stanley Kowalski – this is a love of progression and survival. The ‘drive’ she describes is reminiscent of the American Dream, the ‘drive’ to succeed and prosper. This is arguably the true love seen in the text; it makes sense as contextually the ideal of the American Dream was highly romanticized. There’s an interpretation that Stanley is just a representation of the American Dream, Many critics have pointed out that Stanley is part of a new America, one comprised of immigrants of all races with equal opportunity for all. In ‘1984’ it shows that true love is attainable (but not between another person) between a government in this case Big Brother. Orwell illustrates this view well with the chilling final lines of the book being “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.” The only love that can remain is for the administrators of a system you inhabit. You can love something through systematic indoctrination even if it takes years “to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath”. The Parsons represent this “unquestioning, devoted” love that Orwell is showing.
In conclusion, I believe that true love is largely presented as unattainable. Although there’s love shown throughout both texts I think that both Williams and Orwell respectively have illustrated that true harmonious love is simply an idyllic fantasy which realistically does not happen. However if you interpret ‘true love’ as something not exclusive to another person then both texts show that is possible.
© 2018 Raphael Kiyani