Madness and Silence
The trope of madness as used by Williams in "Streetcar," as well as other works, is explored by Jacqueline O’Connor in her article "Babbling Lunatics: Language and Madness." O’Connor represents Blanche as one of a number of protagonists whose voices are silenced by the accusation of madness when they insist on speaking truths that the world is not prepared to hear. In the painful final scene, when the doctor and nurse come to take Blanche away, the previously grandiloquently vocal Blanche falls progressively silent.
Blanche can be compared to Catherine, the heroine of "Suddenly Last Summer," who is institutionalized and threatened with lobotomy for insisting on repeating the unsavory truth about her Cousin Sebastian’s death. It is however the web of fantasy and concealment which Blanche had previously spun about herself and which Stanley had ruthlessly exposed which made it easier for Stella to believe that Blanche's account of being raped by her husband was a final lie too far.
The unacceptable nature of the truth spoken by Blanche is confirmed by the reception of the work, as well as within the play itself. In "“Tiger-Tiger!" Blanche’s Rape on Screen," Nancy M. Tischler describes the contemporary controversy that surrounded the rape of Blanche and the resulting doubts that the Hollywood film would get past the censor. Playwright Lillian Hellman was drafted in to suggest amendments to the script that would make the play more acceptable. Her proposed solutions included making the rape, in fact, a product of Blanche’s diseased imagination. Like Stella, the American audience was presumed to find it easier to dismiss Blanche as a lying madwoman, a malign disrupter of a poor but respectable home, than to confront the scenario that a man might rape his sister-in-law and get away with it.
Williams himself adamantly refused to have the rape written out, insisting that it was central to the meaning of the play, which was about “the ravishment of the tender, the sensitive, the delicate, by the savage and brutal forces of modern society."