Last Updated 22 Nov 2022

The Characters Masked by Lies in Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, and A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Category Deception, Truth
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Right from a young age people learn to tell lies. They start out as little white lies that don't harm anyone, they may grow to rumors, but they start out more or less harmless With age, everyone learns to lie more elaborately, and create excuses for what they have done or don‘t want to do. It's a natural reaction for most to cover something up to prevent blame and protect themselves. Whether big or small, the lies become a mask concealing them, As their lies become more elaborate and carried out for long periods of time, the lies begin to define them. In every story, there are characters masked by their lies. Kurt Vonnegut, William Shakespeare, and Tennessee Williams all write about characters in their books Slaughterhouse-Five, Much Ado About Nothing, and Streetcar Named Desire.

People create false identities not only so they can hide from others, but so they can hide from themselves Lies are the ultimate step in creating a mask for oneself. Every story has people who lie to cover up a mistake made by them or someone close to them. In Shakespeare‘s Much Ado About Nothing, Leonato confronts Claudio in hope to clear the family name: ”Thou hast so wronged mine innocent child and me that I am forced to lay my revenge". When Claudio calls out Hero‘s adultery. Leonato isn‘t concerned about whether it is true or not, but how he can make it appear that his family isn‘t tarnished. The way he thought to do this was by telling Claudio that his confrontation killed Hero, and in Claudio‘s pity, he would beg forgiveness and Leonato would appear to be the victim.

The mask. or false identity. is created because he warps the truth in his favor making Hero seem innocent and turning it on Claudio. A more obvious mask is one which there is no warping of the truth but only a lie. Billy lies in slaughterhouse Five by saying, “‘I like you just the way you are‘" because “He had already seen a lot of their marriage, thanks to time-travel, knew that it was going to be at least bearable all the way" (Vonnegut 120). His lie is merely to save his own skin, but it makes his wife, Valencia, think that he loves her so that he won‘t risk changing the outcome of his life. He lies creating the new identity of a caring husband, which Valencia doesn‘t question because she wants it to be true. For Blanche in Street Car Named Desire, however, it wasn't so easy to keep her identity hidden.

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When Mitch drunkenly confronts her, he tells her to turn on the light, “What it means is I've had no real good look at you, Blanche. Let's turn the light on there" (Williams 144). Being in a dimmer light makes Blanche appear to be the young beautiful woman she hoped she would always be. If she stayed in the darkness, no one could see her wrinkles or how her face had aged, thus being a literal mask concealing who she truly was, As elaborate or literal they may be people create false identities to conceal themselves. The most obvious use of a mask is to hide oneself from everyone else. Each lie turns into deception which deters others from the truth. To cover up her leaving Blanche told Stanley she had a much better life than she really did, but Stanley called her out, “There isn't no millionaire! And Mitch didn‘t come back with roses ‘cause I know where he is..." (Williams 157).

The entire time she was staying with the Kowalski's, Blanche was feeding them lies to make her appear better and to keep them from the truth of how retched her life had become. Because she was so built up on concealing the truth from them. when Stanley called her out, it made her whole world come crashing down. Billy, from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter House Five, also got caught up in his false truth, but he had all the answers to back himself up:‘”it can't be detected from Earth if that‘s what you mean,‘ said Billy. ‘Earth can‘t be detected from Tralfamadore as far as that goes. They’re both very small. They're very far apart'" (Vonnegut 30). Billy wanted everyone to believe that this planet was real and that he had been there so bad that he continued to pile on his story.

The lies became so intense because they were his attempt to block others from truly seeing that he had been driven insane from his time in the war. Both Blanche and Billy began to believe the lies they were creating for others, however, Hero grasped reality, When Claudio dishonored Hero, she was forced to fake death to hide: “Death is the fairest cover for her shame that may be wished for" (Shakespeare 4.1.122- 123). Rather than face the distain of others, Hero was forced to hide from the society until she was proved innocent. This ultimate mask was kept until her wedding where she didn’t uncover herself until she was wed; ensuring everything went her way, and deceiving everyone. In each way, people were able to create an alternate identity keeping people from seeing the truth.

What people don't always notice, is that they wear a mask to hide their ugly truth from themselves. Each mask, however strong, is to prevent oneself from seeing the truth: “And if it sort not well, you may conceal her, as best fits her wounded reputation, in some reclusive and religious life, out of all eyes, tongues, and injuries“ (Shakespeare 4.1251154). Hero was sullied and Leonato wanted her to fake death and live life as a nun to hide from the grief. By being a nun, she would be so focused on her religious duties that she wouldn't have time to remember her shame, Also, she would be disguised from all the looks of others; thus. she won‘t be reminded of her shame. Another way people deter from seeing the truth is by lying directly to them: “I’ve been hungrier than this,‘ the hobo told Billy. ‘l've been in worse places than this.

This ain't so bad"x” (Vonnegut 68). The hobo doesn’t want to face the severity of his situation so he told himself he had been through something worse He is lying directly to himself to appear tougher to the others in the car, but he also says it to reassure himself. For some, the mask is created not by deceiving themselves, but by blaming others, “But you‘re the one that abandoned Belle Reve, not I! I stayed and fought for it, bled for it, almost died for it! (Williams 20). Blanche was so shamed that she needed to blame Stella to relieve her guilt. She was so intent on blaming Stella that she was hiding herself from the truth that she was really to blame because of her need for human connection. Because she was unable to accept the truth, her lies became deeper and deeper. so much so that she began to believe them, overall not being able to focus on reality.

The mask everyone creates to hide from others ultimately conceals it from them. The endeavor to close others out from the truth ends up blocking it from oneself. Because people try so hard to prevent others from seeing the terrible truth, they block it from everyone, including themselves. It may be intended, seeing as some people are so ashamed of the truth they can't bear to face it themselves as in Streetcar Named Desire and Much Ado About Nothing; for others, the lies become so evolved, they are the reality, as in Slaughter House Five. If they create a mask so thick to hide from others, they forget the truth themselves. Each mask that is created is started from the initial lie as small as it may have started, it becomes what the person knows to be the truth.

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The Characters Masked by Lies in Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, and A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. (2022, Nov 22). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/the-characters-masked-by-lies-in-slaughterhouse-five-by-kurt-vonnegut-much-ado-about-nothing-by-william-shakespeare-and-a-streetcar-named-desire-by-tennessee-williams/

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