How do people create illusion out of harsh reality?
In the play A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche Dubois works hard at creating an illusion. She tells lies about her past so that others see her in a specific light. She tells lies to herself to soften her own memories. She puts a shade on the bare bulb so that no one can see her as she truly is.
Many people try to soften a harsh reality. It may be that is the only way they can cope. Characters who choose illusion as a coping mechanism are always going to be interesting to write about.
1. Journal Prompt: Ask students to reflect on how they cope with bad news. What is your coping mechanism?
2. As a class ask students their opinion on dealing with bad news or sad events. What is the best coping mechanism? What is their point of view on people who soften the truth of a sad situation?
3. Choose a tragic event from the news or history. A real event, not fictional. Choose a past event rather than something happening currently. Assign students to research the event for homework either individually or in groups. They have to come up with a list of details and a list of individuals involved in the event.
4. As a class compile the details and individuals. Put the information on large pads, on a whiteboard, or blackboard so everyone can see them.
5. Divide the class into pairs. Each pair creates a two character, one location scene based on the event. In the scene, the two characters are doing an activity – give the characters something to do as they talk. For example: they are preparing the room to paint, they are both waiters preparing for service before the restaurant is open, they are working on a class project, they are folding laundry.
6. In the scene Character A represents the reality of the event; they are there to state the facts. Character B represents an illusion of the event; they shroud the tragedy in a softer light as coping mechanism. How do they shed positive light on the event? How do they change the details to make it less harsh? For example, if the tragedy is about a horrible murder, perhaps Character B believes the murderer is innocent. How does Character A deal with Character B?
7. Present the scenes.Click here for a PDF Handout of this exercise!