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    The Blanche DuBois Portraying a Good Character in A Streetcar Named Desire

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    “Blanche’s tragedy is that she is caught between two worlds – the world of the past and the world of the present – unwilling to let go of the past and unable to come to terms with the present.” Do you agree? Blache DuBois is portrayed as a character who is unable to let go of her noble past and heritage, and instead chooses to remain with her societal ideals and preferences of the “Old South,” which she represents. She is unable to come to terms with the present, as displayed throughout the play. She is caught between two stages of society within America during the 1940’s – the conflicting “Old South” and “New South.”

    The main theme of the drama “A Streetcar Named Desire” concerns Blanche directly. In Blanche is seen the tragedy of an individual caught between two worlds – the world of the past and the world of the present – unwilling to let go of the past and unable, because of her character, to come to any sort of terms with the present. The final result is her destruction. It started with the death of her young husband, a weak and “perverted” boy who committed suicide when she taunted him with her disgust at the discovery of his homosexuality.

    In retrospect, she knows that he was the only man she had ever loved, and from this early catastrophe evolves her promiscuity. She is lonely and frightened, and she attempts to fight this condition with sex. Desire fills the emptiness when there is no love and desire blocks the inexorable movement of death, which has already wasted and decayed Blanche’s ancestral home Belle Reve.

    The past is something that characters are locked within chaining them to secret misdeeds and shameful actions ultimately leading them to the question of reality versus illusion, revealing their weaknesses and leading some of them towards their downfall. Williams presents to the audience the first issues of dealing with the past by one of the protagonists, Blanche. Born and raised in the Southern aristocracy, she cannot free herself from her rich past, and bring herself to come to terms with the present.

    Blanche DuBois appears in the first scene dressed in white, the symbol of purity and innocence. She is seen as a moth-like creature; delicate, refined, and sensitive. She is cultured and intelligent. She can’t stand a vulgar remark or a vulgar action. Each of these were seen as characteristics commonly portrayed by classic “Southern Belles,” which were poignant throughout the period of the “Old South.” She even grew up in a stereotypical Southern mansion and was encouraged to behave like a stereotypical Southern belle.

    She is not emotionally equipped to cope with the modern world. She needs to be sheltered and protected, as women used to be in the Old South. Her mind is filled with romantic notions. She expects men to treat her with old Southern chivalry and gallantry. For Blanche, Belle Reve was the remaining symbol of a life and tradition that she knows in her heart have vanished, yet to which she clings with a desperate tenacity. She is dated. Her speech, manners and habit are associated with the “Old South,” but still she cannot abandon this sense of herself as someone special, as a “lady.”

    Blanche and her sister, Stella, once had a life together once in Belle Reve, however when Stella decided to move on in her life and leave, Blanche never could forgive her. This becomes apparent in chapter one, when Blanche first arrives in New Orleans and meets Stella at the bowling alley. Stella and Blanche sit down for a drink, and it is then that we immediately see Blanche’s animosity towards Stella. Blanche blames Stella for abandoning her at BelleReve, leaving Blanche to handle the division of the estate after their had parents died. Here we first see that Blanche is still stuck in the past, and appears to have the inability to move on and live her life in the present.

    Early in her life, Blanche had married a young boy who had a softness and tenderness “which wasn’t like a man’s,” even though he “wasn’t the least bit effeminate looking.” Upon discovering his homosexuality, Blanche told her young husband that he disgusted her. This deliberate act of cruelty on Blanche’s part caused her young husband to commit suicide. This may reflect upon Blanche’s inability to move on from her past, whereas in the “Old South” homosexuality was frowned upon, something William’s experienced throughout his own life.

    Earlier, her love had been like a “blinding light,” and since that night Blanche has never had any light stronger than a dim candle. Blanche has always thought she failed her young lover when he most needed her. She felt also that she was cruel to him in a way that Stanley would like to be cruel to her. And Blanche’s entire life has been affected by this early tragic event. This is another example where Blanche is unwilling to let go of the past, and her first love.

    When troubled, the dance tune that was playing when Allan committed suicide haunts her until she drinks enough so as to hear the shot which then signals the end of the music. The Polka represents the past, and is prominent throughout the entire play, in order to represent Blanche’s unwillingness to let go of the past, and inability to come to terms with the present.

    The repetition of the music of the Varsouviana and the subsequent gunshot are the aural reminders to Blanche and to the audience of the source of this profound, guilt-causing experience: Allan’s suicide. Clearly, Blanche loved Allan. Stella refers to her as having “worshipped the ground he walked on! Adored him and thought him almost too kind to be human!” Blanche’s dedication to the boy began at sixteen and she describes the discovery of love as turning “a blinding light on something that had always been half in shadow.” Blanche, in her confession to Mitch, articulates her limitations as a young woman who failed the man she loved because she didn’t know what it was he needed.

    Allan’s homosexuality would have been, as Williams himself understood, a terrible burden. It is the last moment of her confession that makes clear why Blanche feels responsible for his death. Not because of her reaction to finding him making love to another man but because of her comment to him on the dance floor: “You disgust me,” and her rejection of him as a person was too much for him to bear, so he committed suicide.

    She admits her part in his death early in the play, ‘I hurt him the way that you would like to hurt me’. Her guilt from that time on has crippled her and it remains with her fourteen years later as a potent force. Her ritual bathing is an attempt to cleanse herself of the stain of Allan’s death, unsuccessfully. Her admittance of her role in her late husband’s death is a feeble attempt to try and move away from the past, but it is clear that Blanche is still caught between the two worlds, and cannot come to terms with the present.

    In truth, Blanche’s life stopped the moment Allan Grey died. While time has moved on, Blanche is still trapped in the moment of Allan’s death. Blanche’s sister, Stella, has grown up, moved away, got married and is pregnant – all signs of life progressing. Stella is living in the present, however Blanche is deemed unable to.

    Blanche sees herself as she always has and is caught in that moment of her youth, trying desperately to hold onto the physical nature of it. This is seen in her preoccupation with weight and appearance, which is taken to the extreme by her covering naked bulbs with a lantern and dating Mitch only at night when the reality of time passing cannot be seen. The difference between her life not moving for her, but moving in reality causes her nervousness and, eventual, breakdown.

    “A Streetcar Named Desire is referred to as a “memory play.” A memory play is a play in which a lead character narrates the events of the play, which are drawn from the character’s memory. The term was coined by Williams himself. Usually, the play is a dramatic representation of the playwright’s life – or at least loosely based upon the playwright’s experiences. This can be viewed through the representation of homosexuality through the play, as well as themes of mental illness and instability. The play is told through Blanche’s experiences, with events from her past featuring prominently throughout.

    Blanche DuBois is often referred to as a “tragic heroine.” Aristotle defined tragedy: “Tragedy, then, is an imitation of a noble and complete action; … and achieves, through the representation of pitiable and fearful incidents, the catharsis of such incidents.” In a tragedy, the tragic hero is tested by suffering; as a result they’re forced to face the consequences. Some will be crushed by their misfortune and may even die; others will somehow overcome their difficulties.

    Aristotle also states that the character must be of noble character – defined not by birth but rather by moral choice. Blanche is in contrast to her surroundings and appears out of place, a typical characteristic of a tragic hero. Williams states in his directions that “there is something about her uncertain manner that suggests a moth.” Blanche is a paradox – the smartly dressed and cultured lady who enters the stage at the beginning is gradually shown to be a character riven by neuroses and insecurities that threaten to overwhelm her. We are left with a tragic character precisely because she is never able to accept herself for who she is and is split apart by her inconsistencies.

    Through the play, it is highly evident that Blanche’s is caught between two worlds – the world of the past and the world of the present – unwilling to let go of the past and unable to come to terms with the present. She is presented as a tragic hero through the devastating events that occur throughout her life, eventually leaving her broken when she meets her tragic ending.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    The Blanche DuBois Portraying a Good Character in A Streetcar Named Desire. (2023, Mar 12). Retrieved from

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