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In A Street Car Named Desire, Williams expertly conveys the theme of isolation using the complex character of Blanche, showing different aspects of isolation including: social isolation, physical isolation, psychological isolation and emotional isolation. Blanche’s isolation in all respects can be seen as a consequence of her own actions as the critic Cardullo argued “Blanche’s struggle in Streetcar is…with herself” e.g.: through her loss of Belle Reve causing her physical isolation, her loss of her status as an accomplished English teacher causing her social isolation and her rape by Stanley (blamed on her flirtatious ways) triggering her mental breakdown and causing her psychological isolation.
The question that begs for an answer, however, remains: is Blanche’s tragedy due to her not belonging anywhere or having any useful role to fulfill?
Williams explores Blanche’s displacement in both a physical sense as well as an emotional one. Physically, it would seem that Blanche doesn’t belong anywhere due to the fact that she lost both her home (Belle Reve), which she claims “…slipped through her fingers.
” As well as her job as a teacher. Emotionally, Blanch also seems to be displaced as she lost everyone she really loved remaining only with Stella who is a married woman. Blanch emotionally exclaims “All of those deaths! Father, mother! Margaret…the Grim Reaper had put up his tent on our doorstep!” Williams uses a number of exclamations as Blanche speaks of this deaths, to emphasis the horror that she went through during these times.
Williams also uses the metaphor “the Grim Reaper” as an exaggeration to show the extent of the deaths of loved ones Blanche had to face as well as the extent of her loneliness as a result of all of these deaths.
Furthermore, Blanche is portrayed by Williams as a stereotypical Southern Belle who according to the critic Manning is meant to be “beautiful, graceful, charming and virtuous [and] loyal to family.” Yet at the same time “strong, articulate, assertive – and yet often tender and vulnerable” as designated by the critic George Hovis. This portrayal of Blanche as a Southern Belle is therefore useful to William’s presentation of her isolation as he is able to show her failure to fit into the environment in New Orleans and is especially unable to fit into the home and lifestyle of Stanley. William’s first description of Blanche at the beginning of the play in the stage directions saying “She is daintily dressed in a white suit…looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district.” supports this idea of her sophistication and her displacement in New Orleans.
Perhaps Blanche’s isolation is best seen at the end of the play when Stella chooses to believe Stanley over Blanche resulting in Blanche leaving for a psychiatric hospital. Stella says “I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley.” This suggests Stella’s doubts about her decision to side with Stanley however she still chooses to believe him, resulting in Blanche’s ultimate isolation, both physically and emotionally as now she truly loses everyone she cares about. Stella begins her own little family with Stanley, of which Blanche is not a part of. Hence there is some truth in the critic Callahan argument that the play is “… a morality play, and Stella, the third member of this triptych, must choose between the two ethical values represented by Blanche (spirit) and Stanley (flesh). Stella chooses Stanley who represents the flesh over Blanche who represents the spirit showing the power desire/ the flesh has over Stella and leaving Blanche isolated.
Moreover, Blanche is also romantically isolates in the play by both her lovers, Allan who killed himself and Mitch who deserted her after hearing about her past. Blanche speaks of her loss of Allan saying “I loved someone, too, and the person I loved I lost.” This may be a foreshadowing of the events that lay ahead for Blanche causing her to loss those she loved yet again, causing the reader to question as to whether this was simple Blanche’s fate, t loss all of those she loved. Blanche is also deserted by Mitch her lover later on in the play and her last chance of redemption and hope. Blanche thanks Mitch for his kindness in the play adding that “[She] need[s] kindness now.” The use of the word “need” suggests that she also needs Mitch, therefore making it all the more horrible when she loss him and finds herself once again isolated.
Overall, Williams explores different forms of isolation through Blanche’s character; emotional isolation, physical isolation as well as romantic isolation. Williams is therefore able to effectively create sympathy for Blanche, by portraying her as vulnerable and abandoned by all the people that she loved and cared for.
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