Explore the ways in which dramatic ways in which Williams presents the character of Blanche Dubois in a streetcar named desire. Tennessee Williams presents Blanche Dubois as Stella’s older sister, until recently a high school English teacher. She arrives in New Orleans as a chatty, witty, arrogant, fragile, and ultimately breakdown figure. From the beginning of the play, the character of Blanche is depicted as a very shy character. The setting and talk of the other characters help illustrate the contrast between the arrival of the Blanche, the southern, old-fashioned belle and New Orleans, a very cosmopolitan place at the time.
It is a bustling, busy, hectic city. “Negro entertainers at a bar room around the corner”. Race is less of an issue here then it was in the rest of the U. S at the time, and it is really publicized at the beginning of the book with a white woman (who we find out is called Eunice) and a negro woman. It is accentuated by the fact that the women are talking comfortably to each other, no sense of tension can be found during their speech. Soon enough, Blanche arrives, and the stage directions and her facial expressions give us an immediate idea of what kind of person she is. “Her appearance is incongruous to this setting”
She looks incredibly out of place in this rough surrounding, in her dainty white dress. As the stage directions put it: “There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes that suggests a moth” A moth is delicate and fragile, which is what Tennesse Williams is trying to get at when comparing her to a moth. The light, which Blanche shuns away from, makes the reader feel that she is very pure, white, the colour used suggests a virgin. We can tell she has put a lot of effort into her looks and appearance and seems very well off in the clothes she is wearing.
“She is daintily dressed in a white suits with a fluffy bodice ,necklace and earrings of pearl… ” All this suggests that this well off, well dressed, delicate and fragile women is very out of place in these rough, mean streets of New Orleans. Tennese Williams then goes onto show, that our first impressions of Blanche are perfectly correct, she seems faintly hysterical and distressed when she speaks, due to the fact that she cannot believe that her “little” sister is living in such surroundings. She enters the house, after finding out that this is the correct address, and sits down in her sisters kitchen in a stunned state.
This is where we learn that Blanche is from an aristocratic background, the name Dubois is originally French, and so her ancestors must have been French immigrants. She is unused to the negro woman being so close and friendly to her and finds is unsettling and rather rudely shoves her away. “What I meant was I’d like to be left alone” The next actions Blanche make, have a deep impact on our perspective of Blanches character, not only is she a drinker, but it seems like she is an alcoholic, and a heavy one at that. “She pours half a tumbler of whiskey and tosses it down”
After the two sisters meet up again, from Blanches speech, we learn that she still treats Stella like her little sister, talks to her in a very patronising way, almost as though she is trying to relive, or recount on past days. “Oh, my baby! Stella! Stella! Stella for a star! ” “Precious lamb! ” Another important part of the play is when she lies, she pretends to look for an alcoholic beverage, knowing where it actually is. She pretends to her sister, lying that it’s her first and that she’s not an alcoholic. From her actions, we can she that Blanche is highly “strung up”, she’s very nervous, anxious and worried.
Their conversation eventually leads to talking about the house, which she describes as something out of an Edgar Allen Poe horror book, although it shows her having a good education (she’s an English teacher after all), Blanche isn’t very tactful at all. If its on her mind, she will say it, without any consideration to the person it may be offending. Tennessee Williams, in the first 11 pages, has given us a glance into the fragile life of Blanche Dubois, as a main character, she will have an important part to play, what that part is we will have to wait a see.