The New Orleans Essay
The New Orleans
The Analysis of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams Blanche Dubois is a schoolteacher from Laurel, Mississippi who arrives at the New Orleans apartment of her married sister, Stella Kovalski. Despite that they already lost close contact with each other, she intends to remain there for a long time. Blanche tells that she had to leave Laurel after loosing their old home, Belle Reve because of the death of all their relatives. She also left her teaching position because of her bad nerves. She seems to be very disillusioned and unsatisfied with the Kovalski’s home and the neighborhood they live in, though she cannot afford a hotel as she’s out of money.
She is quite unaware at first that with her snobbish social pretensions she criticizes them and cannot even realize that she is ‘a monkey on their back’. In the beginning of the play, Blanche is depicted as wearing white clothes and having a moth like appearance, becoming this way the symbol of purity; even her name suggests this – Blanche means white. This kind of appearance hides the best her past sins and her ambiguous, immoral character.
The scene describes the surroundings with a tone of commonplace brutality and cold reality, into which Blanche appears as a sensitive lady- like figure. Her outlook can be associated with light in this sense, but as we learn later on she is definitely not attracted by light. Another key fact in this scene is the road she took to arrive here, in the French quarter. She says that she took a ” streetcar named Desire, and then … one called Cemeteries”. (Williams, Scene One) So, by this, the author already suggests that desire leads to something tragic, perhaps death and Blanche cannot escape her fate after she passed on the road of Desire.
The symbolic home, Belle Reve and Blanche’s “reality” is also in close connection. The name of the plantation home means ‘beautiful dream’, so by loosing the ancestral home, she lost her innocence and would-be happy ending of her life. However the fact that all the Belle Reve-ian relatives died, implies the morally corrupt background of the family. This way the play is similar to a Greek tragedy, in which the protagonist cannot escape the destiny of her family. The first reference to Blanche’s fear of light is present in her first meeting with Stella. She asks her to “turn that over-light off! ” (Williams, Scene One) This is a hint
that she certainly hides something from her sister. She prefers instead semi-darkness, that gives a background to her false, illusionary world, in which she retreats during her nervous crises. Another destroying element in her life alcohol, however she tries to hide her sick attraction to whisky throughout the play. She is at a point of desperation and as usually alcoholics do, tries to escape from her problems into drinking. Running away in an alcohol- steamed world helps her to endure the harsh reality. By lying that she rarely touches it shows her desire to depict herself different as she really is.
At the opening of the play she is already a depraved woman and has lost everything. The only chance is to come to her sister because she has no one else to turn to. She’s so desperate that she has chosen these undesirable surroundings and these “unworthy” people. The one who immediately realizes her weaknesses is Stanley, Stella’s violent husband. He destroys her sensibility even from the beginning with pointed question about her earlier marriage. Thus, he touches her life’s most sensitive aspect – he shows no discretion, no tact and attacks directly. Similarly, Blanche’s frequent baths emphasize even more her ambiguous behaviour.
She bathes constantly, as she explains, to calm her nerves. Of course it is a cleansing power but not only in the literally sense. By washing herself so often she tries to get rid of her past sins. These never-ending baths annoy Stanley even more and push him farther to his plan to destroy her and get rid of her. While Blanche is disgusted by Stanley’s person and his animalistic behaviour, she flirts openly with him. This attempt to seduce him is the only way she knows to achieve success with men. She frequently uses her bodily charms, in spite of her fading youth, to achieve admiration and appreciation.
Eventually, she wants to tame this male beast and to force him to acknowledge her superiority, the same as Stanley wishes. This is the only similarity in their character; they both have wrong when they think that success can be achieved only by possessing. Blanche in fact is shaken by Stanley’s harsh reality and he is maddened by the provocative and contented woman who calls him a common and bestial person in his own house. By contrast, the only person who shows some compassion and understanding to her is Mitch. She is immediately aware of his difference and recognizes a similar sensitivity to hers in him.