Blanche's Psychological Breakdown

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In Tennesse Williams' play, "A Streetcar Named Desire" the readers are

introduced to a character named Blanche DuBois. In the plot, Blanche is

Stella's younger sister who has come to visit Stella and her husband

Stanley in New Orleans. After their first meeting Stanley develops a

strong dislike for Blanche and everything associated with her. Among the

things Stanley dislikes about Blanche are her "spoiled-girl" manners and

her indirect and quizzical way of conversing. Stanley also believes that

Blanche has conned him and his wife out of the family mansion. In his

opinion, she is a good-for-nothing "leech" that has attached itself to

his household, and is just living off him. Blanche's lifelong habit of

avoiding unpleasant realities leads to her breakdown as seen in her

irrational response to death, her dependency, and her inability to

defend herself from Stanley's attacks.

Blanche's situation with her husband is the key to her later behavior.

She married rather early at the age of sixteen to whom a boy she

believed was a perfect gentleman. He was sensitive, understanding, and

civilized much like herself coming from an aristocratic background. She

was truly in love with Allen whom she considered perfect in every way.

Unfortunately for her he was a homosexual. As she caught him one

evening in their house with an older man, she said nothing, permitting

her disbelief to build up inside her. Sometime later that evening, while

the two of them were dancing, she told him what she had seen and how he

disgusted her. Immediately, he ran off the dance floor and shot himself,

with the gunshot forever staying in Blanche's mind. After that day,

Blanche believed that she was really at fault for his suicide. She

became promiscuous, seeking a substitute men (especially young boys),

for her dead husband, thinking that she failed him sexually. Gradually

her reputation as a whore built up and everyone in her home town knew

about her. Even for military personnel at the near-by army base,

Blanche's house became out-of-bounds. Promiscuity though wasn't the only

problem she had. Many of the aged family members died and the funeral

costs had to be covered by Blanche's modest salary. The deaths were

long, disparaging and horrible on someone like Blanche. She was forced

to mortgage the mansion, and soon the bank repossessed it. At school,

where Blanche taught English, she was dismissed because of an incident

she had with a seventeen-year-old student that reminded her of her late

husband. Even the management of the hotel Blanche stayed in during her

final days in Laurel, asked her to leave because of the all the

different men that had been seeing there. All of this, cumulatively,

weakened Blanche, turned her into an alcoholic, and lowered her mental

stability bit-by-bit.

Her husband's death affects her greatly and determines her behavior

from then on. Having lost Allan, who meant so much to her, she is

blinded by the light and from then on never lights anything stronger

than a dim candle. This behavior is evident when she first comes to

Stella's and puts a paper lantern over the light bulb. Towards the end,

when the doctor comes for Blanche and she says she forgot something,

Stanley hands her her paper lantern. Even Mitch notices that she cannot

stand the pure light, and therefore refuses to go out with him during

the daytime or to well lit places. Blanche herself says "I can't stand a

naked light bulb any more than ...". A hate for bright light isn't the

only affect on Blanche after Allan's death - she needs to fill her empty

heart, and so she turns to a lifestyle of one-night-stands with

strangers. She tries to comfort herself from not being able to satisfy

Allan, and so Blanche makes an effort to satisfy strangers, thinking

that they need her and that she can't...
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