In the play A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams portrayed Blanche to be an extremely complex character. She was depicted as a delicate, pure woman, and eventually a lonely alcoholic! She was neither completely good nor bad, because she was so torn by conflicting and contradictory desires and needs. It is evident that the tragedies that occurred in her life contribute to the complexity of her character.
In the very first scene of the play Blanche appeared wearing a white suit. As Williams describes her, "She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district" (15). White, being the symbol of purity, made Blanche seem to be very delicate as well as fragile. She seemed to be, in a sense, superior to the other people in the community. She was viewed as a stereotypical wealthy southern woman who inherited her family's fortune. However, it eventually became known that Blanche had lived an extremely hard and brutal life, which would drive even the most stable person to insanity. Kazan stated,
"It's not so much what Blanche has doneit's how she does itwith such style, grace, manners, old-world trappings and effects, props, tricks, swirls, etc... that they seem anything but vulgar" (21).
It was obvious, even as Blanche desperately attempted to act as a respectable lady, that there was something terribly wrong with her. She even admitted it in Scene One, "I want to be near you, got to be with somebody, I can't be alone! Because - as you must have noticed - I'm - not very well" (23)
Despite the fact that Blanche put on a mask of innocence and purity, she was really a fraud who could not stand up to the light in fear that she would be exposed for the person she really was. When Blanche was on her own, a great deal about her personality showed through. It was evident that Blanche continually lied about who she really was in order to portray herself as a true "lady".
Kazan noted that Blanche is an escapist. She hides from bright lights, just as like she hides from the truth. Her delicate nature simply cannot take the reality of what is existing in her life because she thinks it is too painful. She convinces herself that she has remained pure.. As a result, she sees herself as prim and proper (21).
Soon after Blanche was first introduced in the play, she began telling her sister somewhat about the problems that occurred at Belle Reve. Many of her older family members died and the funeral costs had to be covered by Blanche's modest salary. The deaths were long, and horrible, especially to someone that was like Blanche. She was forced to mortgage the mansion, and soon the bank repossessed it. Here, Blanche seemed to blame the loss of Belle Reve on everyone but herself. She appeared to be a dominant older sister who ordered Stella around and judged her life, clothes, weight, and even her hair. Saddik stated,
"The struggle to maintain control in a world which is changing rapidly is also evident in A Streetcar Named Desire. In this play, on of Williams' most naturalistic, the dramatic tension rests in the battle between Blanche, a faded belle of the old South whose principles will no longer assure her survival in an incresingly pragmatic urbanized world, and Stanley..." (66).
After Stella alerted Stanley about the loss of Belle Reve, he became suspicious and confronted Blanche about the ordeal. He accused her of keeping money from him and Stella. Blanche no longer seemed to be a fragile, helpless young woman, but a mature woman, who confronted Stanley's suspicions about her. She faced him down and even went as far as flirting with him! Elia Kazan noted that Stanley though Blanche would eventually wreck his home. Stanley thought she was dangerous and destructive (26).
Stanley and Blanche were such diverse characters. Saddik writes, "We...
Cited: Adler, Thomas P. "Tennessee William 's ‘Personal Lyricism ': Toward an Androgynous Form." Realism and the American Dramatic Tradition Ed. William W. Demastes. Tusvaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1996. 172 - 188.
Kazan, Elia Notebook for A Streetcar Named Desire. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1963.
Saddik, Annette J. The Politics of Reputation: The Critical Receptions of Tennessee Williams ' Later Plays. Cranbury; Associated University Presses, 1999.
Williams, Tennessee A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: New American Library, 1947.
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