Blanche, The Southern Belle Essay, Research Paper
Blanche, the Southern Belle
In Tennesse Williams’ play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” we are introduce to a dainty 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 encounter, Stanley develops a 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. 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 character can be defined as a “southern belle”. She appears to be young, beautiful, and flirtatious. Blanche appears to be that way, but throughout the play, she has a psychological breakdown. 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 a 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. As she confronted him, he ran off and shot himself. After that day, Blanche believed that she was the cause of his suicide. She became promiscuous, seeking a substitute man, especially young boys. 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. All of this, cumulatively, weakened Blanche, turned her into an alcoholic, and lowered her mental stability.
Her husband’s death affects her greatly and determines her behavior from then on. Having lost Allan, who meant the world to her, she is blinded by the light and from then on never lights anything stronger than a dim candle. This behavior appears when she is at Stella’s house and puts a paper lantern over the light bulb. Even Mitch notices that she cannot stand the pure light, and therefore refuses to go out with him at daytime or to well lit places. “I can’t stand a naked light bulb any more than?”. This is not the only thing that signifies her character; she turns to a lifestyle of one-night-stands. She makes an effort to satisfy strangers. For example, when the young man collects money for the Evening Star, she tries to seduce him in her manipulative ways. She speaks softly to him and says, “I want to kiss you, just once, softly and sweetly on your mouth”(84). All of these irrational responses to death seem to signify how Blanche’s mind is unstable, and yet she tries to still be educated, well mannered, and attractive person. She tries not to let the horridness come out on top of her image, wanting in an illusive and magical world instead. Blanches says, “I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, Magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth”(65). Blanche is very dependent coming to Stella from Belle Reve with less than a dollar in change. Having been fired from her job, she resorts to prostitution for finances, and even that does not suffice her. She has no choice, but to come and live with her sister.
Stanley is a realist and cannot stand the elusive “Dame Blanche”(99), eventually destroying her along with her illusions. When Blanche came around and drunk his liquor, bathed in his bathtub, and posed a threat to his marriage, he acted like a primitive animal. Blanche was already weakened by her past and realized that she did not have much of a chance against him. The more she tried talking to Stanley, the more he would always question her. Further, he went on asking for the telegram to convince him that she did receive it. When Blanche was unable to provide it, he completely destroyed her fantasies, telling her how she was the worthless Queen of the Nile sitting on her throne, and “swilling down his liquor”(128). When Stanley went on to rape her, he completely diminished her mental stability.
She could have avoided all of Blanche’s troubles with Stanley in the end left her in a mental institution. Blanche made a mistake by trying to act like a lady, or trying to be what she thought a lady ought to be. Stanley, being a primitive as he was, would have liked her better if she was honest with him about drinking his liquor. Stanley did catch her eyes at first, but being brutally raped by him at the end destroyed her. He knew her and made her face reality, but in a way he exposed her to the bright luminous light she could not stand all her life.