Character Analysis: Blanche
Word Count: 675
In most stories, the protagonist is a close-to-flawless individual with endearing features and likeable personality traits. This is not the case for the character of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche makes for an interesting protagonist in a play that has characters with seemingly darker, flawed personalities. She is somewhat vile towards Stanley because she dislikes the fact that he is Polish and working class, she tells many lies to other characters, and she, at times, seems downright crazy and mentally unstable. Despite all this, the audience can sympathize with her because we learn that she has lost her home, her job, and her husband. Her less-than-flattering remarks of Stanley can also be taken lightly in the view that she’s only trying to protect her sister from getting hurt (this situation becomes especially apparent after Stanley and Stella have a physical fight). The most interesting part of Blanche’s character is how some of the play’s main themes are directly based upon some of Blanche’s actions, thoughts, or experiences.
One of the common themes in the play, that of fantasy, stems from Blanche’s apparent inability to accept reality. Within the play, she notes to Mitch that she tells lies because she refuses to accept her real fate. Blanche is seemingly living in her own fantasy world where she is still a young, attractive, and very rich Southern belle living in Belle Reve. Her heavy drinking, something she also refuses to acknowledge, may help her escape to this fantasy world that she lives in. It quickly becomes apparent that Blanche, with her heavy makeup and fancy clothes, is grasping for her and Stella’s former life of affluence, and this ties well into Williams’ theme of fantasy within the play: Blanche uses her fantasies as a means to escape her harsh realities.
In the play, Tennessee Williams seems to imply that sex and desire lead to negative things; he goes so far as to draw an interesting parallel between sex and death. Blanche’s character always seems to be at the root of this comparison. When she first arrived at Stella’s place, Blanche noted that she rode a streetcar named “Desire” (sex), and then changed to a streetcar named “Cemeteries” (death), and ended up at Elysian Fields (a sort of heaven). This dialogue at first seems like nothing but silly banter, but the audience realizes as they proceed further into the play, this seemingly normal streetcar ride is actually a symbolic journey. Sex has also been a part of another tragic loss for Blanche: after she caught her husband having sex with another man, he shoots and kills himself later. Blanche’s life is used as an example for the theme of sex leading to negative outcomes: her life has been on a downward spiral because of different sexual desires and experiences.
Blanche’s character plays a huge role in the theme of gender roles within the play. The women in this play attempt to break the traditional roles of women being second-rate citizens in the country, but come up short in that they’re much too dependent on men, a prominent reoccurring theme in the play. Stella and Eunice seem to want to think that they’re independent beings, but their weakness shows in their inability to stand up to their husbands who are too rough with them. Blanche is able to notice this rash behavior as unacceptable, and even tries to convince Stella to leave Stanley, but Blanche is still guilty of being too dependent on men in that she wants to write to her friend Shep in order to make money. Blanche’s character is significant in this sense in that she represents a woman whose happiness (and wealth, to an extent) depend upon men, which was not uncommon during that time period.
Overall, Blanche’s experiences in the novel show just how significant her character is in terms of the different themes presented within the play. Whether it’s through her words, actions, or past experiences, Blanche’s character has many dimensions that are significant to the meaning behind the play.