Blanche the true character
n Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire, the nature of theatricality, “magic,”
and “realism,” all stem from the tragic character, Blanche DuBois. Blanche is both a
theatricalizing and self-theatricalizing woman. She lies to herself as well as to others in order
to recreate the world as it should be—in line with her high-minded sensibilities. To that
extent, much of her creations arise from a longing for the past, nostalgia for her lost love,
her dignity, and her purpose in life. She is haunted by the ghosts of what she has lost, and
the genteel society of her Belle Reve, her own beautiful dream. Blanche ...view middle of the document...
Mitch’s immediately following entrance with an “absurd little bunch of flowers” further emphasizes the surreal, parody quality of this exaggerated production. “Bow to me first!” she orders adamantly, “And now present them!” Blanche’s deep curtsy and melodramatically affected, “Ahhh! Merciiii!” give this scene a profoundly self-aware sense of the theatrical. Stanley himself indulges in theatricality at the end, when he dons his wedding night silk pyjamas to celebrate alongside Blanche, who is clad in her tiara and “fine feathers.” Commenting on their mutual costuming, Stanley acquiesces, “I guess we are both entitled to put on the dog! You having an oil millionaire, and me having a baby (90)!” However, Stanley’s reason for celebration is grounded in reality (Stella is giving birth in a nearby hospital), and Blanche’s reason is pure fantasy.
Streetcar is filled with such instances in which audience and performer are one. The play has been seen by many as postmodernist in this deconstruction of the self. There is no true
self—just performances projected out into the world in endless recursivity. In her final confrontation with Mitch, Blanche comes to terms with her deceitfulness. “I don’t want realism. I want—magic! …I try to give that to people. I do misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that’s a sin, then let me be damned for it! Don’t turn the light on (84)!”. Much of Blanche’s fabrications result from an acute awareness of sexual double-standards she tries to offset—disadvantages that Williams himself was very attuned to as a homosexual writer. Blanche lies primarily to manipulate her circumstances to better suit her feminine agenda, explaining to Mitch that she refuses to accept the hand fate has dealt her. Streetcar is, at heart, a work of social realism. Blanche’s need to alter reality through fantasy is partly an indictment of the failure of modernity for women, a critique of the social institutions and postwar attitude of America that so restricted their lives. Blanche lies about her age because she views it as another setback of reality. She puts on an act of propriety for Mitch as well, to better fit the role of a desirable, acceptable woman. As she confesses to Stella, “I want [Mitch’s] respect. But…men lose interest quickly. Especially when the girl is over—thirty…of course, he—he doesn’t know—I mean I haven’t informed him—of my real age (57)!” When Stella asks why she is so sensitive about her age, Blanche responds, “Because of the hard knocks my vanity’s been given. What I mean is—he thinks I’m sort of—prim and proper, you know! I want to deceive him just enough to make him want me…” Blanche’s creation of magic is borne of a necessity to cope with and survive reality. Her complete dependence on men blurs her distinction between survival and marriage, and...