The Unnecessary Decline of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire
Upon reviewing the drama, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, it would appear that the character of Blanche DuBois is worthy of closer inspection. With her previous occupation as a teacher of American literature and her former social status being that of a well-bred woman of the very traditional Old South, Blanche could be any human being transferring from one culture to another with customs far different from the ones being left behind. Even today it could happen that someone is suddenly confronted with a totally new and different value system with which he must learn to cope in order to be accepted into his new environment. That is the situation in which Blanche finds herself. After close inspection of the plot of A Streetcar Named Desire, it appears that the course of the play could quite easily have been turned from decline and tragedy to rescue and triumph for Blanche DuBois with only a few minor adjustments.
A streetcar named Desire brought Blanche to the last station of her decline. “Blanche's spine or leitmotif is `find Protection'; the tradition of the Old South says that it must be through another person... her problem has to do with her tradition... the thing about the tradition in the 19th century was that it worked then “(Donahue 30). But today Blanche can't feel safe within the bounds of the Old South traditions anymore. On the contrary “...it [tradition] makes Blanche feel alone, outside of her society. Left out, insecure, shaky” (Donahue 32).
In the exposition of the play, Blanche arrives in her new environment and does not feel the least bit comfortable when she sees how her sister lives. Blanche probably had hoped that her sister still followed the old traditions and that, together, they could cling to their shared past. “Blanche depends on manner, on affected little-girl innocence, to sustain her”(Hirsch 33). That is quite evident at the very beginning of the play when she seems to be disgusted by the way her sister lives with her husband. However, Blanche’s evasive explanation of her early arrival, before the end of the spring term at the school in Laurel, is a clear indication that something went wrong with Blanche.
In her first meeting with Stanley it becomes quite clear that Stanley and Blanche are antagonist and protagonist. Twice in scene 1, “a cat screeches near the window, startling Blanche and now summoning up a cat-and-mouse image for the relationship between Stanley and Blanche” (Londre 47).
In the second scene, the audience witnesses Blanche’s obsessive bathing, just to “quiet my nerves” (Williams 39) as she told her sister Stella, but it “is a nominal gesture of guilt and wished-for redemption “(Bloom 16). In a single moment of deviation from her mood of gaiety in this scene, Blanche withholds a faded, ribbon-tied sheaf of love-letters: “Poems a dead boy wrote. I hurt him...