Slipping In The Quicksand: Guilt, Psychology, And The Fall Of Blanche Dubois

2141 words - 9 pages

The Greek tragedian Aeschylus once wrote that “a god implants in mortal guilt whenever he wants utterly to confound a house,” and as the creator of A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams is no exception. The guilt of Blanche DuBois makes the emotional, tragic, and often extreme circumstances of the play possible. Williams creates Blanche’s vulnerabilities, including her dependence on others and her inability to face reality, so that her guilt over Allan’s death becomes the primary cause of her promiscuity, neurasthenic behavior and ultimate downfall.
Blanche’s guilt, the principal force driving her downfall, stems from her involvement in the circumstances surrounding her husband Allan’s suicide. After finding her husband with another man and realizing that he is a homosexual, Blanche initially pretends nothing has happened. At a dance that night, however, she utters the words that cause Allan to break away from her and commit suicide: “I saw! I know! You disgust me…” (204). Thus, Blanche sees herself as the cause of Allan’s death. As Bert Cardullo explains in his study of compassion in Streetcar, Blanche is not actually haunted by her husband’s homosexuality (89). In reality, her greatest regret, in Leonard Berkman’s words, is that her “unqualified expression of disgust” was the cause of his suicide (qtd. in Cardullo 89). These critics are correct in acknowledging that Blanche’s reaction is the primary source of her guilt, but they forget to mention what this shows about Blanche’s love for Allan. Because she is more devastated by his loss than by his homosexuality, the reader can infer that her love for Allan was pure and not conditional, which contrasts with her later merely physical relations with men. This situation leads to Blanche’s guilt, which continues to haunt her throughout the play and becomes a key component in her downfall.
Blanche’s dependent nature makes her particularly susceptible to the effects of guilt, a vulnerability which Williams creates in order to allow her emotions to become so extreme that they lead to insanity. At the play’s conclusion, she tells the doctor that she has “always depended on the kindness of strangers,” (235) and although insanity has by this point deprived Blanche of her grip on reality, her statement rings true. Indeed, from Blanche’s first moments on the stage, the audience witnesses her dependence on others in both her imposition on the Kowalski household and her constant need for Stella’s attention and assistance. Psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden reports in The Psychology of Self-Esteem that moral independence is an essential element of self-forgiveness; a lack of psychological autonomy contributes to feelings of worthlessness and unquenchable guilt (Branden 165). Consequently, Blanche’s total dependence on others renders her incapable of forgiving herself for the role she played in Allan’s suicide. Instead of accepting her error and moving on, Blanche remains trapped in her emotional...

Find Another Essay On Slipping in the Quicksand: Guilt, Psychology, and the Fall of Blanche Dubois

Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire

1315 words - 5 pages While watching A Streetcar named Desire, the character of Blanche Dubois at first appeared to be a weak self-absorbed southern woman, when really what started coming from her character was a flawed personality. What is not known is whether this is something that runs in the family, or has only shown itself through Blanche. Since this was during a time when mental illness was not yet studied deeply, the way Blanche is treated while

Decline of Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire

2076 words - 8 pages 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

The Life and Writings of W.E.B. DuBois

1845 words - 7 pages William Edward Burkhardt DuBois, whom we all know as W.E.B. DuBois; was a novelist, public speaker, poet, editor, author, leader, teacher, scholar, and romantic. He graduated from high school at the age of 16, and was selected as the valedictorian, being that he was the only black in his graduating class of 12. He was orphaned shortly after his graduation and was forced to fund his own college education. He was a pioneer in black political

The Psychological and Physiciological Effects of Guilt

543 words - 2 pages Abstract:     Guilt has physiological and psychological effects. The psychological effects can include something bad, such as feelings of worthlessness or inferiority. Guilt can also serve in a positive way as a motivator. A person may suffer physiological effects such as insomnia and physical pain. Discussion:     Guilt is feelings of culpability, especially for imagined offenses or from a

The Guilt of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

845 words - 3 pages The Guilt of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth Guilt is a very strong and uncomfortable feeling that often results from one’s own actions. This strong emotion is one of the theme ideas in William Shakespeare, “Macbeth”. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth feel guilt, but they react in different ways. Guilt hardens Macbeth, but cause Lady Macbeth to commit suicide. As Macbeth shrives to success guilt overcome’s Macbeth where he can no longer think straight

The Slipping Slope of Sovereignty: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

1390 words - 6 pages The Slipping Slope of Sovereignty Before the Middle Ages, women were societally submissive to male supremacy. As the Middle Ages progressed, one develops a sense that women sought a change in societal order. Upset that they are not able to share their beliefs due to their position, women began to become more vocal. In comparing two great poets Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare, one sees a connection in their most well known works


1267 words - 5 pages heretofore been sleeping with. At this point, it seems as if Josef is finally ready to face the reality of his trial and get it over with. He soon lapses into a depressive obsession, however, after determining to draw up a petition of everything he's ever done to prove that he must be innocent. In this part of the story, Josef begins on the right path by trying to face his guilt himself, and he even sets about starting to interrogate himself

The differnt views of civil rights between DuBois and Washington

1438 words - 6 pages Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois were the two most influential leaders of the African American community in the late 19th and early 20th century. However, these two scholars had different strategies on moving towards African American equality. Booker T. Washington believed that in order for blacks to obtain racial equality, they should concentrate on working their way up through hard work and material prosperity. Thus he urged African

The Tragic Fate of an Unrequited Childhood in Quicksand by Nella Larsen

1300 words - 5 pages The Tragic Fate of an Unrequited Childhood in Quicksand by Nella Larsen In reading Quicksand written by Nella Larsen one may come to the end of the book with a reaction much like…’what!’” Then, in frustration, throw the book down, lean an aggravated head back, and continue to ponder the books in its entirety. One may wonder how a promising life could end in such a sad way. Where did Helga Crane go wrong? What could she have done

In Scene Three Blanche meets Mitch and witnesses turbulent passion. What are the similarities between Blanche and Mitch and do they have any future prospects together?

1204 words - 5 pages From the moment that Mitch and Blanche are introduced, it is clear to the audience that they have a 'certain interest' in one another. Immediately previous to their meeting, Mitch talks of his 'sick mother'. This reveals a sensitive side to his character, which contrasts with the vulgarity and coarseness of his peers. Blanche has clearly been unimpressed by the manners of Stanley and his other friends, which hints that she will like Mitch rather

The Treaties Built on Quicksand

647 words - 3 pages Britain, Lloyd George, The Prime Minister of France, Georges Clemenceau, and The Prime Minister of Italy, Vittorio Orlando - united with other 17 nations to come up with a way to find who is going to be responsible for the distress and chaos of the war. The Allied Powers were not allowed to be present in the conference, so they had no say in the matter until the other nations came up with the solution. At the end of the conference the nations

Similar Essays

The Madness Of Blanche Du Bois In A Streetcar Named Desire

1780 words - 7 pages Tennessee Williams wrote about Blanche DuBois: 'She was a demonic character; the size of her feelings was too great for her to contain without the escape of madness.' Williams uses Blanche DuBois as a vehicle to explore several themes that interested him, one of these being madness. His own sister, Rose, was lobotomised in his absence and later institutionalised leading many critics to believe that the character of Blanche may have

The Tragic Blanche Du Bois In A Streetcar Named Desire

2088 words - 8 pages !” (Williams 36). “The fall of Blanche is a parable, not of American civilization lost nobility, but of the failure of the American literary imagination” (Williams 11). The light is a symbol of Blanche Dubois’s past (Kernan 77). Blanche Dubois covers the exposed light in Stanley and Stella Kowalski’s apartment with a Chinese paper lantern. “Oh I guess he’s just not the type that goes for Jasmine perfume, but maybe he’s what we need to mix with our

The Tragic Blanche Du Bois In A Streetcar Named Desire

2222 words - 9 pages “Tragic characters are “efficient” only in courting, suffering and encompassing their own destruction.” (Gassner 463). Fitting Gassner’s definition of a tragic character, Blanche DuBois in Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire caustically leads herself to her own downfall. In the beginning of the play, Blanche DuBois, a “belle of the old South” (Krutch 40), finds herself at the footsteps of her sister and brother-in-law’s shabby

The Influences Of Blanche And Stanley

1461 words - 6 pages Koch 1Amanda KochProf. Sarah JonesENG 102-0717 Oct. 2014The Influences of Blanche and StanleyOnce after reading and watching "A Streetcar Named Desire", and then going through the historical context of the play was very interesting. It has made me feel like a detective in a way. Picking through and finding curtain details that make the play even more magnificent. It makes sense after reading about the fable, the language of life, the acting