This is a novel on two sisters and their love lives. Blanche, a school teacher from Laurel, Mississippi arrives to stay with her sister, Stella in New Orleans who is married to Stanley. She has lost her family fortune and estate due to a mortgage foreclosure. She is highly critical and snobbish when she regards the cramped up apartment that her sister and her husband lives in.
She is also critical of the fact that it is in a noisy, working class neighbourhood although she does not have enough money for a hotel. Her condescending manner causes her to have conflict with Stanley. Later, during a poker game when Blanche starts flirting with his friend called Mitch; Stanley gets violent and even beats his wife when she defends her sister.
Blanche dislikes Stanley and advises her sister to leave him. Unfortunately Stanley overhears the conversation and tells her he knows of her Sordid past. Stanley tells Mitch of the immoral life Blanche has lived. He reveals that Blanche had not been given leave from teaching due to her bad nerves as earlier stated but that she had been fired as she had been having an affair with a teenage student.
After losing the family home, she had stayed in dirt cheap hotel where she had been evicted due to her numerous sexual liaisons. On her birthday, Mitch does not come after learning of her past. He later tells her he can never marry her due to her past. Mitch pays for her transport ticket back to Mississippi. Stella gives birth and when Mitch arrives home he finds Blanche very drunk. They start fighting and he eventually rapes her.
Blanche’s mind cannot deal with her desperate state of affairs and she eventually goes mad. She is taken to an insane asylum. Stella cries as her sister leaves while Stanley comforts her. She does not believe her husband raped her sister.
Blanche is fascinated with beautiful clothes, make-up, money and beautiful surroundings which she lets her sister and her husband know. She is an aging woman who is concerned with her fading beauty. She wears her showy but cheap evening clothes to attract men however she conceals her age. When she arrives in Stella’s neighbourhood she asks her how she could have stooped so low to live in such poor conditions.
She further makes disparaging comments about her husband who has come from a lower class and is of polish descent. Her patronising and condescending attitude and snobbery however are not real. They are a cover-up of the problems that she is going through in her own life. It is a mask to hide the hideousness of the world she lives in (Paller, 1987, pg148)
She wants to erase her past, she tells her sister, “Here I am, all freshly bathed and scented, and feeling like a brand new human being!” (Williams,1980, 37). She chooses to wear a lot of white clothes yet they symbolize purity and innocence which is not true of her (Sontag, 2010, pg 6). She portrays that she is a woman of dignity yet it is a lie. When Stanley offers her a drink of whiskey she tells him she does not drink much.
She is hurting and lonely, desiring a fulfilling relationship with a man. She is an individual who refuses to deal with the reality of her own state of affairs (Skiba, 2008, pg11). She is not real. The reality is too harsh for her mind to absorb it.
She cannot even afford to stay in a hotel and lost the family home yet she criticises where her sister lives with her husband. She eats their food, sleeps on their furniture and gets drunk on their liquor (Welch, 2009). She desires to portray a perfect picture to people especially to men as she hopes to win their love.
She lies to Mitch about who she is until Mitch finds out the truth and is disgusted. She tells Mitch, “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. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it!” (Williams, 1980, 117).
Stanley is able to see through her fake snobbery and acknowledge that she is a woman with a lot of emotional and social problems. She does not like the light which is symbolic of her pretense life. She tells her sister, “But don’t you look at me, Stella, no, no, no, not till later, not till I’ve bathed and rested! And turn that over-light off! Turn that off! I won’t be looked at in this merciless glare!” (Williams, 1980, pg18-19).
She lives in a world of fantasy and when Mitch rejects her and Stanley rapes her, her mind is taken over completely by her fantasies. She has delusions that her former lover, Shep Huntleigh, who is rich, will come and rescue her from her realities (Walker, 2010).
Paller, Michael. “A Room which is not empty: A Streetcar called Desire and the question of Homophorbia”. A Streetcar called Desire. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publications. 1987.
Skiba, Melanie. The Character of Blanche Dubois in “A Streetcar Called Desire”. Germany: GRIN Verlag oHG. 2008. Print.
Sontag, Ilona. Illusion and Reality in A Streetcar called Desire. Germany: GRIN Verlag oHG. 2010. Print.
Walker, Justine. Sexuality, Fantasy, and a Streetcar Named Desire.
Welch, Camille-Yvette. “World War II, Sex, and Displacement in A Streetcar Named Desire”. Critical Insights, 1(2009) : 23-40.
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: Signet Printing, 1980. Print.