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How does the theme of desire and death connect to Blanche? Give some examples of...

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kimhyunah | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 23, 2012 at 11:15 AM via web

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How does the theme of desire and death connect to Blanche? Give some examples of imagery/quotes.

Thank you! I'm doing a project and I need to draw some pictures that relate to this theme.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 26, 2012 at 3:48 AM (Answer #1)

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With the stage directions of "an atmosphere of decay," A Streetcar Named Desire opens with the motif of death. And, as Blanche arrives in her delicate beauty "that suggests a moth," she tells Eunice, Stella's neighbor,

They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at--Elysian Fields! (Scene 1)

Thus, in these early lines, Blanche connects herself with both death and desire with the mention of cemeteries and the Greek mythological land of the dead.  Additionally, the imagery of a moth hovering dangerously near the light is appropriate to Blanche who courts death with her uncontrollable carnal desires. For, in Scene 6, she admits,

The first time I laid eyes on [Stanley] I thought to myself, that man is my executioner.  That man will destroy me. (Scene 6)

Significantly, having sensed Blanche's sexual proclivities and later learned of her "epic fornications," the crudely sensual Stanley himself tells Blanche, "We've had this date from the beginning!"

Certainly, death has led to Blanche's mental unbalance as she has experienced the death of Belle Reve [French for beautiful dream], which represents her way of life, the death of her parents, husband, the loss of her teaching position at the orders of Mr.Graves.  Early in the play, she tells Stella as the music of the "blue piano" grows louder,

I, I, I took the blows in my face and my body!  All of those deaths! The long parade to the graveyard.  Father, mother, Margaret, that dreadful way!  So big with it, it couldn't be put in a coffin!  But had to be burned like rubbish! You just came home in time for the funerals, Stella.  And funerals are pretty compared to deaths.  Funerals are quiet, but death--not always.  Sometimes their breathing is hoarse, and sometimes it rattles, and sometimes they even cry out to you, 'Don't let me go!'....As if you were able to stop them!  But funerals are quiet, with pretty flowers. (Scene 1)

After deaths, Blanche seems to comfort herself with carnal desires. For, in Scene 9 when Mitch confronts her with her deceptions to him, she finally admits as a Mexican woman calls out "Flores para los muertos [flowers for the dead],"

"....After the death of Allan--intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with....The opposite [of death] is desire.  So do you wonder?  How could you possibly wonder!"

Blanche's fear of aging and death manifests itself in her acts of destructive lust and desire, acts which she vainly hopes will revive her blissful youth before her young husband's suicide. Unfortunately, this connection between desire and death lead to Blanche's demise as she becomes mentally unstable.  Thus, death and desire are fatally linked in Tennessee Williams's play as metaphorically the streetcar named Desire does, indeed, take her to Elysian Fields.

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