In the play A Streetcar Named Desire, why does Blanche try to block out her past and avoid reality?Why does she try to block out her past and avoid reality (which is related to the...

In the play A Streetcar Named Desire, why does Blanche try to block out her past and avoid reality?

Why does she try to block out her past and avoid reality (which is related to the theme "appearance vs. reality")?

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herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In addition to the previous answer, which was great

Blanche had no choice but to avoid reality. How could she live with herself when the world she knew since she was little had just been removed from under her feet?

The world from where Blanche came was glamorous, enticing, and promising. She was the typical Southern Belle which would accept gentlemen callers, attend cotillions, and be treated like a princess.

She had it all- She married her teenage sweetheart, she was rich, she had an education, and a reputation for being a stunner.

Suddenly, her husband has a gay love affair behind her back, ends up committing suicide, lost her estate, her family became sick, Stella went off to marry a doubtful man and, Blanche was left behind.

She ended up re-building a woman from broken pieces, only she picked the worst pieces: Those pieces of her who are sexually invasive, co-dependent, alcoholic , and lost.

I think Blanche was already on the way to "Alysian Fields" the moment she set foot on the streetcar.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I guess I would initially respond with the counter point which why not deny what is there?  Indeed, Blanche is guilty of blocking out her past and avoiding the reality of her condition.  Yet, I think that Williams is making a conscious point to arouse a sense of complexity in the audience.  One of the characteristics of Williams as a writer is that he does not capitulate into caricatures.  Instead, he evokes a rich weaving of complexity and within the threads, the reader must understand that it is nearly impossible to craft out a simplistic or reductive moral position on any character.  Blanche is neither "sinner" nor "saint."  While she does block out much of her past, Williams conception of Blanche compels the reader to understand, to a great extent, why she does what she does.  The world in which Blanche grew up, the old South, has been blocked out itself, morphing into an industrial setting where traditional values have been blocked out or supplanted by other notions of the good.  The reality that Blanche knew and understood has been moved aside.  Additionally, Blanche's explorations into freedom have not yielded much in way of fruit.  We don't know the full extent of Blanche's first marriage, but it was not a very good one.  Blanche carries this failed relationship with her.  In addition, her failures and abdication of responsibility as a school teacher creates a scar upon her, one that cannot be washed away (despite the hours she spends in the bathtub.)  There is so much in Blanche's past that is awful and emotionally wrenching.  Indeed, while Blanche deserves blame for her role in these situations, it is painful, nevertheless, causing the natural tendency to wish to block out and avoid what is there.  It seems to be a distinctly human trait to wish to avoid pain, and for Blanche, this embodies her past.

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