Blanche says death is the opposite of desire. What does she mean?    

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In Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche arrives at her sister Stella's home via just such a streetcar, both literally and metaphorically. "Desire" refers to Blanche's previous involvement in sexual promiscuity in her hometown of Laurel. Because she has lost her job and ruined her reputation there, she comes for an open-ended visit with Stanley and Stella. She begins a relationship with Mitch, pretending to be a sweet, moral, young woman to win his heart. Eventually he learns the truth and confronts her. By way of explanation, she says, "Yes, I had many intimacies with strangers. After the death of Allan--intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with." She tried to forget the death of her young husband by indulging in desire. She goes on to describe how everything around her at her home, Belle Reve, was dying. Her mother and father, all her older relatives, the plantation which had to be sold piece by piece to pay debts, and, indeed, the gentle Southern way of life she had been raised in--all were dying around her. She says, "Death...the opposite is desire. So do you wonder?" She then recounts how she would have one-night stands with the drunken soldiers who staggered past her home on Sunday nights toward their training camp. Her point is that she used physical intimacy--desire--to take her mind off the death that was going on all around her.

How is death the opposite of desire? When someone is dead, she can no longer feel, she can no longer desire. Blanche had suffered so much pain--from the horrible circumstances of her husband's suicide to the multiple losses of loved ones--that she feels dead inside. To try to regain the vitality she lost, she tried to substitute sexual encounters. What she really desired was love, emotional support, and to return from her lost way of life. She sought those things the only way she knew how: through physical desire. The irony is that the more she sought to escape death through desire, the more of her own soul and the more of her own chances for happiness she killed. The streetcar named desire brought her to the pitiful place in life at which she has now arrived.

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