Compare the characters Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire and Sethe from Beloved.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The original question had to be edited.  I think that one of the strongest points of comparison between both Blanche and Sethe is that they carry unmistakable weight from their past.  Sethe is described as one who lives the burden of the past with every breath in the present.  It is this weight that prevents from her from engaging in any action that can make the present or future more liveable.  Sethe's past of slavery and what she had to do in order to endure it has punched the glittering iron out of Sethe's eyes, leaving two open wells."  Such an emptiness is evident in Blanche, but is something that she desperately seeks to conceive.  For Blanche, the changing of the world, her own mistakes in love, and her own uncontrollable neuroses have helped to create someone that is in a constant state of flight from the pain of the past.  Both Sethe and Blanche wrestle with the hurt of what was, tremendously shading what is and what can be.

A significant point of difference would be how each of their narratives end up viewing the future.  For Sethe, she is able to find some level of nurturing or shelter in Paul D.  He is able to convince her, even in terms of transforming her thought, that Sethe is "her best thing."  He is instrumental in enabling Sethe to see that the future is something that can be possible.  When he says to her that both of them can build more "tomorrows" as opposed to "yesterdays," there is some level of redemption in Sethe.  The horrors of slavery can be understood in this context and while there is still pain in Sethe's being, there is hope and a chance of finding something better. 

This cannot be said in Blanche's case.  Her commitment, the rape she endures at Stanley's hands, as well as the fact that she really has no one speaking for her reflect a very dire future for her.  Whereas Paul D reminds Sethe that she is "her best thing," Blanche gets no sort of comfort in her final scene.  The men playing their card game continue and then break to watch her being taken away.  When she leaves, Blanche says that she has "alaways depended on the kindness of strangers."  This cannot be seen as a positive ending or as anything redemptive.  A major point of difference between both Sethe and Blanche has to lie in their future.  Hope exists for one, and condemnation seems to be present for the other.  In a way, Morrison saves her heroine, while Williams sees no way out for his.

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A Streetcar Named Desire

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