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A Streetcar Named Desire

by Tennessee Williams
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Contrast Blanche and Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire.

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Blanche DuBois had long felt at home in the family estate of Belle Reve, but as she grew older, she was no longer able to keep up the property or continue the elite, rural lifestyle that was their tradition. Blanche deceives herself even more than the people around her. Although...

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Blanche DuBois had long felt at home in the family estate of Belle Reve, but as she grew older, she was no longer able to keep up the property or continue the elite, rural lifestyle that was their tradition. Blanche deceives herself even more than the people around her. Although she had briefly married, her young husband took his own life, a tragedy from which she did not recover. Blanche has great difficulty in accepting the realities of her own body, especially sexual desire, or of the ordinary world around her. She tries to mask her desperation with illusion, even in small matters such as muting the lights, and in harshly disparaging her sister’s decisions, including her choice of husband. Distancing herself from reality serves as Blanche’s attempt—which is ultimately in vain—to retain her psychological attachment to normal life.

Stella, the younger sister, is more practical and down-to-earth. She made a decision to turn her back on Belle Reve and make a life in New Orleans. Although she has opened her home—which is just a modest apartment—to her sister, she does not understand that her sister is close to a mental breakdown. Although Stella thinks of herself as a realist and believes she is making a viable life with Stanley and their unborn child, she also lives in a fantasy world, just of a different kind than her sister’s illusions. Stella retains her childish view of Blanche as she once was, and refuses to understand why her sister resents her for leaving her to cope with the family’s problems. As she tries to function as the peacemaker between Blanche and Stanley, because she is in denial about her husband’s cruelty and violence, ultimately she can play no role in preventing the rape.

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