Discuss Blanche's desires in A Streetcar Named Desire. For example, one of her desires is sexual, as she is attracted to Stanley when she first sees him. What other desires does Blanche have which contribute to her inevitable tragedy? 

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One of the first things we learn about Blanche is that she longs to cling to her image of an innocent, beautiful southern belle. She proudly tells Stella that "I weigh what I weighed the summer you left Belle Reve" and asks her to "turn that over-light off! I won't...

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One of the first things we learn about Blanche is that she longs to cling to her image of an innocent, beautiful southern belle. She proudly tells Stella that "I weigh what I weighed the summer you left Belle Reve" and asks her to "turn that over-light off! I won't be looked at in this merciless glare!" Despite the fact that she is clearly no longer the virginal belle, Blanche clings to this identity as a way of rewriting her past; if she can position herself as the naive ingénue, she has a better chance of "snaring" a man and therefore ensuring her economic stability. Thus, she desires to be seen as young and inexperienced, and this desire stands in such stark opposition to the truth that as her lies about the past begin to be revealed, her mental state unravels.

Blanche also desires storybook romantic love. Despite the fact that Mitch is clearly her intellectual inferior, she manipulates their relationship so that she can pretend Mitch is the ideal suitor and thus enact the rituals of courtship. For example, when Mitch and Blanche return to Stella's flat after their date, Blanche says, "We are going to be very Bohemian. We are going to pretend that we are sitting in a little artists' cafe on the Left Bank in Paris!" Mitch could be any man here; his purpose is merely to function in the role Blanche has cast him in so that she can take pleasure in the fantasy of falling in love.

Lastly, Blanche desires to be open about her sexual wants while at the same time maintaining the decorum of a proper southern woman, an impossible balance to accomplish. She tries to be both women—the sexual one in her flirting with Stanley and the proper one in her relationship with Mitch. But those two identities are irreconcilable: the sexual side of her is punished when Stanley rapes her, and the proper side of her is punished when Mitch becomes disgusted by her, telling her "You're not clean enough to bring in the house with my mother."

Blanche is an incredibly complex character in that she is both victim and perpetrator. Her being taken away to a mental asylum at the play's end feels like the best possible solution: at least there she can live away from her rapist, in the world of "make-believe" she always sings about while she bathes.

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Desire is a constant motif throughout this play, and it is Blanche's destructive desires which become her ultimate downfall.

At the onset of Streetcar, Blanche is told to get on the streetcar named Desire and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and get off at Elysian Fields (scene 1). Williams begins the play intertwining desire and death. Blanche begins with desire, changes to death, and ends up in Elysian Fields (a mythical place of the afterlife). This opening scene foreshadows the end of the play where she is defeated and sent off to a mental asylum.

What is her desire? First of all, she desires intimacy with a man. She mistakenly confuses this intimacy for sex which leads to the loss of her job and promiscuous behavior. Secondly, she desires magic, an unrealistic desire for an adult as the desire to believe in magic takes away personal responsibility (scene 9). Lastly, Blanche desires youth. Again, just as her desire for magic, the wish to stay young is unrealistic. This desire illustrates her abhorrence of light because she can't "stand a naked light bulb" (scene 3). Bright light reveals Blanche's age.

The theme of Blanche's desire and its ramifications can be traced throughout the entire play.

 

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In Scene 4 of A Streetcar Named Desire, Stella tells her sister of her strong desires for Stanley, her husband.  Stella then asks her sister if she has not ridden on a streetcar of the name of Desire.  Blanche replies, "It brought me here--Where I'm not wanted and where I'm ashamed to be." Blanche, whose very name means white, the symbol of purity, constantly takes baths as if to wash away her past sins and shame, yet she desires to return to her past by recreating it in New Orleans through carefully woven tales of Belle Reve and her past lovers.  She creates the illusion of being younger by avoiding bright light with paper shades on the lamps in the apartment and going out only in the evening. And, she wants to be desirous to others, "Oh, in my youth, I excited some admiration," she says to Stanley in Scene Two. 

In Scene Five her sudden desire to be with the young man exemplifies further her attempts to recapture youth and a happiness that now eludes her.  This desire for the dreams of her youth and its illusion of happiness--"Belle Reve means beautiful dream"--leads, of course, to Blanche's tragedy of illusions.  For, she gradually loses touch with reality, sinking further and further into her delusional character that has "always been dependent upon the kindness of strangers."

On the other hand, as a foil character to Blanche, Stella's desires are practical.  She clearly loves Stanley and chooses to go along with the decision to have Blanche committed because she wishes to continue to live with her less than perfect husband for her own sake and for the sake of her child.  Practical minded, Stella rejects the glamorous life Blanche has desired for the reality of her flawed life with Stanley.  She chooses instead the

things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark--that sort of make everything else seem--unimportant.

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