How do Blanche's costumes demonstrate a different persona that effects her own tragedy?A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The opening scene of A Streetcar Named Desire presents a dainty and beautifully dressed woman in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, pearls, and white gloves and hat, an appearance that leads the audience to expect quite a different character to emerge than the vulnerable and shaky woman who begins to display her neuroses and obsessions during the course of the following acts. 

Clearly, Blanche is a delusional woman who wishes to disguise her past.  She covers the light bulbs with paper lanterns in order to create the illusion that she is younger; in fact, Blanche does everything to delude both herself and others.  In the stage production, Blanche is always over-dressed, signifying her efforts of overcompensation for her poverty and shame.  It is obvious that Blanche plays the role of the Southern Belle when in truth she is a soiled woman, one who should not be dressed in white.  It is, of course, only a matter of time before the truth about Blanche is revealed as Stanley does a background check on her and informs his wife Stella of her sister's tainted past. 

As an indication that her illusions are crumbling, the stage directions state that Blanche goes in and out of her closet frantically in Scene 5.  She pulls odd things from it as symbolic of her haggard and fragile persona that grasps desperately for happiness. Shortly thereafter, Stanley's brutal attack precipitates Blanche's tragedy.


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A Streetcar Named Desire

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