How does Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire challenge the stereotypes of femininity?I understand about her being a Southern Belle, but just need help answering the question. Thank you.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tennessee Williams's play A Streetcar Named Desire challenges the canons and stereotypes of femininity through the characters of both Blanche and Stella. The way that this is done is by presenting two women who once were the epitome of femininity: Good upbringing, beautiful faces, charming manners, and attractive personalities, and turning them into shadows of themselves. The play shows how circumstances shake these two women out of their element, turning them into the complete opposites of what they once were.

In the case of Blanche, we know that she does everything in her power to maintain the appearance of what she once was. Even during her first visit to her sister's house she wears such exquisite clothing that she looks completely out of place. It is interesting how, from that very moment, Tennessee Williams "sets her up" with the following commentary:

She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat as if she were arriving at a summer tea at the garden district.[...]There is something about her uncertain manner as well as her white clothes that suggest a moth.

This observation foreshadows that, at some point, we will see the real Blanche; one who will be far from the exquisite sample of a woman that we see when the play begins. This is quickly fulfilled when, as Blanche enters Stella's apartment and looks around her, she immediately identifies the bottle of whiskey and, without even chasing it down with water, she takes a big drink of it while nobody can see her. She is to repeat this same pattern once when she sees Stella. Slowly, we realize that Blanche is not only kin with alcohol, but that her reputation precedes her.

During a conversation with Stanley, we find out (through Stanley's own findings about Blanche) that she has a bad reputation in the town of Laurel, where she apparently used to keep a room at the Flamingo hotel in which e she would meet men. Moreover, we know that Blanche loses her teaching position for having an affair with a student from the school, and that such is the reason why she is able to come to see Stella "before the year is out".  

To add to her qualities, Blanche is also given to drink enough to cause herself to remember how her dead husband, whom she once had discovered having intercourse with another man, kills himself after she had told him that "he disgusts her". The problem is that Blanche engages in these behaviors in front of Mitch, the man she is trying to conquer, and this is a direct challenge to the principles of propriety that a woman should hold during courtship.

Therefore Williams uses Blanche as a woman that exemplifies charm and manners but then takes these qualities away from her, by allowing her true demons to surface, and completely challenging the stereotypes of femininity.

dickridingobama | Student

^^ csb, answer the question

anujumairah | Student

Correct your wording, asker. It's femininity. ^^

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A Streetcar Named Desire

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