In A Streetcar Named Desire, how is Belle Reve significant ?  

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Belle Reve, which means beautiful dream, is the name of the plantation, the former home of Stella and Blanche DuBois.  Representative of the Old South and the charmed lives that the sisters known as Southern Belles, Belle Reve represents the past as well as a part of the present of Blanche; for, it is connotative of the illusionary life of Blanche, who continues to act as though she is central to everyone's attentions. The author of A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Wiliams, himself writes, 

"... when I think about her, Blanche seems like the youth of our hearts which has to be put away for worldly considerations: poetry, music, the early soft feelings that we can't afford to live with under a naked light bulb which is now."

Belle Reve suggests, too, the streetcar ride that Blanche has taken on Desire, then she has transferred to a car named Cemeteries. According to one interpretation by John J. Mood, in her attempts to recapture the dream of youthful happiness--her personal belle reve, Blanche remains in a state of emotional death on the street named Cemeteries as she wishes to cling to the past, a past that makes her brittle because it reminds her of her young dead husband.

Continuing this motif of a beautiful dream, Blanche imagines herself getting off one day at Elysian Fields, a street named for the soul's journey back to life in Virgil's Aeneid. She hopes that she can break her chain of lustful desires that end in destructive relationships and marry Mitch.  In Scene Six of the play, Blanche is honest and relates her past and what has happened to her young husband. Sympathetically, Mitch tells her, "You need somebody, and I need somebody,too."

At this point, Blanche can reach Elysian Fields; however, she is too weak and retreats into reverie and illusion as in Scene Seven she is confronted with her past because Stanley has talked to Mitch, but Blanche wants the lights dimmed, "I don't want realism. I want magic." Indeed, her dreams of life with Mitch are ruined with this retreat of Blanche. If she were to continue her honesty with Mitch, Blanche could find, at least, a Nouvelle Reve, a new dream, but as it is,  Blanche can only "be dependent upon the kindness of strangers."