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A Streetcar Named Desire

by Tennessee Williams

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In Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire, what was life like for Blanche after Stella left Belle Reve?

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There is little mystery to Blanche’s feelings regarding Stella’s having left Belle Reve, leaving her sister to fend for herself and endure the burden of maintaining the estate despite dwindling financial resources.  Throughout A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche is reproachful towards Stella for having been abandoned.  Early in the story, when Blanche has only recently arrived to stay with Stella and Stanley, she blurts out an indication of her feelings:

“Blanche: The other one? … I am going to take just one little tiny nip more, sort of to put the stopper on, so to speak …. Then put the bottle away so I won’t be tempted. I want you to look at my figure. You know I haven’t put on one ounce in ten years, Stella? I weigh what I weighed the summer you left Belle Reve. The summer Dad died and you left us. . .”

Later, in another exchange between the sisters, Blanche again reveals the bitterness she harbors regarding Stella’s having left to pursue her own life.  Defensive regarding the secret she’s about to reveal regarding the loss of the Belle Reve estate and anticipating Stella’s dismay by her announcement, Blanche prefaces the bad news by attempting to place Stella on the defensive:

“Well, Stella – you’re going to reproach me, I know that you’re bound to reproach me – but before you do – take into consideration – you left! I stayed and struggled! You came to New Orleans and looked out for yourself! I stayed at Belle Reve and tried to hold it together! I’m not meaning this in any reproachful way, but all the burden descended on my shoulders.  

Stella: The best I could do was make my own living, Blanche.”

And, again, as the sisters continue to circle around each other’s feelings, with Stella defensive about Blanche’s arrogance towards Stanley, still the matter of the loss of Belle Reve serves as a divisive issue and an opportunity for Blanche to portray herself as the victim and the martyr for having stayed at the estate and attended for family matters while Stella left to live her own life:

"I know, I know. But you are the one that abandoned Belle Reve, not I! I stayed and fought for it, bled for it, almost died for it! . . . I, I, I took the blows in my face and my body! All of those deaths! The long parade to the graveyard! Father, mother! Margaret, that dreadful way! So big with it, it couldn’t be put in a coffin! But had to be burned like rubbish! You just came home in time for the funerals, Stella.”

The extent of Blanche’s social and economic descent have not yet become known to Stella, but Blanche is clearly resentful of Stella’s life with Stanley, as condescending as she is towards the latter and as much as pretends to a level of class well beyond that which Stanley can ever provide for Stella.  Blanche’s promiscuous past and series of love affairs have resulted in her exile from the town in which she and her late-husband had lived and prospered.  Stanley’s animal magnetism and virility are more than a little attractive to Blanche, as they are to Stella, and Blanche’s resentment towards her sister are manifested in the only way she knows: repeated references to Stella’s departure from Belle Reve.

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