In what way does Blanche symbolize the Old South and Stanley the North in A Streetcar Named Desire?

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Although A Streetcar Named Desire is most overtly about gender roles in post-World War II New Orleans, a case can be made for a metaphorical interpretation that would comment upon the relationship between the southern and northern states at the time of and immediately following the Civil War.

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Although A Streetcar Named Desire is most overtly about gender roles in post-World War II New Orleans, a case can be made for a metaphorical interpretation that would comment upon the relationship between the southern and northern states at the time of and immediately following the Civil War.

In such an analysis, Blanche is the character who most clearly represents the South. Blanche comes from a family line that once owned a large plantation, which was eventually lost for taxes and debts. Similarly, the Civil War put an end to the plantation economy by outlawing the slave labor that kept it functioning. Blanche's affected airs of gentility and her fake jewelry and furs represent the South's veneer of good manners and respectability that masked the cruelty of slave ownership. Her promiscuity represents not only the immorality of many white men who took advantage of their female slaves but also the broader immorality of the whites who sold their souls for the comfort and wealth that owning other human beings gave them. The revelation of Blanche's sordid lifestyle parallels the abolition movement, which shone the light of truth on the evils of slavery.

Without too much effort, one can interpret Stanley as the North in this historico-political analysis. First, and most obviously, he rapes Blanche, symbolizing the North's utter devastation of the South as the war progressed. Second, he exposes her as a fraud without any sympathy, just as some of the harshest abolitionists, like John Brown, advocated violence against the South to overthrow slavery. Compared to Blanche's airs of delicacy, Stanley is a boorish thug, just as the North's more straightforward and direct manner clashed with the stiff dignity of Southern traditions.

All analogies break down at some point, and there are glaring disparities between Stanley and the North and between Blanche and the South. For example, Stanley wanted to be rid of Blanche and arranges for her to go to a mental hospital, while the North fought to keep the South part of the Union. Nevertheless, there are enough parallels to make the symbolism worthy of consideration.

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Blanche symbolizes the Old South and its defunct social hierarchy throughout the play "A Streetcar Named Desire." Blanche was raised in Laurel, Mississippi, where she was expected to behave like a typical Southern Belle. Blanche believes in chivalry and is attracted to conservative social manners, which were ubiquitous throughout the Old South. However, Blanche is forced to abandon her distinguished lifestyle after losing her family's estate. Blanche's descent from her aristocratic, noble lifestyle represents the fall of the Old South. Her unchecked sexual desires and disillusioned ideas represent the debased lives of those formal Southern aristocrats, whose desires were previously hidden behind their refined social statuses.

Stanley symbolizes the changing social climate of the New South throughout the play. He is an unrefined Polish immigrant, who has made a living for himself in New Orleans. Stanley's character contrasts significantly with the relics of the Old South and represents the burgeoning proletariat. His antagonistic nature towards Blanche metaphorically represents the New South's attitude towards the established Southern aristocracy. Stanley raping Blanche also symbolizes the end of the Old South and its traditional lifestyle.

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Blanche definitely represents the Old South. She even grew up in a stereotypical Southern mansion and was encouraged to behave like a stereotypical Southern belle. She is not emotionally equipped to cope with the modern world. She needs to be sheltered and protected, as women used to be in the Old South. Her mind is filled with romantic notions. She expects men to treat her with old Southern chivalry and gallantry.

Stanley, on the other hand, does not necessarily represent the North. More likely he is intended to represent the "New South" which is becoming more and more like the North because of the transition from agriculture to industrialization. We understand why Blanche is living in the South, but it is never quite clear why Stanley is living in New Orleans rather than in some city like Chicago or Pittsburgh. He doesn't have any roots in the South; he just happened to end up there. More than representing the North, Stanley represents the social evolution taking place in the South, which includes the decline of the old aristocracy and the ascension of the proletariat.

William Faulkner often wrote about the contrast between the Old South and the New South, notably in the so-called "Snopes Trilogy," consisting of The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion. The decline of the Old South and the rise of the drastically different New South is a favorite theme with Southern writers.

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