While this may seem like a somewhat arcane point, in "A Streetcar Named Desire", the Du Bois family plantation is named "Belle Reve" and is supposed to mean "beautiful dream".  In French, this...

While this may seem like a somewhat arcane point, in "A Streetcar Named Desire", the Du Bois family plantation is named "Belle Reve" and is supposed to mean "beautiful dream".  In French, this would actually be "Beau Reve" (in French, the word "reve" is masculine).  Since it is pronounced "Bell Reeve" in the movie, is it possible that the name was meant to be "Belle Rive" (beautiful shore or bank), or is this supposed to be Cajun French or an "Old French" usage OR does no one really care? 

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I don't know a whole lot about French, but isn't it possible that the feminine form of the adjective is used because the name is not referring to a dream but to a house or a plantation? Both maison and plantation are feminine nouns in French. If the house or plantation were regarded as only a dream or illusion, then it might be proper to use the masculine form of the adjective. But the name "Belle Reve" seems to imply that the dream was realized, that it was a real place and not a dream. I really don't know if that makes any difference. Tennessee Williams evidently wanted to emphasize that Blanche had been living in a dream world, and/or that the antebellum South was a dream world which was bound to succumb to reality with time.

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miven | eNotes Newbie

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Thank you so much for your quick and courteous reply, Mr. Delaney.  :)

The explanation you offer shows a lot of thought and outstanding literary analysis.  French grammar is, unfortunately, very arbitrary regarding genders of inanimate objects and does not take into account the situation in which the particular words are used.  The genders of nouns referring to inanimate objects came about based on the declension of the root word in Latin!  There were several declensions which were traditionally thought of as being either masculine or feminine...this carried over into French and other Romance languages.

Basically, an obscure grammatical distinction in an important (but dead!) language dating back thousands of years still affects modern French today. :)

My guess is that the author chose the name based on the meaning of the phrase..."beautiful dream" and was not concerned with whether "beau" or "belle" was the "correct" gender...he may have just liked the way "Belle Reve" sounded!

To quote Blanche Du Bois (can't resist!), "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."  I REALLY appreciate your input!  :)

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