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One of the most tragic characters in American Drama finds her home in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. Blanche Dubois comes to New Orleans to live with her younger sister and finds that she is a square peg in a round world. Without realizing it, Blanche sets herself up for a fall in the world of Stanley Kowalski, her antagonist.
Blanche belongs in another time and place. In her brother-in-law’s apartment, Blanche’s fantasies push her into Stanley’s nest of reptiles that delight in making Blanche feel more lost. In Blanche’s world, the lady is to be petted and pampered. She retreats into her own mind and memory for the sanctuary she desires and needs.
Blanche DuBois is a tragic figure. She’s out of place. Blanche is lost, confused, and conflicted. She has no money, no home, no work, and no prospects. Her tragic flaw is her unwillingness to be flexible in a world in which she wants to be accepted. She will not shut up and listen. It is her way only, and everyone else behaves properly.
Her main supporter is her sister. Blanche pushes and pushes Stella to leave Stanley, the pig or “Polack.” Stella loves Stanley; until Blanche comes, Stella had been able to overlook and somewhat accept his aggressive behavior. Again, Blanche will not accept the reality of the situation and let Stella lead her own life.
The harsh reality that she finds herself in living with her sister contrasts with her background of gentility and refinement. However, lately, she has made poor decisions and has lost her job, her home, and her reputation. Finding a solution to the problem means to Blanche to lie about everything. She pretends that she is still in Belle Reve lolling about in her tub and waiting for the servant to bring her refreshing lemonade.
To hasten Blanche’s breakdown, Stanley finds out some gossip about her life before and spreads it from her sister to her boyfriend Mitch.
I don’t want realism. I want magic! [Mitch laughs] Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it! – Don’t turn the light on!
Blanche cannot stand the harsh light because then the reality of her age would become obvious. This is devastating to Blanche because it ruins her chances of finding happiness in the future. The final straw occurs in the rape of Blanche by Stanley.
Blanche tries to tell Stella about the rape; however, Stella knows that it is probably true. Yet, she cannot continue on with her life with Stanley. So, Stella sends for the doctor who will place Blanche in an insane asylum.
Stanley has won. Blanche will be out of his house and in the place that Stanley sent her to with his actions. During the rape scene when Stanley tells Blanche that they’ve “had this date with each other from the beginning,” unfortunately Blanche has flirted with Stanley. Blanche uses her feminine wiles to make her way in the world. Blanche has been an unconscious participant in her emotional, physical, and spiritual demise.
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