A Streetcar Named Desire Questions and Answers

Tennessee Williams

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting A Streetcar Named Desire questions.

How is Blanche's life difficult?

It is difficult to find a sadder character in literature than Blanche DuBois. Williams understood that he was creating a uniquely pathetic creature in his characterization of Blanche. The result is a character who consistently uses freedom and does not achieve happiness. Blanche is able to demonstrate the futility that often accompanies freedom. In contrast to a uniquely positive condition in which human freedom and redefinition reflects a setting in which individuals take action to better themselves and their world, Blanche fails at every turn. She finds failure in being a wife, a teacher, a sister, and, ultimately, as a woman. This failure is brought on by a fatal collusion of poor decision making and the manipulative nature of the world around her. Blanche's consistent failures magnifies her neurosis, only adding to poor decision making.

In the end, Blanche's statement that she has always "depended on the kindness of strangers" is reflective of how isolated she really is. Blanche is not alone. She truly is lonely. Her own failures have contributed to no one standing up for her and no one acknowledging her. This is where Blanche is the ultimate outsider, a woman without home, nationality, or collective identity. Williams has constructed a character that embodies an aspect upon which we would not like to consider reflecting: The orphan. Blanche is an orphan, and Williams ensures that, like all orphans, the audience is not able to forget what they saw and the level of responsibility they hold in contributing to making similar orphans like Blanche in their own worlds.

In what ways is Blanche DuBois a classic southern belle?

Blanche, like most upper-class Southern belles, is like a hothouse flower. She needs protection. She never learned about the real world because she had the protected childhood of an elite Southern girl. That protection was destroyed by the Civil War. Stella likes a real he-man who gives her real sexual pleasure and satisfaction, while Blanche lives in a world of illusion and likes young boys who are only good-looking and potentially romantic. She was married to that type of boy, she said, and he died young. Notice how she talks to that young boy who comes to collect for the newspaper in Scene Five: “Young man! Young, young, young man! Has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Prince out of the Arabian Nights? Well, you do, honey lamb! Come here. I want to kiss you, just once, softly and sweetly on your mouth! Now run along, now, quickly! It would be nice to keep you, but I’ve got to be good—and keep my hands off children.”