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A Streetcar Named Desire

by Tennessee Williams

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Student Question

How is Blanche DuBois manipulative in A Streetcar Named Desire?

Quick answer:

Blanche DuBois is manipulative in that she puts up a front as a respectable widow and Southern belle when she is really nothing of the sort.

Expert Answers

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Blanche DuBois is manipulative by pretending to be something she is not in order to get what she wants. Blanche shows up at her sister Stella's house, claiming that she is taking a leave of absence from her teaching job on account of her nerves. She basically moves in with Stella and her husband, Stanley. Blanche also claims that she has lost the family home and has next to nothing.

Stanley is suspicious and discovers that Blanche has been staying at the Flamingo Hotel, a place of low reputation. Blanche denies it. She must keep up appearances as a respectable Southern belle.

Blanche seems to be willing to do whatever she must to get her away about things. She even kisses a young newspaper boy when she does not have the money to pay him. She also tries desperately to hide her age, and she puts up an act of genteel, chaste widowhood. It is, however, only an act, a manipulative effort designed to get Blanche what she wants: sympathy and support.

In the end, Blanche's full story comes out. She has actually been fired from her job as a teacher because she was seducing a seventeen-year-old student. She has a drinking problem. Blanche's manipulations catch up with her, though. She looses the ability to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and instead of her make-believe suitor coming to take her away in the final scene, a doctor and nurse from a mental institution arrive.

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