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Essay on Blanche DuBois as Butterfly in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire

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The Portrayal of Blanche as Butterfly or Moth in A Streetcar Named Desire     


  In A Streetcar named Desire, Williams uses description and dialog to develop the play’s characters. In the beginning of the play, Williams describes Blanche as a "moth". A moth and a butterfly seem to be very similar; however, they have very different outward appearances and habits. A butterfly is very "showy " as it flits throughout life, whereas a moth tries hard not to bring attention to itself. Butterflies are open and very visible, but a moth is nocturnal and secretive. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a butterfly as "a person interested principally in frivolous pleasure"; a self-centered person intent on pleasure (line 2). Although Williams describes Blanch as a moth, his use of description and dialog bring out sexual undertones that portray Blanche to be a butterfly instead of a moth.

In Scene I of A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams writes--

Her appearance is incongruous in this setting. She is daintily dressed in a

white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace, and earrings of pearl, white gloves

and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in

the garden district…There is something about her uncertain manner, as well

as her clothes, that suggests a moth. (qtd. In Bloom 51)

Williams’s description leads others to perceive Blanche as an insecure, unassuming person, a typical Southern Belle-- a moth. Although the color of Blanche’s clothing suggests simplicity, the style of her clothing contrasts with the surrounding environment. Blanche is wearing this attire as she arrives at her sister’s home. Her sister lives in a run- down three-room apartment. The apartment contains th...


... middle of paper ...


...erpretations of A Streetcar Named Desire: a Collection of Critical Essays.  Ed. Jordan Y. Miller.  New

         Jersey: Prentice, 1971.

Monarch Notes. "Works of Tennessee Williams." Williams, Tennessee, 1 Jan. 1963

(http://www.elibrary.com/s/edu mark/search).

Preston, Rohan. "Actors Rev Up a Gritty, High-Octane ‘Streetcar’" Minneapolis StarTribune. 3 March 1999, 04E.

"Streetcar’s Fiftieth Anniversary" All Things Considered. NPR. WWNO, New Orleans. 1 Dec. 1997.

The American Heritage Dictionary, CD-ROM. Microsoft Bookshelf 98. Microsoft Corp. 1987-97.

Williams, Dakin and Shephard Mead. Tennessee Williams: An Intimate Biography. New York:  Arbor House, 1998.

Williams, Tennessee. "A Streetcar Named Desire" a New Directions Book, copyright 1947. Canada: Penguin, 1980.

Williams, Tennessee. Memoirs. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975.

 


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