Essay about The Madness of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire

Essay about The Madness of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire

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Tennessee Williams wrote about Blanche DuBois: 'She was a demonic character; the
size of her feelings was too great for her to contain without the
escape of madness.'

Williams uses Blanche DuBois as a vehicle to explore several themes
that interested him, one of these being madness. His own sister, Rose,
was lobotomised in his absence and later institutionalised leading
many critics to believe that the character of Blanche may have arisen
from events in his own life. Blanche's tragic past involving both the
death of her "young" husband and her consequent promiscuity with
"young men" created an overwhelming amount of emotion for Blanche,
which, as Williams suggests, "was too great for her to contain". As to
whether her escape was "madness" can be debatable - although Blanche
is clearly unstable at many points, some believe that Blanche is not
actually insane, suggested by Stella's comment in Scene 11 - "I
couldn't believe her story and go on living with Stanley."

From her first appearance on stage, Blanche is presented as being
"incongruous" to New Orleans and to her surroundings and Williams
immediately distinguishes her from the rest of the characters in the
play by her immaculate white clothing, echoing the meaning of her
name, and later with symbolic associations such as her ritual bathing
and the music of the polka. From the very opening scene, something
else which is characteristic to Blanche is her lies and half-truths.
Her solitary behaviour in the opening scene is quite disturbing,
especially after drinking some of Stanley's liquor she "washes out the
tumbler at the sink" - it immediately prompts that question of what
she is hiding. Already, she is not appearing too stable and as we
later lear...


... middle of paper ...


...to some extent, I believe,
with Stella. Although Stella decides to believe that Stanley is
telling the truth and that Blanche is in actual fact "insane" is
Stella's own way of avoiding the actual truth of the events of scene
10. This is also a form of escapism which suggests that ultimately,
Stella will follow the same tragic past as that of her sister's; into
mental 'death' following a newfound will to believe in lies. Williams
uses Blanche to convey his themes as well as unleashing a certain
amount of sexual frustration he was feeling. In the end, despite
whether Blanche is really "mad" or not is still debatable but I don't
believe she is; after all, it was quite clear from the end of scene 3
that her sexual "desire" for Stanley overrode her affection for her
sister. It is then no wonder that Blanche has "always depended on the
kindness of strangers."

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