Blanche DuBois:A Tragic Character Lost in an Ocean as Blue as Her First Lover’s Eyes
The character of Blanche from Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire is on the run. In the beginning the reader does not know whether she flees from an unsatisfied life, from an inconvenient past or even from a crime; she could be either culprit or victim or possibly both at the same time. She prefers shadow to light, is full of feelings of guilt, betrays her own sister and lies to everybody who surrounds her. Could such a character possibly be considered a victim?
Blanche herself claims: “[S]ome things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable. It is the one unforgivable thing in my opinion and it is the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty” (Blanche, SND 212). That she did some things wrong in her life is not in question, but whether they were done deliberately or from the force of circumstances is important to judge whether Blanche can be considered a victim; to argue this question is the concern of this essay. Therefore, it discusses the influence of the society and its change on Blanche and the importance of Blanche’s past. These determining factors effect her anxieties, her feelings of guilt and at last her addictions, which are forcing her to her misdoings. Blanche is a victim as the essay will prove in the following.
Blanche suffers from expectations she is not able to fulfil because of social change. The family estate Belle Reve was entrusted in her care, “all the burden descended on [her] shoulder” (Blanche, SND 126). Belle Reve, which is French for “beautiful dream”, is the legacy of the French extracted DuBois family (cf. Blanche, SND 150). The family sold ground in the former generations to be solvent (cf. Blanche, SND 140) and like the word dream already suggests at any time remained just the illusion of Belle Reve and its rich owners.
Blanche was educated as a lady but due to change in society there are hardly any more gentlemen, and with the gentlemen also left the values and moral conceivabilities, she is used to. She is not adapted to modern society and seems unfitting; her unsuccessful efforts to find an appropriate gentleman lead her to equivocal contact to men. Some men, like the soldiers from the army camp near Laurel (cf. Stanley, SND 188), took advantage of her desperate situation. But even much more atrocious and undoubtedly not voluntary is the “contact” to her brother in law, Stanley, who obviously rapes her in scene 10 (SND 215).
To be a victim means to suffer under circumstances, which are not caused by oneself. Neither the circumstances of the loss of Belle Reve nor the social changes are possibly influenced by Blanche. The scene of the rape and her incapability to conform to her surroundings indicate her lack of control over situations. “There’s so much – so much confusion in the world” (Blanche, SND 155), she utters and she is clearly a victim of this confusion, a victim of the society and its change.
The complex character of Blanche is strongly determined by her past. The loss of Belle Reve is not only a material disprofit. For Blanche the loss means to lose protection (cf. Blanche, SND 141) and to lose loved persons. The loss of Belle Reve is connected to “[a]ll of those deaths” (Blanche, SND 126), to the deaths of her entire family, except Stella. In the argument with Stella in scene one it becomes visible to the reader that she is emotionally affected by these deaths (cf. Blanche, SND 127). But even more affected than by the deaths of her family, she is ruined by the suicide of her husband. When she was sixteen she completely fell in love with a boy who was “something different” (cf. Blanche, SND 182-183) and later she found out what was so different about him – he was attracted to his own sex. One day she confronted him with the fact that she knew the truth (cf. ibid.); this confrontation was followed by his suicide. Blanche reproaches herself for the suicide although she is aware that her former self “wasn’t able to give the help he needed” (Blanche, SND 183); her husband “was in the quicksands and [… she] was slipping in with him” instead of being able to help (ibid.).
Blanche is indeed a figure of shadow but not because of an unkind character, peculiar of the vitality, the “joie de vivre” (Blanche, SND 177) she lost in this moment. This shadow of her former self is the Blanche the reader gets in contact with; she dislikes light – which can be a symbol of wisdom, knowledge and consciousness – and everything it uncovers: memories, reality and truth. That does not mean that she likes to lie, but the reality is too hard to cope with, so to create illusions is Blanche’s only possible way of dealing with it. Although one could say that she had the chance to choose another man, from a specific point on Blanche had no alternative choices to change anything for good, she was determined by her destiny like she is determined by the past even in the moment the play begins. She is haunted by her past, for example by the Varsouviana, the Polka melody she often imagines, and every contact to the inconvenient truth of it can harm her entire life balance. All her frailness results from her tragic history. It is certain that her past will trap her some day, and in the time of the play she can be considered a victim of her past.
 Williams, Tennessee. “A Streetcar Named Desire.“A Streetcar Named Desire and Other Plays. London: Pinguin, 2000. 113-226. All page references refer to this edition, which in the following will be abbreviated SND.
 In this essay the term “Reader” represents every form of audience; of course SND is a play and is therefore meant to be performed on stage, so the “reader” could also be a spectator.
 “The efforts” denote Blanche’s behaviour after the suicide of her husband; to what extent Blanche herself is responsible for the “equivocal contact to men” and her “feelings of guilt” will be discussed later on.
 The appearance of the Varsouviana, first mentioned in scene six, increases until the end of the play in relation to Blanche’s process of becoming demented.