The two faces of the character Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire"

Term Paper, 2010

11 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Outer appearance

3. In company of men

4. Important Symbols
4.1 Bathing
4.2 Light
4.3 Alcohol

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

This paper is going to be a written report of my presentation of A Streetcar Named Desire given in one of the classes of the course ‘Selected American Plays’.

The play has many different characters from which I chose the character Blanche DuBois since she seemed to be the most interesting one when I read the play.

In this paper I want to pay special attention to what I titled “the two faces of Blanche DuBois”: she pretends to be innocent and good while she actually has a very striking past implying death, unhappy sexual relationships and alcoholic abuse, which she wants to hide from other people and which causes her to be on a desperate quest for somebody who sees her as something special and who unconditionally loves and protects her.

In my analysis of Blanche DuBois I am going to observe her outer appearance, her behavior concerning men and I am going to discuss the meaning of different themes in the play such as bathing, light or alcohol.

2. Outer appearance

Blanche’s outer appearance is remarkable for how she pretends to be. Right in the beginning of the play she is introduced as being “incongruous to this setting” (Williams 2338) since the play is set in a corner of lower class New Orleans and Blanche looks like “she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district” (Williams 2338). She is dressed completely in white with “earrings of pearl”, “gloves” and a “hat” (Williams 2338) and reminds the reader of a “moth” (Williams 2338). Her white clothes symbolize innocence since white is a color which stands for “innocence and purity” as David Johnson explains it in his online article about Color Psychology (Johnson). Blanche’s choice of style shows that she is used to be part of a life of the higher classes of society, a life which pretends to be a party.

Patricia Hern writes in her commentary on the play that “the images associated with Blanche generally imply fragile beauty” (Hern xi). This implication was also present when the play had its premiere at theater with actress Jessica Tandy as Blanche. Tandy got the role because of her “fragile appearance” (Kolin 19), looking “the way Williams imagined Blanche should – trim, pale, graceful, sophisticated” (Kolin 18). During the play, Blanche always takes care to look good and she does not want to be looked at when she feels sweaty or dirty. At her reunion with Stella, Blanche tells her sister not to “look at [her], […] not till [she has] bathed and rested” (Williams 2340). In the scene of the poker night, Blanche tells Stella to “wait till [she powders]” before introducing Blanche to Stanley’s friends, because she feels “so hot and frazzled”. She does not want to “look done in” (Williams 2353). When Stella tells her, that she looks “fresh as a daisy”, Blanche’s answer “one that’s been picked a few days” (Williams 2353) shows that she knows that she becomes older and that she thinks her beauty is fading like a picked flower fades. It underlines how Blanche “longs to be protected against the dangers of fading physical beauty and old age” (Hern xxxviii). When A Streetcar Named Desire” was made into a movie, actress Vivien Leigh “portrayed Blanche” fittingly “as a sophisticated lady played out – fighting wrinkles and loneliness” (Kolin 155).

Stella is aware of the fact that all this admiration and telling how beautiful she looks “is important with Blanche”. She describes it as her “little weakness” when she advises Stanley to “admire [Blanche’s] dress” and to “tell her she’s looking wonderful” (Williams 2347).

Also Blanche other clothes represent what seems to be important for her. When Stanley pulls open her wardrobe trunk, he finds “feathers and furs”, “a solid-gold dress”, “white fox-pieces”, “pearls”, “bracelets of solid gold” and “a rhinestone tiara” (Williams 2348). These are all material things which make a woman look beautiful and rich. What it does not show is how the woman – in this case Blanche – looks from the inside and what she tries to hide. The rhinestone tiara which Blanche “wore for a costume ball” (Williams 2348) gives a hint that all these nice things are just superficial and that Blanche’s whole life is a fake, just like her faked identity at the costume ball.

Her inside, which she tries to hide from all people, is the contrast of her beautiful outer appearance. Several experiences in her life ruined it, the first being the discovery of the homosexual affair of her husband with another man and his following suicide, (cf. Williams 2375) which made her start drinking alcohol in order to cover and forget bad things (“afterward we pretended that nothing had been discovered.[…] very drunk and laughing” Williams 2375). Nicholas Pagan résumés that Blanche “conceals this fact, hides it beneath her white apparel and beneath her name” (Pagan 66).


Excerpt out of 11 pages


The two faces of the character Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire"
University of Wuppertal
Selected American Plays
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
454 KB
Tennessee Willliams, American Plays, Endstation Sehnsucht, Blanche DuBois, Stella, Stanley, alcohol
Quote paper
Carolin Kotthaus (Author), 2010, The two faces of the character Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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