A Streetcar Named Desire: Blanche DuBois ’ Downfall
A Streetcar Named Desire is a play that was written by famous American playwright Tennessee Williams in 1947. The play received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama the next year after it was written. The play opened on December 3, 1947 on Broadway and was closed on December 17, 1949 in the Ethel Barrymore Theater. The Broadway production stares Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden and Jessica Tandy and was directed by Elia Kazan.
The story was set in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the years that followed World War II. It is a story of Blanche DuBois who is a fragile and disturbed lady who is on a desperate search for a place to call her own. After being exiles from her hometown in Mississippi for seducing a teenage boy at school where she was an English teacher, she appears on the doorstep of her sister’s home in New Orleans to live with her and her husband Stanley. At the beginning of the play, Williams introduces three terms in which do not reveal their symbolic meaning directly but along the play, the audience will come to realize in their own sense the importance of these terms. In the first scene Blanche describes to her friend Eunice her journey of how she came to her sister’s place. as quoted in the play, Blanche said, “They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at – Elysian Fields” (Williams, 2000, pg. 117). The “streetcar” refers to her journey to New Orleans and it represents her own life. Still struggling with the loss of her husband, “desire” would be her first step in a new life. She is in desperate need of love, but she ended up leading a life where she would have sex with random men who never cared about her. This promiscuous lifestyle of hers will lead her to trouble and thus “cemeteries” will represent death.
In the beginning of the play, Blanche is already portrayed as a fallen woman. She lost the most important aspects of her life like her family fortunes and estate, her young husband who committed suicide and lost her dignity and integrity because of her sexual behavior. Blanche is an extremely complicated character. She portrays a tragic protagonist with her insecurities and disturbed personality. She also has a severe drinking problem which she covers up very poorly. She is portrayed as a cheap woman who uses her body to obtain certain benefits. In the whole play,
Blanche becomes her own worst enemy. She is the kind of person who refuses to see reality and would rather live in her delusions. The first evidence for this is when she found out her husband sleeping with another man. She pretended to shrug the issue off at first by going out with both men that same night. She later tells her husband that she is disgusted by him which was the reason for his suicide. Her drinking problem and her promiscuity as she would claim were the result of her sufferings. She goes to her younger sister to escape the life she refuses to live. In this play, she is her own victim. She made horrible choices after the traumatic event with her husband.
Blanche did not have the sense of respect for herself and blamed others for her misfortunes making her a tragic protagonist. She refused to see the clear paths and opportunities of starting over and chose to live in lies and deception. Upon arriving at New Orleans, she creates an image for herself so that she can hide her embarrassing past from her new friends because she fears she may not accept her if they would know the truth. She builds a net of lies in order to maintain her social status among the society she now lives in. Eventually, she believes in this imaginary world and forgets reality. All she cares about was to keep her image so she can live her life of fantasy.