In Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, we are introduced and get to know to a few interesting characters. He develops them with distinct, specific characteristics and motives. The protagonist, Blanche DuBois, is portrayed as someone who seems to be just misunderstood. Throughout the play as she unfolds she becomes uncontrollable. From her name to her costumes, Blanche is carefully written.
From the moment we meet Blanche, it is clear she is a bit ostentatious. We first see her turning the corner of her sister, Stella’s, block in New Orleans. She is carrying a valise and holding a slip of paper. “She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat….” (Williams 5) It seems Williams has carefully chosen Blanche’s first costume to suit her first name, which means ‘white’ in French. Her outfit is also an extreme contrast to the streets of New Orleans. When Eunice, Stella’s neighbor, helps her get into the apartment, Blanche shoos her away. In Scene Two, Stanley, Stella’s husband, “unpacks” Blanche’s wardrobe trunk revealing leathers, furs, costumed jewelry, a solid gold dress, and a rhinestone tiara. Our protagonist is not modest; Williams makes that clear.
Along with her lavish wardrobe, Blanche’s imagination is just as profuse. She has created this life in her head where she is five years younger, and “prim and proper.” (Williams 95) At first, it seems good-natured. She is just spending time with her sister and trying to get along with her brother-in-law. However, it gets doubtful when she tells her sister she vacationed in Miami for Christmas to search for a man with a million dollars. She goes on to say she bumped into Shep Huntleigh, an old beau who owns oil wells. Blanche insists that he could help her and Stella set up a shop. Although she means well, some motives appear vague.
Furthermore, our protagonist is ambiguous about how she lost her family’s property, Belle Reve. This is another one of Williams’s play on words; Belle Reve’s literal translation is ‘beautiful dream’. When Stella first asks Blanche about what happened, the latter has this extremely well thought out story about all the deaths and funerals of their family members she had to take care of. She also goes as far as saying the Grim Reaper was living on their porch. She finishes her dramatics by turning the blame onto Stella and asking her where she was. This, of course, sends Stella crying; Blanche completely dodges the bullet. Later in Scene Two, Stanley is more persistent in finding out what really happened to Belle Reve. He asks her straight out if she has any papers that may explain. She finds large stack in her pile of papers titled “Ambler & Ambler” and explains they are a firm that made loans. Stanley then asks, “Then it was lost on a mortgage?” Blanche replies while touching her forehead, “That must’ve been what happened.” Although she hands the papers over to Stanley so a lawyer can peruse them there isn’t a clear explanation of what happened besides “epic fornications” of her ancestors. (Williams 43-44)
While Blanche can be characterized as several different words, hysterical encapsulates her best. Williams shrewdly wrote Blanche’s opening line with the stage direction “with faintly hysterical humor”. Thomas Alder lists the symptoms of hysteria as, flamboyant or histrionic display, hyperemotionality, seductiveness, exhibitionism and sexual maneuvering, linguistic exaggeration, a clinging dependency, and demandingness in personal relationships, and a highly developed fantasy life…. (42)
As already discussed, Blanche’s wardrobe and way of speaking falls into the “flamboyant” and “exhibitionism” category. Her hyperemotionality can be found in her lines, of course, but also in brackets throughout the play. She is very dramatic in her mannerisms; she often covers her face, touches her forehead, and “springs up”. Her seductiveness is clear in way she