Analysis of Blanche tragic life Abstract : As one of the most important play writers of America after the World War Ⅱ, Tennessee Williams won lots of theatrical awards for his masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire. As a result, Blanche, the heroine in the play, had been the focus point of the critics. This thesis tries to analyze profoundly the cause of the tragedy of Blanche from several aspects .As Williams T concluded, ‘The heroine Blanche was struggling between reality and fantasy, finally, her spirit was broken drastically under the beat of ruthless reality. She was the typical weak woman and victim in the patriarchal society. Her tragedy shows that the woman can’t escape the control of the typical patriarchal society in any case of resistances.’(Williams, 2).Some of William’s points will be elaborated in this paper which includes four parts. Chapter one serves as an “introduction”, which gives a general review of main characters in the novel. Chapter two, “Character of Blanche” ,Blanche’s being trapped by the conventionality; Blanche’s illusion about men; Blanche’s illusion about herself; her husband’s suicide; Stanley’s rude behavior and sense of dominance; Stella’s betrayal; Mitch’s desertion and the cold realistic world. In conclusion, it is the Blanche’s illusion about men ,herself and cruelty of Stanley that mainly causes her tragedy.
Keywords: tragedy conventionality illusion
1.1 Review of the protagonist In Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire," each character represents something different. The play centers around two characters, Blanche and Stanley, and the conflict between them. These characters represent the changing of times during the first half of the 20th century. During this time, many changes were occurring in the social standards.
1.1.1 Blanche When we first meet Blanche Dubois, Williams describes her as a moth, which is an apt image: always pale, always fluttery and flighty, often filled with panic. And just as a moth dies when it gets too close to the flame,Blanche dies when she is brought out into the light. Blanche has worn a mask for many years. There is a mask over her hot, frazzled nature. There is a mask over her age and behavior. Her gentile, pious attitude masks her alcoholism. There is a mask over her past and over her present. She wishes to present the image of a southern belle dressed head to toe in white. A laughing, never lonely, always flirting type of young girl. Not only does she wish everyone believes in her image, her mask, she wishes the mask were true. This is different than believing it's true. She knows the mask is not true. She knowingly lies, she knowingly deludes herself, she knowingly does not present the whole truth, only the truth that ought to be. The truth that Blanche wants is the moment of happiness she felt with her first husband. She wants that happiness in her life and to be her life. Every action Blanche makes is a desperate attempt fill the hole of loneliness that Allan's death created, that she had a hand in creating. She is aware this happiness is not possible, but that doesn't stop her from trying. It's important to remember that Blanche is an intelligent woman. She may be deluded but she is by no means a fool. She lies, she uses her mind and her body to create a specific world, she struggles and strives to mold that world to her liking. If she wants a paper lantern over the light, she's going to get a paper lantern over the light. She never stops trying regardless of the obstacles in her way and will do anything to get the world the way she wants it. She never stops trying until she's incapable.
1.1.2 Stanley In this play, Stanley represents the new America being formed during the 20th century. After fighting in World War II, he got a job selling automotive parts for the recent boom in car sales. He is the breadwinner of the family who often becomes over controlling and sometimes violent. As part of the working force, Stanley has few luxuries. He is proud of his job and life; however, he does not have anything spectacular to show for it. He is proud of his Polish family heritage and takes great offense when being called a Polack. As a realist, Stanley sees things as they are and does not try to distort or mask the truth. Stanley does everything to the extreme. He's extremely American. He loves Stella, he hates Blanche, he is a man, man is king. When he wins he is very happy, when he is losing he is a sore loser. There is no grey area in his emotions. Stanley moves forward in the play in a straight line, no deviation. He lashes out when anything or anyone gets in his way. Just as Blanche uses illusion to defend herself, Stanley uses force. Loudly. There is no discussion or arbitration.
1.1.2 Stella Stella is an enigma. She has the misfortune of playing second (or third, or fourth) fiddle to the storm that is Stanley and Blanche. She is caught between their worlds. If you think of this play as a battleground, then Stella might be considered the prize. Stella for star, Stella the about to be mother, is the possession both Stanley and Blanche grasp for. She is life. She is the rope between two worlds. To win is to have Stella on their side. Stella is often characterized as weak, submissive and timid. Certainly she has these attributes. She lets Blanche push her around verbally and lets Stanley push her around physically. Both characters have control over Stella. They both order her around and she, for the most part, takes orders. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
2.The direct cause of tragedy of Blanche
2.1 Blanche’s being trapped by the conventionality Born in Belle Reve, which means beautiful dream and symbolizes the Cavalier South in decline, Blanche and Stella have been taught according to the very puritanical code: to behave elegantly, to be docile and passive. Women are more easily to be destroyed and they are vulnerable in a society where people are more critical to woman’s behaviors. The society placed certain restrictions on woman’s lives. According to the Victorian social codes, women are completely submissive to men, and they do not have their independent identities. Both Stella and Blanche think that woman cannot lead a respectable life without depending on a man. Blanche, as an unmarried aging woman, is the victim of social convention. She believes only by marrying herself off, can she have a new start, forgetting her past. Dependence on man seems an indispensable part to a woman’s happiness. She does not realize that her dependence on men will lead to her downfall rather than salvation. Blanche is the very victim of the patriarchy culture. Consciously she behaves and thinks according to the very standards imposed on her by men. When she firstly appears, Blanche is “daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pear, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district.” (Williams 1947, p.15) Whenever she meets someone, Blanche will powder her face, even before her sister. When the sisters first meet, Blanche asks Stella, “But don’t you look at me, Stella, no, no, no, not till later, not till I’ve bathed and rested!” As what her name means, Blanche should have been pure, lovely and beautiful. Contrary to the fact, however, as time goes by, Blanche is aging and her beauty is fading away. She is not a butterfly any more but a moth. She has an unscrupulous past and is driven out of her hometown. For another, in the play, the family violence found in two couples, the Kowalskis and their neighbors, Steve and Eunice, also exposes woman’s lower social status during the transitional period from the old to the new south. When dispelled from Laurel, Blanche is homeless, jobless and almost penniless. She comes to New Orleans with a valise and her trunk contains everything she owns. If Blanche were a man, her wanton past quite likely be ignored after she left her hometown. Social conventions seem more tolerant to men’s sexual behaviors. As a woman, Blanche follows the social principles on one hand and violates them on the other hand. Her misinterpretations of the social codes lead her to the doom.
2.2 Blanche’s illusion about herself
The Protagonist in A Streetcar Named Desire
The tragedy of Blanche's relationship with Stella is when Stella refuses to believe Blanche's story of Stanley raping her. In this denial, Stella decides to choose her man over her blood relation; a man who is abusive and unfaithful, while her sister goes insane. In this choice, we see that Blanche, despite telling the truth, has rendered herself powerless in her interactions with her sister, but has in a way influenced her sister's decision to send Blanche to an institution. Though Stella's choice hurts Blanche, it is almost an action of regaining control and power over her own life, taking it away from Blanche.
Blanche's interactions with Stanley reveal the most important conflict in the drama. Deeply at odds with each other, Blanche represents the long-vanished glory of the South and its courtly mannerisms; Stanley is purely brutish and uncivilized: "He acts like an animal, has an animal's habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one" (Williams 53). It is then, when Stanley overhears Blanche criticize him thus, that the real animosity in their relationship comes forward. Stanley is now prepared to bring Blanche down, to quicken her d
Analysis of Blanche's Tragedy Abstract A Streetcar Named Desire is regarded as the most successful play of Tennessee Williams, the study of this play aims at finding the reasons of Blanche’s tragedy. In this play, Tennessee Williams gives us the best tool to summarize Blanche's tragic downfall, that is, her trip from New Orleans's railway station to Stella's house. Blanche is a victim of the social codes, and her own behavior also is an important reason of her tragedy. Key words: personality Tragedy, patriarchal conventions, narcissistic, illusions, split A Streetcar Named Desire is one of Tennessee William's representative works. Common themes throughout Williams' work are the ideas of wanting to escape, running away, and the impossibility of that escape, many scholars studied and analyzed A Streetcar Named Desire from different perspectives. Blanche's complexity and her inner disharmony, together with her conflicts with people such as Stanley who don't understand her, gives the play a particular tension that is lasting and thought provoking. Here the reasons of Blanche's tragedy are analyzed, and we will find that the society will not tolerate her behaviors. In Laurel, Blanche is seen as a crazy woman. Blanche brought her own fate on herself. The two main reasons can be analyzed, the first one is the society, and the second one is Blanche herself.
1 Social conflict 1.1 The patriarchal conventions
Women are more easily to be destroyed and they are vulnerable in a society where people are more critical to woman’s behaviors. The society placed certain restrictions on woman’s lives. According to the Victorian social codes, women are completely submissive to men, and they do not have their independent identities. Both Stella and Blanche think that woman cannot lead a respectable life without depending on a man. Blanche, as an unmarried aging woman, is the victim of social convention. She believes only by marrying herself off, can she have a new start, forgetting her past. Dependence on man seems an indispensable part to a woman’s happiness. She does not realize that her dependence on men will lead to her downfall rather than salvation. 1.2 Women’s social status In the play, the family violence found in two couples, the Kowalskis and their neighbors, Steve and Eunice, also exposes woman’s lower social status during the transitional period from the old to the new south. When dispelled from Laurel, Blanche is homeless, jobless and almost penniless. She comes to New Orleans with a valise and her trunk contains everything she owns. If Blanche were a man, her wanton past quite likely be ignored after she left her hometown. Social conventions seem more tolerant to men’s sexual behaviors. As a woman, Blanche follows the social principles on one hand and violates them on the other hand. Her misinterpretations of the social codes lead her to the doom. 1.3Stanley’s role By the time Blanche appeared in New Orleans, she still hoped a new start. In her hometown, she has been an infamous woman. By going away from her hometown, she slyly covers up her problems and pretends to be a woman who never knows indignity in life. But life arranges her to meet her destroyer — Stanley, whose family is from Poland. He has an intense hatred for Blanche. This is partly because he does not like Blanche as an intruder of his little home. The nature of their clash lies in that they each represent two opposite social class. Blanche represents a declining aristocratic heritage in the Old South, while Stanley is from the rising new immigrant class in the more diversified the New South, full of vitality. He is heartless and he hates Blanche’s prejudice to his Polish background. In fact, Stanley is the first one who sees Blancher through. At this point he is quite different from his friend, Mitch. He investigates Blanche’s past, and then informs the result to Stella and Mitch. Knowing her sordid past, Mitch refuses to marry Blanche. Mitch once is Blanche’s last hope. Marrying him is her only chance to leave Elysian Field. Now, by exposing Blanche’s mask, Stanley smashes her dreams and fantasy to pieces. The conflict between Blanche and her destroyer also indicts the confrontation between the Old South and a modern New South. Stanley is a descendant of Poland immigrants. He is proud of his being “one hundred percent American”, Blanche is from a timeworn aristocratic family. Though she practically has nothing except her trunk of tardy dresses, she still feels superior to Stanley. Stanley hates Blanche’s hypocrisy and class bigotry. Stanley’s triumph over Blanche in the struggle also presents the death of Old South and the rising of the New South. 2 Reasons of Blanche herself 2.1 Pathological narcissism According to Freud, the concept of "Narcissism" has to be subdivided into the phase of "Primary Narcissism" and that of "Pathological Narcissism". As an original libidinal cathexis of the self, "Primary Narcissism" exists in every living creature. Before a baby could be aware of the fact that he and his mother are independent individuals, he will throws this kind of cathexis at his mother, whom he views as past of himself. It can help the baby develop a healthy personality. After the baby could distinguish himself and his mother, his self cathexis is to be developed into object cathexis in a healthy way. However, if the baby fails in throwing this cathexis at an object, it will be withdrawn from an object to himself. In this case, "primary narcissism" will develop into "pathological narcissism". This is just the case of Blanche, who is a typical pathological narcissist. 2.1.1 Blanche’s World of Fantasy Blanche, as a romantic person from her childhood, is just the case mentioned above. As a Southern belle of aristocratic origin, she was born and grew up in her beautiful "Belle Reve", where the Southerners are very romantic. After suffering deaths and other destruction, she is on the verge of lunacy. She feels insecurity and wants to find protection and her lost dream all the time. Having failed in getting protection, she is always absorbed in her own world of fantasy and daydreaming. For Blanche, fantasy is a way to escape a world of reality, which she feels dissatisfied with. For example, Blanche puts a paper lantern onto a naked light bulb to escape the harsh reality. 2.1.2 Mirror Images In the Greek legend of Narcissus, the pool of water is an important medium manifesting the complex of narcissism. It is in the water that Narcissus could see his own reflection and then falls in love with it, which causes the tragedy. Blanche is a Southern belle, who is always paying too much attention to her own appearance, which is similar to Narcissus, the beautiful young man who is always infatuated with her own reflection in the water. In a sense, Blanche, who is always dressed herself in pure-like white clothes, is like a narcissus trembling in the water. When she uses the water to clean herself, she can also see in the water her own reflection, which is no longer young and beautiful as before. But she can imagines it as young and beautiful as before and still indulges in it. So, the water here can function as the mirror for the narcissistic Blanche. After she meets Mitch, she tries every effort to make a good impression on him. To her delight, Mitch answers her with his compliments about her. In a sense, this is one of the reasons for her decision to find shelter from him, because her narcissistic dream find fulfillment in Mitch. Therefore, every time Blanche meets a man, she will try her best to attract him, including her brother-in-law. It is through others' reactions to her that she could establish an idealized self in illusion. 2.1.3 Self-centeredness Blanche is self-centered. Being extremely absorbed in herself, she is oversensitive and rather vulnerable. She always accuses Stanley of his being rude to her, but she also criticizes him and his not so grandiose living statements. As a matter of fact, she thinks herself is superior to Stanley and at the same time she forgets again she is homeless and has nowhere else to go and has to come to Stanley's home to find a shelter. Blanche, who always behaves like a graceful lady, holds the view that she is a beautiful, lily-Iike Narcissus. Thus, each man will be attracted by her beauty. Her egoism can also be found in his rudeness to her young husband. Finding his being trapped in homosexuality she discards him instead of helping him out. And before that, she says she loves him so much that she even worships him. Acting so rudely to a man she loves so deeply is just the manifestation of her egoism. And, she also realizes this point after her young husband's death. Therefore, she always feels guilty about it and even "punishes" herself all her life. Feeling guilty about her being rude to Allan and being empty and insecurity in her heart, Blanche begins to depend on strangers' kindness and find protection from place to place, but she still only ponders herself. 2.2 Causes of Blanche’s illusions 2.2.1 Subjective Causes The subjective causes that lead to Blanche's illusions of her ideal lover are her passionate love for Allan and her desire for settlement. Allan, a boy too young to be a husband, is a handsome man and good at poetry-writing. These qualities, together with Allan's gentle manners, bring Blanche into the world of love. His homosexuality doesn't decrease her strong feelings for him. After his suicide, Blanche even takes Allan as an archetype of her ideal lover. Moreover, Blanche has the mission of finding a gentleman to be her husband for her absolute dependence on man. In the South, a belle's success in marriage is usually viewed as her realization of her self-worth. In this respect, marriage plays an important role in her entire life. And a single southern woman is often depicted in a dreadful picture as an "old maid". With her passionate love for Allan and strong desire to settle down, Blanche is on her way to seek an Allan-like lover. Her preference for the information congruent with her expectation is primarily reflected in her judgments about Mitch. At a first glance, Blanche senses the Allanian qualities in him. She regards Mitch as superior, and labels him as the only gentleman among those poker men. Although a graceful gentleman like Allan is generally expected to be interested in poetry-writing, painting, or dancing, for Blanche, Mitch's awkward courtesy and his particular sentiment weigh more strongly. When dating Blanche, this ungraceful Mitch lays barely his clumsiness and tediousness. In hot summer, he doesn't like to wear a wash-coat, but a stuffed alpaca coat. He explains that if the coat is light he may sweat through it. Blanche defines him as her ideal lover immediately. In addition, Mitch's appearance makes her realize that her future settlement is not far. She at once lays her hope on this seeming gentleman. 2.2.2 Blanche’s superiority Besides the subjective causes of Blanche's illusions, there are also some objective causes that influence her to be deceived by false ideas or beliefs, namely, a more complex living environment and the particular cultural environment of the South. A more complex living environment is one objective factor that causes Blanche's illusions of treating her destroyers as her saviors. Blanche was raised in such an independent world of Belle Reve. In this plantation family, she is under the protection of her parents, and all the colored maids treat her with respect and admiration. And hostile people outside Belle Reve do not have the chance to hurt her. Blanche lives in a simple environment. She is physically young and beautiful, but at the same time weak and fragile. Intellectually, she is supposed to pander to the wishes and fondness of her gentle callers. Blanche's own little world is permeated with refinement and gentility. Blanche naively comes to Stella with the hope that Stella will rescue her from her guilt-ridden and promiscuous past. She doesn't realize her arrival means an intrusion to Stella and Stanley. And she lives in her memory in which Stella waits on her like a servant, so she doesn't have any doubt about Stella's kindness. As for the Doctor whom Blanche regards as her new savior, his only task is taking Blanche to the mental asylum, and he will not inquire about the truth of Blanche's madness. Blanche, lacking the complexity of mind, is deceived by his smile and gentility and by her notion of "the kindness of strangers". 2.2.3 The cultural environment The traditional southern culture boasted of a body of social ideals, including aristocracy, honor, gentlemen and lady. Throughout its history, the culture had been in pursuit of decent manners, elegance, and refinement. It was a culture that gave birth to a large number of myths at almost each stage of the southern history. With all its social ideals, this culture tended to romanticize the world, hence it nurtured an incapability to face the truth and the reality, especially when it was an ugly truth or a harsh reality. After the Civil War, the foundation stone of the South had been torn away in the abolition of slavery. And the land was stripped and bled white. Unwillingly to confirm to the norms of the industrial world, and lacking the courage to accept the reality which contradicted with their desires completely, the Southerners retreated more and more into their glory of the aristocratic and purely agricultural past, and they became more unshakable in worshipping the southern myths and southern legends, since reality was unbearable, myths became supreme. Southern myths are most important elements that make the Old South unique in its culture. They are the stories told by early generations of the South. To some extent, these myths are more important than the actual because Southerners identify themselves according to the myths, not to reality. Such a cultural environment directly influences Blanche's perception about herself, and it is also a main factor that causes Blanche's illusions of her superiority. Blanche, like her arrogant ancestors, defines herself as a member of the privileged class, pretending the nobility of birth granted her legitimacy of superiority, whereas it is in fact, the economical basis of the Dubois family that ensures her such superiority. Judging herself and her fellowmen according to a false creation at any time, Blanche descends farther from reality. As a fragile and delicate woman who imagines she lives in a world in which southern aristocratic manners and pretensions are still relevant and constructs her world on the basis of imagination and lies, Blanche's illusions are unavoidable. Conclusion Blanche, depicted as a sad, lost, romantic southern lady dressed in yesterday's fashions, suffering from sterility and broken dreams, and dwelling precariously in a genteel past that exists only in her confused mind, is unquestionably Tennessee Williams’ most famous character. Blanche, with her established illusive beliefs and faiths inherited from her ancestors, begins her illusive life in New Orleans. Unwilling to make any changes, she will inevitably stay in her illusory world after the final scene of the play. Specifically, in illusions, Blanche is able to get her desires fulfilled; illusions help her to cope with the stressful situations by giving her confidence and reducing her mental pressure. Retreating into illusions is the special way for Blanche to survive. Blanche's tragedy is not merely a tragedy of an individual. After the Civil War, many Southern Belles cannot face the great changes happening to her and become mystical and weird. That is why there are so many women in southern literature. However, they were finally abandoned by the society. Their alienation and negation of the reality sent them to the cemetery. It is the improvement of the society. Sticking to the old values can never help human beings make progress in their life, and those who are stubborn enough to do that will be finally washed out from history and left behind the marching wheels of history. A Street Car Named Desire is an interesting play because it reveals a woman’s tragic fate from different prospects. The play shows a true life picture during the post war period in the South. Because of Williams’superb techniques in his creative writing, everyone may have his own understanding to some important issues in life. Blanche, as a very striking and distinctive character, gives us much space of consideration. The world of literature will not forget its memorable Blanche Dubois and her creator Williams. References  Wittgenstein, L. 1958. Philosophical Investigations [M]. Oxford: Blackwell.  Schank, C. & Abelson, P. 1977. Scripts, Plans, Goals and Understanding [M]. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum. 李莉，《女人的成长历程:田纳西·威廉斯作品的女性主义解读》。天津:天津人 民出版社，2004年。 Kazan, Elia, and John Orr. Tragic Drama and Modern Society. London: Macmillan,1985.  Bigsby, C.W.W. Modern Amen0ican Drama. London: Cambridge UI',1992.  Ansbacher, Heinz L, and Rowena R. Ansbacher, eds. The Psychology of Alfred Adler: A Systematic Presentation in Selections fromhis Writings. New York: Basic Books, 1956.  Cash, W.J. The Mind of the South. New York: Vintage Books, 1941. Griffin, Allice. 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