Is Blanche Dubois a Tragic Hero
At the beginning of the play, Blanche is already a looked down upon by society. Her families fortune and assets have been gone, her husband took his own life earlier that year, and she is a social pariah due to her indiscrete sexual behavior. She also has a bad drinking problem, which she covers up poorly. Behind her veneer of social snobbery and sexual propriety, Blanche is an insecure, dislocated individual. She is an aging Southern belle who lives in a state of constant anxiety about her fading beauty and ageing. She has a frail manner that continues to wane as the play continues, and she sports a wardrobe of showy but cheap evening clothes. Stanley quickly sees through Blanche??™s act and seeks out information about her past.
Blanche fits the profile of an Aristotelian tragic hero
She gives the impression that she is of great stature, and presents a seemingly arrogant, superior manner. Particularly to Stanley at the start of the play.
Like all Aristotelian tragic heroes Blanche is flawed. She comes across as very controlling and manipulative. She presents a facade of innocence, but is in fact extremely promiscuous. She also deceives people about her time spent as a prostitute. She craves attention and often neglects those around her so that sh can receive more of the limelight.
An Aristotelian tragic hero??™s downfall is a result of their own mistakes or flaws. The night that Stella goes into labor, Stanley and Blanche are left alone in the apartment, and a drunken Stanley rapes her. This is a result of Blanche??™s flirting and so she is partially responsible. This event, along with the fact that Stella doesn??™t believe Blanche, is the trigger that sends her over the edge and leads to her nervous breakdown. In the closing scene of the play, as Stella confronts Stanley, a nurse and doctor cart Blanche off to a mental hospital . Blanche struggles at first, but then as sedative is administered, Blanche smiles as she enters a fantasy life, free of her problems. This is followed by the most famous and poignant line of the play: I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
Another characteristic is that the hero??™s misfortune is not completely deserved. The punishment exceeds the crime. Although Blanche??™s flirtatious behavior was less than reputable, especially considering Stanley was in a relationship with Stella, she did not deserve to be raped.
One area where Blanche breaks free from the conceit of a tragic hero, is that of an increase in self-awareness. Usually a tragic hero would gain something out of their loss, most often knowledge. However, Blanche loses her mind and contrasts this idea as her fantasy life takes over, and she is less aware than she was before.
Blanche is desperate to conceal the truth from anyone, including herself. Williams uses the contrast between light and dark to represent this. Blanche enters Elysian Fields in “white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat.” Stella purports an innocent appearance of a virgin with her white, seemingly clean, demeanor. Also, her name, Blanche, is French for white. She, however, is anything but innocent, as the plot soon reveals her past sexual transgressions in Laurel. Blanche practices complete denial, and her mystical attitude causes most of those around her to do the same. Blanche refuses to face her past and goes on as if she isnt a day over 20. She hides herself from any strong light, the same way she shrinks away from any harsh interrogation. Both would reveal her true age and that her looks have all but disappeared. Her attitude is evident in scene two when Stanley asks Blanche what happened to Belle Reve. Blanche says, “Alright Mr. Kowalski, let us proceed without any more double-talk. Im ready to answer all questions. Ive nothing to hide.” When Stanley does start talking, Blanche is immediately distracted by her atomizer and playfully spritzes Stanley with it, as if she were a young girl again. When he bellows at her to stop playing dumb, she becomes indignant and angrily hands over the papers, throwing them in Stanleys arms. She resents that Stanley has forced her to face her age and her responsibility.
Blanche denies her age due to her fear of aging and eventual death. This idea is seen multiple times throughout the play. The opening begins, in fact, with a reference to Blanches life and fate. “They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks to get off at – Elysian Fields,” Blanche tells Eunice on how she came to the apartment. Blanche is the streetcar named Desire, representing her sexual thoughts, fantasies and escapades, which of course lead to her expulsion from Laurel. Blanche, just like the streetcar, is inevitably heading to a transfer at cemetries, or her death.. After Cemeteries, Blanche is delivered to Elysian Fields. This is where heroes would be taken in the Greek underworld. This suggests that Williams was considering Aristotle when he wrote the play. The streetcar is proleptic of Blanche??™s eventual demise. She denies the inevitability of death and instead chooses to remain in a fantasy world where she is still young. In scene five, her actions with the paperboy show how desperate she is to remain in this fantasy as she attempts toseduce a 17-year-old boy and kisses him. This could be an effort to make herself appear young again, or to remember her late husband. Her husband??™s suicide remains a large burden on her, this is possibly the reason for her fear of death. Her interaction with the boy is representing her inner denial that her husband never died represented outward, and that she is able to remain as a lovestruck teenager forever.