A Streetcar Named Desire: Character Profile – Blanche




Blanche, one of the two main protagonists of the play, is an extremely complicated character whom we see struggle with internal conflicts throughout the play. Upon first meeting her, we learn that she is more cultured and sophisticated then the people who live in ‘Elysian Fields’ and her surname of French origin, ‘DuBois’ immediately reveals her as being from the upper class of society. She appears to be ‘daintily dressed in a white suit’ with ‘white gloves’, all of which suggests purity and innocence but it doesn’t take long to realise that Blanche is nearly always putting on a pretence. Her pathetic attempt at covering up her drinking problem and hiding her recent promiscuous activity all foreshadow the eventual destruction of her character as she is sent away to a mental asylum by the end of the play.


However audiences are meant to feel sympathy towards Blanche’s character. After having suffered the loss of her young homosexual husband to suicide and the loss of the final generation of the DuBois family and their estate ‘Belle Reve’, it is no surprise that Blanche had been affected by these tragic events. She has tried to avoid the guilt she feels for her husband’s death by having ‘intimacies with strangers’ to ‘fill her empty heart’ and attempts to avoid realism and prefers ‘magic’ by telling ‘what ought to be the truth’ rather then the truth itself. Her insecurities about her fading beauty are continuously emphasised by her need to be hidden from bright lights and her need for sexual admiration by men to maintain her self-esteem is emphasised by her flirtatious actions towards not only Mitch, but Stanley as well. We also see Blanche continuously bathe herself which is her means of attempting to wash away her licentious past.


Blanche has come to New Orleans to find refuge with her sister Stella as she is her only living relation left. She also has a final last hope to find some one to help alleviate the emptiness she feels and Mitch seems to be the man until he finds out about her past. Mitch’s refusal to be with Blanche along with the ultimate act of cruelty, Stanley’s rape of Blanche both increase Blanche’s descend into insanity.



Quotations & Analysis:





Blanche: 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!

Desire and death are two aspects that became important in the latter part of Blanche’s life. The literal death of her husband along with the metaphorical death of her social life were both caused by her strong carnal desires which have caused her to be in the position she is in the play. This eventually leads to her downfall in Elysian Fields where she gets off the street car.



Blanche: They mustn’t have – understood - what number I wanted…

This quotation reinforces Blanche’s fantasy view of the world. She refuses to believe that this is where her sister now lives after their upper class upbringing in the ‘great big place with white columns’.



Eunice: You want to leave your suitcase here an’ go find her?’

Blanche: No.

She does not trust the people in this seedy area of New Orleans where she has come to and therefore prefers to watch over her belongings herself.


122, 136

Blanche: You haven’t said a word about my appearance


Blanche: I was fishing for a compliment, Stanley.

Blanche continuously needs to be complimented on her physical appearance as she is aware that her ‘looks are slipping’ as she ages. However her beauty is the only means she sees herself as having in order to attract men to fulfill her sexual desires.



Blanche:..And funerals are pretty compared to deaths. Funerals are quiet, but deaths – not always.

We as the audience, have no choice but to symphathise with Blanche. She has been through a lot in her past which has driven her to become the person she is today and she is the one who ended up alone as opposed to Stella.



Stanley:.. [He holds the bottle to the light to observe its depletion] Have a shot?

Blanche: No, I – rarely touch it.

Blanche prefers to keep up a façade hiding her true habits even when it’s obvious that the people around her know about her pretence. She does this as she prefers to view life as a pleasant dream as opposed to having the ugly realities of life exposed.



[She sprays herself with her atomizer; then playfully sprays him (Stanley) with it. He seizes the atomizer and slams it down on the dresser. She throws back her head and laughs.]

Blanche is not afraid of Stanley which is a strength that her character portrays. Throwing her head back and laughing shows her signs of flirting which is her means of manipulating men. This helps contrast to the way she acts around Mitch where she is looking for something more then just sexual satisfaction.



Blanche: Poems a dead boy wrote. I hurt him the way that you would like to hurt me, but you can’t!

This quotation reveals that Blanche does feel guilty for the death of her husband. She feels that it was her final words to him that drove him to suicide. However this quotation also shows that Blanche is once again not afraid to stand up to Stanley at this point in the play this shows the strength in her character that exists currently but will later decline as she descends into madness.



There are thousands of papers, stretching back over hundreds of years, affecting Belle Reve as, piece by piece, our improvident grandfathers and father and uncles and brothers exchanged the land for their epic fornications- to put it plainly!

In this speech, Blanche attributes the loss of Belle Reve to the male members of her family. She also confronts Stanley by ‘[picking up a large envelope containing more papers]’ of his accusations that she is ‘attempting some kind of treachery on [her] sister’. Blanche also comes across as the victim, having to endure this these unfortunate circumstances whilst her sister escaped to start off a new life in New Orleans. However Blanche probably couldn’t have left Belle Reve even if she wanted to as it appears to be engraved in her to live the upper class sophisticated life.



Blanche: … Here all of them are, all papers! I hereby endow you with them! Take them, peruse them – commit them to memory, even! I think its wonderfully fitting that Belle Reve should finally be this bunch of old papers in your big capable hands.

This quotation illustrates Blanche’s victory over Stanley in their first argument. Stanley who becomes [...somewhat sheepish] after being presented with all the papers quickly diverts the conversation by bringing up the topic of their child which he was aware Blanche had not been told about and once again reverts back to talking about the ‘Napoleonic code’ which states that its his duty to ‘take an interest in his wife’s affairs’.



Blanche: He’s just not the sort that goes for jasmine perfume! But maybe he’s what we need to mix with our blood now that we’ve lost Belle Reve and have to go on without Belle Reve to protect us….

Blanche seems to acknowledge the fact that her and Stella do not belong to the Southern elite anymore and that maybe some of Stanley’s raw vitality would be good to mix with the sophisticated upper class.


This relates back to William’s final message which acknowledges the decline of the upper class but conveys the idea that some of Stanley’s bourgeois class ideals, mixed with others from Blanche’s upper class is what we should strive for. Unfortunately, with the way society is going, we may not be able to achieve this.



[She takes off the blouse and stands in her pink silk brassiere and white skirt in the light through the portieres.]

[Blanche moves back into the streak of light. She raises her arms and stretches, as she moves indolently back to the chair.]

With the loss of Belle Reve, her family fortune and her fading beauty, Blanche feels as if she now has to use her body in order to attract men. She therefore draws attention to it by undressing in the light where the men playing poker can clearly see the outline of her body.






Blanche: I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action.

Blanche’s avoidance of light is due to her fear of people seeing her clearly which will lead to her real age being revealed. Instead she continuously avoids light by covering it up with ‘lanterns’ or staying in rooms with dim light.


Additionally light will more clearly expose the ‘rough’ society in that Blanche is currently living in and which she sees as being ‘beneath’ her, again giving her a reason to avoid light.



Blanche: I’m not used to such –


Blanche: Violence! Is so –


Blanche: Why! I’ve been half crazy, Stella! When I found out you’d been insane enough to come back in here after what happened – I started to rush in after you!

Blanche who is not used to Stanley’s violent displays of affection is stunned by him ‘charg[ing] after Stella’. However no one else around her seems to feel as shocked as she does.








[Stella pours the coke into the glass. It foams over and spills. Blanche gives a piercing cry.


[A locomotive is heard approaching outside. She claps her hands to her ears and crouches over. The headlight of locomotive glares into the room as it thunders past. As the noise recedes she straightens and slowly continues speaking.]


Blanche’s overreactions towards little, everyday occurrences are an indication of the fragility of her current mental state. Her hyperbolic actions suggest that once a major event occurs Blanche’s loose hold on sanity will be lost.


Blanche: I guess it is just that I have – old fashioned ideals! [She rolls her eyes, knowing he cannot see her face.]

Blanche’s rolling of her eyes shows that she is putting on a pretence. She is not physically attracted to Mitch, and after this act one cannot say if she is emotionally attracted towards Mitch either or if she is just attracted to the idea of protection that Mitch offers.



[In the bathroom the water goes on loud; little breathless cries and peals of laughter are heard as if a child were frolicking in the rub.]

This childish mannerism displayed by Blanche indicates her innocence. Not sexual innocence but her naivety in the sense that she cannot see the real world for what it is. She must continuously see the world in a different light from everyone else. Her need to act young also displays her paranoia of ageing.



Blanche: Oh, I feel so good after my long, hot bath, I feel so good and cool and – rested.

Blanche’s numerous baths and time spent in the bathroom throughout the play are all her attempts at purifying herself of her past misdoings and her way of escaping everyone and everything and having time to herself in private.



Blanche: I’ll tell you what I want. Magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell them the truth. I tell them what ought to be the truth. And if that is singful, then let me be damned for it!


Blanche…-put on soft colours, the colours of butterfly wings, and glow – make a little – temporary magic…’

Blanche clearly says ‘I don’t want realism.’  She would rather her view of the world be like a constant dream which is also her reason for continuously keeping up a façade. She only tells what ‘ought’ to be the truth in order to avoid shattering her own dreams by facing reality. She feels as if she has never lied (‘Never inside, I didn’t lie in my heart…) as what she says is the way she perceives things.






Blanche: Then marry me, Mitch!

Blanche’s loneliness and need for companionship is displayed in her plea for Mitch to marry her. It is not important whether she truly loves Mitch or not but more like a means of a way out the trap she finds herself in. There is evident pathos here as she and the audience are well aware that Mitch came to her house with the intention of raping her. Her willingness to marry a man who would do this to her clearly illustrates Blanche’s desperation.


Blanche: Whoever you are - I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Blanche’s dependence on strangers to fulfill the emptiness she feels has only led her to the position she is in by the end of the play. Blanche’s inability to accept that strangers have only been kind to her in return for sex reflects her magical perception of the world. These being her final words in the play, referring to the ‘kindness’ of the doctor who is not the man (Shep) she was hoping for, shows her complete detachment from reality and the pathos of her empty belief in magic and kindness.




Role in the play:

Blanches role in the play is to represent the declining upper class and the rise of the Bourgeois middle class in the America of Williams’ time. As a character she is used to contrast directly with Stanley as her sophisticated, cultured and refined background is directly at odds with Stanley’s vibrant, lively and raw working class background. The key moment for Blanche is at the end of the play where she is lead of ‘as if she were blind’ in order to be taken away to a mental asylum. This signifies the end of the Southern elite that Blanche stood for as she is unable to support herself anymore and relies on the Doctor for ‘support’ as she is ‘lead’ out. This depicts the final destruction of Blanche’s character as her delicacy, sensitivity, refinement, were all just too weak to survive in the real world. There was no place for her illusions to exist in the Elysian Fields and the world of Stanley Kowalski and once her illusions were destroyed, she was destroyed too.


Blanches sophistication and fantasy world are also used to raise an important question by Williams: If Stanley’s world, although true, consists of violence to the extent of rape, then aren’t some of Blanche’s aristocratic morals worth keeping?