When Blanche arrives at the end of the line of
the streetcar named Desire she is a desperate woman. She is desperate
because she is a fugitive from a society that is deteriorating also.
Her background is the life at Belle Reve, one from which she cannot
escape without serious consequences. Her tradition made her a woman
of importance. She felt secure within the function of her own society.
Today that tradition no longer exists. It no longer works in our
present society. Blanche, however, must believe in it, for without
the tradition of Belle Reve, she cannot live; her whole life hay
been for nothing. She holds on to these shreds of Southern respectability,
and by so doing she thinks she is performing an act of heroism,
rather than absurd romanticism. Even the romantic episode with her
young husband, who was tender, gentle, and sensitive, and whose
tragic flaw was his sexual perversion, gives stature to her heroic
character. She becomes one who is more to be pitied than censured
because of her juvenile misunderstanding of her husband's need.
By believing in her traditional background, Blanche finds an excuse
for a great deal of her behaviour. The present society rejects her
as an anachronism, and therefore, makes her feel alone and insecure.
When the strength of her belief in tradition weakens, she looks
for security in drink and the human warmth of contact with strangers.
This is a sacrifice, however, for she must meet them on their terms
and forget her own.
Since she cannot fully accept her actions she
begins to forget them. She creates a world of fantasy wherein she
can rationalise her behaviour as being the result of an unprotected,
sensitive and delicate nature. In doing this she avoids facing the
reality of her real physical and sensual desires. Her tradition
will not allow her to accept such feelings as other than "brutal
desire" and to give vent to them is sinful. Nevertheless, she does
give vent to her feelings out of loneliness and an agonising realisation
that her attraction for men is beginning to fade. She is on the
brink of middle age and is desperately in a hurry to find a man.
Like most women, Blanche is dependent upon a man for protection,
for security, and for love. Because of her background, she also
has a great need for someone to defend and maintain her honour.
She is looking for someone who does not exist in the New Orleans
environment to which she has come - a gentleman. She wants an old
fashioned wedding dressed in white with music, poetry, art and people
with tender feelings, and not to be held back with the "brute desire"
that make such things impossible. So she is constantly in conflict,
and out of this comes frustration and a need for protection. That
is what a woman of tradition needs, protection from an alien world
that is passing her by and to which she is unable to adjust.
That is why she comes to Stella and Stanley. She
comes as a beaten individual who is drowning in a mire of degeneracy,
but, because she is proud, she must make one last attempt. She,
once again, draws upon an impotent tradition to make herself superior.
Stanley, mistakenly, interprets her demeanour as a challenge to
his basic existence as a man. Because of his strong connection with
reality, he is able to destroy her. Blanche, therefore, destroys
herself because of her foolish insistence of living with the illusions
of the past. In the meantime, however, she has one stroke of luck.
She finds someone who needs her as badly as she needs him, Mitch.
For a short time she lives in happy anticipation, but her past catches
up with her. With no one left to turn to for protection she takes
refuge in fantasy. She becomes insane.