A Streetcar Named Desire - is Blanche Dubois a victim?

cwilko2011 By cwilko2011, 20th Jul 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/10jgout./
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Poetry, Drama & Criticism

A look at Tennessee William's treatment of Blanche Dubois in his play, A Streetcar Named Desire.

To Begin

The character Blanche Dubois could be interpreted into many categories. Blanche comes to Stella and Stanley after her stint of being a prostitute. Blanche arrives at Stella and Stanley’s seeking refuge from the harsh world. The character Blanche Dubois could be interpreted into a victim in many ways, throughout this essay I will show how she is a victim and the counterarguments to show whether or not she is a victim. As I have found for each argument there is also a specific counterargument.

Arguably the most important question to ask whether Blanche is a victim is her surprise arrival in New Orleans. We see this in Stella’s startled screams “Blanche!” Also Blanche’s rapturous speech “Stella, oh Stella! Stella for Star! These two quotes show us that they have not seen each other for a long period of time and are obviously excited to see each other. Unlike Stanley, “Oh. Didn’t know you were coming to town.” On one side Blanche is a victim because she had no other choice but to seek refuge at Stella and Stanley’s home. Blanche lost her and Stella’s childhood home Belle Reve due to the swindling of the estate and finally the payments on the funerals of her parents. Equally Blanche had a paying job, which gave her a small and steady income. We find that Blanche lost this job from flirting with a seventeen year old students.

Blanche could also be portrayed as a victim due to her drinking habits. Blanche has become dependant on alcohol to calm her erratic nerves. In this sense Blanche is a victim because if she had had the support that she needed from Stella she would not have had to resort to alcoholism. Contrastingly Blanche is not a victim because she has stolen liquor from Stella when she is in the flat on her own, proving that she is desperate for alcohol. Also the untimely loss of Belle Reve has left Blanche in a very unstable mental state. When she talks about alcohol she talks as if she has not had a drink for years. “No coke, honey, not with my nerves tonight!” This quote supports my earlier argument that Blanche relies on alcohol to calm her nerves. In conclusion Blanche is a victim due to her heavy reliance on alcohol.


From the outset Blanche has a peculiar relationship with Stanley. We see that there is a huge sexual tension between the pair from the first time they meet. We see this when Stanley says, “My clothes’re stickin’ to me. Do you mind if I make myself comfortable?” To which Blanche replies, “Please, please do”. This shows us that there is an apparent sexual undertone from the beginning, to be carried on throughout the play. As the play proceeds we see the climax of this when Stanley rapes Blanche. Blanche is a victim because she is not used to the vulgar behaviour of Stanley. However Blanche is not a victim in the fact that she automatically starts to flirt Stanley. Blanche is seen as self-destructive because she is a guest in her sister’s house and lets her flirtatious nature overcome her i.e. her obvious flirtation with Stanley at their first meeting.

The most prominent metaphor that we see in A Streetcar Named Desire is of the moth. Like a moth who is drawn to light, Blanche is drawn to men in the same fashion. Blanche constantly needs reassurance from men; this helps create empathy with the audience. We know about Blanche’s previous flirting but she goes onto flirt with a complete stranger. “I want to kiss you – just once – softly and sweetly on your mouth.” This shows that Blanche is flirting with a complete stranger while she is courting Mitch. Blanche also says “I’ve got to be good and keep my hands off children.” This indicates to the audience her earlier affairs with young men and the sense of her being a victim. On the other hand Blanche is not a victim because she has to have relationships with younger men to make her feel younger thus shows her own destructiveness.

One of the themes of A Streetcar Named Desire is cruelty, this links onto Stanley’s invasion of Blanche’s property. Blanche is a victim because Stanley starts to throw all of Blanche’s belongings around the flat. Stanley questions Blanche and thinks that she has sold Belle Reve in order to fulfil her extravagant lifestyle. An example of this invasion is when Stanley says, “Then why don’t we have a look” (He crosses to the trunk shoves it roughly open, and begins to open compartments.) Blanche however has arrived in New Orleans with a trunk full of seemingly expensive clothes and jewellery, which would arouse suspicions between anyone. The mysterious loss of Belle Reve fuels Stanley’s suspicions. Stanley often talks of the Napoleonic Code, which states that what a wife owns the husband also owns. Stanley refers to this repeatedly showing his ignorance because he only has a small understanding of it.

To conclude

The pinnacle of Blanche being a victim is the death of her husband. In a way Blanche is a victim because she married so young and was not able to enjoy her life. Also she lost her husband at a young age, which has left her scarred for the rest of her life. Whenever she hears the varsouviana she delves into a world of her own. The varsouviana is the music that was playing when her husband shot himself. Contradicting this Blanche is in no way a victim. It was a result of what Blanche said that made her husband shot himself; she told him that she despised him. We see the mentioning of the varsouviana in the stage directions mostly.

This essay has produced arguments to show whether or not Blanche is a victim. Each argument that is within this essay also has a counterargument to argue that point. It is arguable as to whether or not Blanche Dubois is a victim but it is clear to me that she is not a victim. Everything that has happened to her has happened to her as a result of her actions. If she had been less involved in her love affairs she would be a much better person that to what she is portrayed in the play.


Cruelty, New Orleans, Stanley, Stella, Streetcar, Tennessee Williams, Victim

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author avatar cwilko2011
English Post-grad guy who loves to read.

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author avatar Daphy
11th Nov 2012 (#)

What about the rape? Wasn't her privacy here ultimately violated?

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author avatar Peanuts720
24th Feb 2013 (#)

Who wrote this? Was it you Mark Gordon Brown?

It's a very good analysis.

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author avatar Monica
25th Apr 2013 (#)

this was hardly accurate. You need to read the play not watch the movie. You disregard the fact that Stanley was an animal.

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author avatar Panda
31st May 2013 (#)

I find your opinions to be well-balanced, but i have to say-the only reason Blanche throws herself onto men is because she feels that she is 'fading' from 'desire' into 'death'. She wants to have the attention because it seems like nobody else but men could give it to her. Even after she left Laurel the only way she knew to survive was to be desired. In thinking all of this however, it created problems because it was as if she was just toying inappropriately with men all the time. We started to see her mental issues as the play progressed. I believe that Blanche is a victim overall. Her actions were influenced by all the grief in her past which basically drove her to madness. She is a victim of her past and therefore cannot move forward from that, and also at the same time it seems that she doesn't want to move on. It makes the play quite confusing as Blanche seems to have two sides to her-the pure virgin and then the prostitute/desirable woman. I think that even if she encourages the men, she is not in a right state of mind therefore, i don't completely blame her for her actions as a character. Though i can understand why one would say that Blanche does victimise others, puts on fake airs and changes the lives of the other characters in a negative way.

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author avatar waterhorse
2nd Nov 2013 (#)

Certainly the rape of Blanche by Stanley, pushing her over the edge, indicates that Blanche was a victim. She was slowly losing her mind and received no help from anyone, not her sister, not Mitch and certainly not Stanley.

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