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Characterisation of Blanche Dubois

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How does Williams present Blanche in scene 1?
From the beginning of A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams, it is evident that Blanche will demonstrate a contrasting persona to that of the other female voices, ‘her appearance is incongruous to this setting. She is daintily dressed in a white suit.’ The introduction to Blanche through the stage directions makes it apparent to the reader that Blanche will not blend in with her new surroundings and will believe herself to be superior to that of her peers: ‘looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district.’ The conventional techniques used by Tennessee Williams such as stage directions and language devices allow the audience, from the offset, to understand the contradictory and hysterical personality that Blanche will show throughout the play- with the implication that her lies will lead to not only a physical, but mental deterioration.
The other women in Scene 1 appear to be of a confident nature who will converse with one another, no matter the race or hierarchical status. However, when we are first introduced to Blanche it appears she is reluctant to talk to people of a different race, or of women who seems more lower class than herself. The audience are made aware of this from the stage directions ‘wearily refers to the slip of paper’. The word ‘wearily’ connotes the idea that she has a lack of enthusiasm to partake in conversation as she, perhaps, perceives herself to be of a superior nature. This interpretation of Blanche is also apparent when she is shown to Stella’s house; she seems less than impressed at the state of the house compared to what she has been used to prior at the luxury accommodation of the family house: Belle Reeve: ‘What? Two rooms did you say?’ This shows to the reader that she is shocked at the unexpected conditions that her sister, Stella, is currently residing.
Regarding stage directions, there is the implication that Blanche is a fragile character, ‘Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light.’ The word ‘delicate’ emphasises this and gives the impression that she needs close protection or else she will wither away.
The theme of social class is presented by the abrupt use of language Blanche uses to the Negro Women; ‘Thanks.’ It may be interpreted that Blanche contains aspects of racism as this bluntness of speech is to a Negro Women, who will be of a different colour or race to herself. From this point the audience would dislike a woman who holds such strong views on how her ideal society would be run.
The technique of visual imagery enables the audience to visualise what Blanche is like, although it is only a stereotype the initial judgement will more than likely correspond to the persona of a character. The way in which she dresses makes her incongruous in the setting. ‘She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and a hat.’ White traditionally represents innocence and youth, so this isn’t a true reflection of herself – she is trying to portray an image that used to be true when she was of a younger age. Her appearance is also something that she has major concerns of as the scene progresses ‘turn that over-light off! Turn that off! I won’t be looked at in this merciless glare!’ She is afraid with age has lost her looks and appeal and this could indeed be why she uses such direct speech to Stella.
Blanche also distinguishes herself from the other characters in scene 1 by evidently showing signs of anxiety and the coping mechanism of turning to alcohol. It is made obvious that she is an alcoholic when we read ‘she pours a half tumbler of whiskey and tosses it down’ and ‘I’ve got to keep hold of myself.’ It is obvious that she isn’t mentally stable and this distinguishes her character from everyone else. Due to her obvious wealth it has guided her to the route of alcohol as she has so much spare money, although she is clearly disgusted with the living conditions Stella has to live in it is obvious that Stella is somewhat happier than Blanche, suggesting that money isn’t everything.
Finally, Blanche appears to be a character who suffers from some sort of mental problem as her character changes dramatically. Her over exaggerated speeches allow the audience to question her stability ‘...But you are the one who abandoned Belle Reve, not I! I stayed and fought for it, bled for it, almost died for it.’ The word ‘died’ is most certainly an exaggeration and the audience, at this point, can sympathise with Blanche as she is clearly in a state of personal distress. The sympathy is also continued when she feels directly accused “you’re a fine one to sit there accusing me of it’ this showing the idea of the need of things being perfect, as well as the slight implications of needing tradition and routine. The language used throughout this argument is violent and abrupt and it is only when Stella shows emotion that Blanche stops her angry ways and addresses the fact she has made her cry; ‘Oh, Stella, Stella, you’re crying!’ this quick change of personality, once again questions her mental deterioration that can be seen throughout the opening scene.
In conclusion, Williams allows the reader to identify that Blanche is a character who is different to the rest of the characters within scene 1. This is done by stage direction, appearance and language which are all important factors to highlight what a person is like. The character of Blanche is used to allow the reader to feel intrigued and therefore want to discover what will come about of the character in the future.…...

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