A Streetcar Named Desire: Characters- Blanche

Grace Fawcitt
Mind Map by Grace Fawcitt, updated more than 1 year ago
Grace Fawcitt
Created by Grace Fawcitt about 2 years ago


Edexcel A Level English Language and Literature: A Streetcar Named Desire. This mindmap outlines characteristics of Blanche, key sections, and relevant contextual information. For information on theatricality in Blanche, or an analysis of her name, see the other relevant mind maps labelled 'A Streetcar Named Desire: Theatricality in Blanche' and 'A Streetcar Named Desire: Names'

Resource summary

A Streetcar Named Desire: Characters- Blanche
1 Colours
1.1 White: typically connotes purity, although is used ironically for Blanche given her sexual 'impurity'. It may be used to indicate vulnerability.
1.1.1 In Scene 1, she arrives dressed all in white, but throughout the play we see her being corrupted; her white skirt is stained, and she wears a 'soiled and crumpled' white gown This may be used by Williams as a manner of criticising the New America, as shown through Stanley, which corrupts the chivalry and civilisation of the Old South
1.2 Red: used to suggest desire, such as Blanche's red satin wrapper, however also danger- desire inevitably leads to harm, and even death
1.2.1 In Scene 9 and 11, Blanche is wearing a 'scarlet satin robe' and a 'red satin robe'- these scenes encase Scene 10, when Stanley rapes Blanche. Scene 11 also includes Blanche being taken away to a mental institution, which we can assume will be unpleasant- link to Wlliams' sister Rose
2 Characteristics
2.1 Blanche is essentially stuck in a stereotype that no longer exists- the Southern Belle is an archaic construct from nearly a century prior to when the play is set, and so her personality clearly conflicts with Stanley's- who represent the New America- hence her mental breakdown; she can't deal with the reality which is forced on her
2.2 There is no doubt that Blanche is a liar- she lies about her age, her weight, and her past at Belle Reve. However, this doesn't necessarily make her a bad person. Rather, it seems like she uses these lies to construct an illusion that allows her to deal with daily life. Stanley rips that all down every time he reveals the truth about her
2.3 Blanche and Stella both came from an aristocratic background, but took very different roads in life- Stella chose to conform to the New America alongside Stanley, while Blanche has to watch her relatives all die one by one. This is perhaps symbolic of the decay of the Old South and the vitality of the New America- Blanche has been losing her family, while Stella and Stanley have been creating one
2.4 While Blanche is certainly a victim in many ways, she is also a wrongdoer- she is racist, and preys on young men (the soldiers at Belle Reve, the Young Man, and the 17 year old at the school she taught at
2.5 Blanche's madness isn't evident immediately- she is clearly eccentric, but we could put that down to personality. However, we see her progressive descent into madness throughout the play, most prevalently in her speech- the content of her speech shifts from coherent, if slightly erratic, to barely understandable- she sings 'El pan de mais sin sal' in Scene 8, which translates from Spanish to 'cornbread without salt'
3 Context
3.1 Blanche as Williams' sister, Rose
3.1.1 Rose most likely suffered from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and was lobotomised prior to Williams writing Streetcar. Her actions before the lobotomy were often hysterical- 'her good spirits were turning into a kind of hysteria; her laughter was more nervous than natural; she was moody and was developing a strange little hunch . . .' Interestingly, Williams' own words regarding his sister's feigned promiscuity echoed those of Blanche's to Allan Grey before he shot himself: "Rose, I heard you offer yourself to Colin, and I want you to know that you disgusted me." Blanche: ' I know! I know! You disgust me...'
3.2 Blanche as Williams
3.2.1 Williams struggled with his sexuality at times, not realising it until his late twenties, and of course suffering from the discriminatory behaviour that was typical of the times. This punishment for his sexuality (both internalised and from external sources) is reflected in Blanche; her sexual promiscuity is frequently the subject of discrimination; while she is punished for her promiscuity, mostly due to her gender, Stanley receives no punishment for his actions of raping her while married to Stella
4 Key Sections
4.1 Scene 1
4.1.1 Blanche's arrival to Elysian Fields
4.1.2 The death speech
4.1.3 Blanche meets Stanley
4.2 Scene 2
4.2.1 Blanche and Stanley- trunk/ papers scene
4.3 Scene 3
4.3.1 Blanche meets Mitch
4.4 Scene 4
4.4.1 Blanche talks to Stella about Stanley
4.4.2 Shep Huntleigh
4.4.3 Ape speech
4.5 Scene 5
4.5.1 Star signs
4.5.2 Speech about being soft
4.5.3 Spilling coke on skirt
4.5.4 Blanche and Young Man
4.6 Scene 6
4.6.1 Mitch and Blanche return from date
4.6.2 Blanche's distaste for Mitch's lack of chivalry/ gentlemanly behaviour
4.6.3 Blanche tells Mitch about Allan Grey
4.7 Scene 7
4.7.1 (Blanche is bathing for the majority of the scene)
4.8 Scene 8
4.8.1 Blanche's birthday supper- lack of Mitch, and Stanley's 'present'
4.8.2 Blanche sings 'El pan de mais'
4.9 Scene 9
4.9.1 Mitch and Blanche talk about her past
4.9.2 Mexican Woman: 'Flores para los muertos'
4.10 Scene 10
4.10.1 Stanley and Blanche talk about Shep Huntleigh and Mitch
4.10.2 Stanley rapes Blanche
4.11 Scene 11
4.11.1 Blanche speaks about wanting to be buried at sea
4.11.2 Doctor and Matron arrive and take Blanche away
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