Blanche DuBois  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Blanche DuBois is a fictional character in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire. Jessica Tandy received a Tony Award for her performance as Blanche in the original Broadway production. The character was also portrayed by Vivien Leigh in the 1951 film adaptation; Leigh won an Academy Award for this performance.

Contents

In the play

Southern belle

At the beginning of the play, Blanche comes from Laurel, Mississippi to visit her younger sister Stella in New Orleans. Blanche is appalled with the poor, even squalid environment and the coarseness of her brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, and his friends Steve Hubbell and Pablo Gonzales, with whom he drinks and plays poker. She calls Stanley an "ape", and wants Stella to pull out of her marriage with him because he is so violent and animalistic. Stella refuses to leave, as she is powerfully attracted to Stanley in spite of (and even, it is implied, because of) his violent nature, and is pregnant with his child. Blanche is not shy about her distaste for Stanley and the life he has brought her sister into, which infuriates him.

Consequently, she flirts with and embraces Harold Mitchell (Mitch), who is distinct from Stanley, Steve and Pablo in his courtesy and propriety. Mitch, who spends most of his time taking care of his sick mother, is very lonely, and embraces Blanche as a cure for that loneliness. Blanche also invents stories about oil millionaire Shep Huntleigh, who she supposes will save her and Stella from living in a very poor district of New Orleans with vulgar "apes."

Beginning of the end

However, a co-worker at Stanley's workplace travels to Laurel, Mississippi with some regularity. He knows a merchant in Laurel named Kiefaber who provides him with information about Blanche that eventually destroys her. Stanley learns that Blanche's stories of wealth and glamour are fabrications, that she had a homosexual husband who committed suicide, and that she was afterward so promiscuous that she was paid to leave and never come back. She also developed alcoholism, which she hides very poorly as she constantly drinks Stanley's liquor. Stanley then finds out that she got fired as an English teacher for having an affair with one of her students. He also learns that the DuBois' ancestral home, Belle Reve, has been lost on mortgages to pay for a series of family deaths and, as Blanche so aptly puts it, their ancestors' "epic fornications."

Collapse

When he tells Mitch and Stella this, Blanche's hope evaporates, but she continues to cling to her fantasy of marrying Huntleigh and returning to the good life. (Huntleigh never makes an appearance, but is revealed to have been a married man whom Blanche once slept with.)

The night Stella gives birth, Stanley drunkenly happens upon Blanche and tries to seduce her. When she resists, he rapes her. This sends Blanche completely over the edge into a nervous breakdown, and Stanley has her sent off to a mental hospital. As she is being led off by a matron and a kind-hearted doctor, Blanche smiles as she completely devolves into her fantasy life, perhaps never to return to the real world.

Cultural homages

  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Marge plays the role of Blanche a musical adaptation of Streetcar Named Desire entitled Streetcar!
  • Blanche DuBois is mentioned briefly in the song 'Sunny Sunday' by Joni Mitchell, on the 1994 album 'Turbulent Indigo'.
  • Character Miles Monroe in Woody Allen's 1973 film Sleeper imitates Blanche DuBois whilst hallucinating.
  • In the Colin Hay song "Company of Strangers" on his album of the same name, she is mentioned in the song as follows "I pass the ghost of Blanch DuBois and.../The kindness of strangers"




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Blanche DuBois" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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