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Whoever you are. I've always depended on the kindness of strangers...
~ Blanche's final and most famous quote as she is taken away to a mental institution by a kind hearted doctor.

Blanche DuBois is the main protagonist of Tennessee William's A Streetcar Named Desire, She is the sister of Stella Kowalski as well as the sister in law of the barbaric Stanley Kowalski. Over the course of the play Blanche suffers from troubles with narcissist personality disorder and alcoholism which is eventually revealed to be a coping mechanism in order to try and forget and numb the guilt over her troubled past.


Portrayals

Over the course of many years she has been portrayed by several actresses both on stage and on screen, perhaps most famously by the late Vivien Leigh in multiple productions as well as the 1951 film.

Her other most famous portrayals include:

  • Gillian Anderson
  • Ann-Margret
  • Tallulah Bankhead
  • Cate Blanchett (who also portrayed Hela and Lady Tremaine)
  • Blythe Danner
  • Gretchen Egolf
  • Renée Fleming
  • Uta Hagen
  • Rosemary Harris
  • Isabelle Huppert
  • Yvonne Kenny
  • Jessica Lange (who also portrayed Constance Langdon)
  • Lois Nettleton
  • Nicole Ari Parker
  • Maxine Peake
  • Natasha Richardson
  • Amy Ryan
  • Jessica Tandy
  • Rachel Weisz

Biography

Past

Blanche grew up with her sister in the house of Belle Reve and eventually came to own said house. When she was sixteen Blanche met her first love Allan Grey a closeted homosexual who committed suicide shortly after Blanche angrily insulted and belittled him for having sex with another man, an event which would haunt Blanche with guilt forever. A series of unfortunate events unfolded around Blanche's life as she was fired from her job as an English teacher at the local high school for having an affair with a seventeen year old student, evicted from her family home and exiled from her own hometown due to her numerous infamous affairs with a variety of men.

In the play

Blanche saught out the hospitality from her sister Stella and brother in law Stanley soon after this and purposefully covered up the truth behind her past something which fooled Stella easily but not Stanley who continuously tries to get to the bottom of Blanche's true history. Blanche quickly falls for Stanley's best friend Harold Mitchell a more sensitive and kind hearted man than Stanley despite being rather awkward and clumsy, although genuinely caring about Mitch she still lies to him and covers up most of her past as she fears his rejection and a loss at a chance of long time contentment although she does confess what happened to her husband to him. Just as she feared Mitch realizes the truth after being told of Blanche's past by Stanley further crushing her hope of happiness. This results in a very slow but steady fall for Blanche into insanity which is worsened by Stanley's clear distain for her and desire for her to leave his home. In the end Blanche starts buying into her own lies and imagination until Stanley forces her to wake up to reality before using his physical dominance to rape her. This act completely tips Blanche over the edge as she descends into complete madness until a heartbroken Stella is finally convinced to send her away to a mental institution. In the final scene Blanche is utterly horrified upon realizing her own fate up until the point where she is finally given kindness from a very gentle and understanding doctor of whom she willingly leaves with accepting her fate to be forever locked away in a mental institution.

Personality

Blanche suffers from Narcissistic personality disorder and exhibits several insecurities at the start of the play although remains as a reasonably friendly and decent woman who does love those close to her such as Stella despite occasionally coming off as rather rude and elitist. Furthermore Blanche is a very jumpy and nervous woman who deeply fears the concept of abandonment and lonesomeness something triggered by her everlasting guilt over her past. She is also shown to be rather racist as exhibited from her constant use of the racial slur "Polack" to Stanley and also homophobic due to her disgust at her former partner's intercourse with a man. By the end of the play Blanche's chaotic and tragic life winds up giving her Schizophrenia.

Appearance

Blanche is a very frail, delicate and odd woman of supposed faded beauty with very dotty and eccentric mannerisms who always aims to dress in very fashionable clothing. In order to make herself look younger Blanche always attempts to stay in rooms with very soft and minimal lighting.

Trivia

  • Similarly to Dorian Gray Blanche goes through a common trope for narcissistic protagonist villains in stories (i.e is driven mad by guilt over one individual and is driven to insanity over the constant influence of a more evil and sinister individual attacking her mentally while also trying to fill a deep void within her soul).
  • Another connection to Dorian Gray stems from Blanche's theorized suffering of Borderline Personality Disorder as both characters while unconfirmed meet the vast majority of the criteria required for diagnosing the illness such as unhealthy relationships, acting out without thought, poor control of emotions, etc.
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