March 16, 2004

Death + Deceit = Blanche

I feel that this equation accurately sums up the character of Blanche in the play A Streetcar Named Desire...

It seems that death is looming around her in many ways, and everywhere she goes to try and escape it, she puts on some kind of show so no one will recognize the "real" Blanche. First of all, Blanche's fear of death is evident in her fear of aging and losing her looks. As can be noticed throughout the play, she refuses to be seen in any harsh light, so as so mask her true age. (ex. - Scene One, pg. 19). By deceiving the people around her by making them think she is younger than she really is, she is attempting to cheat death and return to the youth she felt before her husband's death.

Speaking of Blanche's husband's death, everytime she seems to be thinking about death, a Varsouviana Polka is playing somewhere in the background. This symbolizes the music that was playing at the dance Blanche and Allen were attending when he shot himself. Everytime Blanche is talking about her dead husband, she hears the tune in her head and goes crazy. For example (Scene 9, pg. 114):

BLANCHE: That music again...
MITCH: What music?
BLANCHE: The "Varsouviana"! The polka tune they were playing when Allan - Wait!
[A distant revolver shot is heard. Blanche seems relieved.]
There now, the shot! It always stops after that.
[The polka music dies out again.]
Yes, now it's stopped.
MITCH: Are you boxed out of your mind?

The message of Allan's death is that indulging ones desire in the form of unrestrained promiscuity leads to forced departures and unwanted ends. This is exactly what happens to Blanche. This is realized in Scene nine, when the woman selling 'Flores para los muertos' (Flowers for the dead). This mexican woman is actually announcing Blanche's fate. In the end when she is being carted off to the mental institution, the polka is once again heard, when I feel that she is officially 'dead' to society.

There are many ways Blanche attempts to cover up her past and her desires. Some of the obvious ways are keeping out of light and wearing white. However, the less obvious is that she continiously takes baths. I feel that by taking baths all of the time, she is trying to cleanse herself of her past. As she bathes in Scene Seven, Blanche sings "It's Only A Paper Moon." Looking at the lyrics shows the way love turns the world into a phony fantasy.These lyrics sum up Blanches approach to life. She believes that her fibbing is only her means of enjoying a better way of life and is therefore essentially harmless. Ironically, Williams has Stanley telling Stella of Blanche's true nature while she is singing this tune (See Scene 7, pg. 98).

So what do you think? does Death + Deceit = Blanche? You decide...

Posted by MeghanKite at March 16, 2004 09:23 PM

Thoughtful observations about music in this play. Have you thought about the radio?

An interesting side-note... I had originally included a few lines of "Paper Moon" in the first draft of my book, but the publisher told me that it would be a huge hassle to get permission to include those lyrics. Your copy of the script probably includes a note as to who owns the copyright to those words, and the music business isn't keen on letting academics reproduce even a few lines for the purpose of scholarly discussion. So I dropped those lines.

Okay, I can't promise it was interesting, but it was a side-note.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at March 17, 2004 01:39 AM
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