As the story opens up, the readers are offered details about the setting, Elysian Fields, a poor New Orleans street with broken down buildings and intermingling races. Next, we get a peek at the daily life and interactions between Stanley and his wife, Stella, which is important because it establishes the status quo before Blanche comes to visit and mixes everything up. When Blanche is introduced, the stark contrast between her appearance, “She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat…,” and that of the city makes it apparent that she probably won’t fit in well (Williams 3).
After she is let into Stella’s flat, and we are left to observe Blanche, her nervous, uncomfortable nature signals to readers that she might have something to hide. Throughout her conversation with Stella, her criticism, excuses, and avoidance of the fact that she lost Belle Reve, only serves to increase our skepticism of her. Seeing as at this point we don’t know what’s to come, we, or at least I, began to view Blanche as the antagonist—a threat to the happy life Stella was living. In scene two, Stanley is revealed to share a suspicious view of Blanche, which is when tensions between the two begin to build. However, the way Stanley talked to his wife as if she was dull and his aggressive tendencies, such as rummaging through Blanche’s belongings and threatening to have his friends appraise them in order to show that Blanche had “swindled” the pair is when it becomes evident that Stanley is, in fact, the antagonist and Blanche is but a tragic hero. As events are further revealed, such as Stanley beating his pregnant wife and him overhearing the conversation where Blanche tries to talk Stella out of staying with Stanley, we are further reaffirmed that Blanche wants to protect her sister, and Stanley, fueled with rage will stop at nothing to destroy Blanche. So, without Blanche, the protagonist of this story, no change or tension would occur, making her invaluable to both the exposition and the rising action.
As it seems, Blanche’s first line in the play foreshadows her inescapable fate. In scene five, Stanley drills Blanche as to whether she knows someone by the name of Shaw from a disreputable hotel in Laurel. Although she denies she does, after Stanley exits the room, Blanche confides in Stella, “Honey, there was—a good deal of talk in Laurel” (Williams 81). When taken into consideration with her vibrant sexual essence, one can assume that it was her “desire” for a sexual tryst which led to her social demise/death and leave of absence from Laurel. From there, she ended up at Elysian Fields, which in Greek Mythology is considered to be a sort of heaven or afterlife. It is here when she learns more about the mistakes from her past, but the question is will she make good use out of this newfound knowledge. Continuing in scene five, while waiting for Mitch to show, a young man drops by the apartment, who Blanche precedes to hit on and even kiss. Leading me to believe that the ominous foreshadowing in these names is a cycle, meaning that just as these New Orleans streetcars will run again tomorrow and the next day, Blanche’s sexual desires will continue to lead to her downfall and once again to her chance to remake herself in the “afterlife.” Blanche’s sexual desires also connect to the theme of pulchritude which is apparent in the play. Blanche is beyond concerned with her looks and youth.
After the loss of Belle Reve and the rest of her family fortune, Blanche has determined that the best way to attract a man in through her beauty. However, due to her fading looks, she has resorted to using her physique, which is apparent when during the poker game, “She takes off the blouse and stands in her pink silk brassiere and white skirt in the light through the portieres,” so all the men can see the outline of her figure (Williams 48). To her, pulchritude is not gaining “one ounce in ten years” and not being seen in unflattering light until she has had the chance to clean up her appearance (Williams 13). She needs reassurance and is often “fishing for a compliment” (Willams 33). She enjoys feathers, furs, fox-pieces, chests of pearls, diamonds, gold, and other jewelry, and fancy new dresses that accentuate her body and therefore her beauty.
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