Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Symbolisms of the Name, Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire



In the first few scenes of "A Streetcar Named Desire", Tennessee
Williams shows us a complex woman, named Blanche Dubois. This
paper will explore the symbolisms of her name.

The name Blanche is French and means white or fair. Her last name
DuBois is of French origin as well and translates as “made of wood”.
The name suggests that Blanche is a very innocent and pure person.
When she appears in scene one, “she is daintily dressed in a white
suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white
gloves and a hat…” (Sc.1 p. 2073). White is also the color of light
and represents perfection and virginity but throughout the play it
becomes obvious that Blanche cannot call any of the traits of her name
her own. She is a seductive and promiscuous woman. Only the illusory
image, which she tries to create for herself, suggests these traits,
but her true nature is not like that at all. She constantly tries to
hide her embarrassing past from her new acquaintances, because she
fears that they might not accept her anymore. In order to maintain
her apparent social status among her new neighbors and friends, she
builds an intertwined net of lies, which creates a false image of
her. She believes in this imaginary world, and as soon as there is
the slightest sign of destruction, she seems to be lost, and her
nervous condition worsens. Therefore all she cares about is to keep
that image alive. Her first name is therefore quite ironic since it
means the exact opposite of Blanche’s true nature and character.

Her last name, however, stands in contrast to her first name. Made of
wood suggests something solid and hard, which is the exact opposite of
her fragile nature and nervous condition. Wood can also be associated
with forest or jungle, and regarding her past, the connection becomes
clear. Blanche indulges in a rather excessive lifestyle. She has sex
with random strangers and is known throughout her hometown of Laurel
for that. Her former life is more like a jungle or a forest, because
it is hard to see through all this and detect the real Blanche. As in
a jungle, Blanche cannot find a way out of this on her own. The term
jungle appears in the play as well. In scene ten, when Stanley is
about to rape Blanche, “the inhuman jungle voices rise up” (Sc.10 p.
2130). The jungle can be associated with wildness, brutality and
inhuman behavior. As mentioned about, wood represents something hard,
or hard working. The Du in front of that however, suggests something
aristocratic and noble. There seems to be a contradiction in these
two terms, which can be explained with the nature of her character.
The way Blanche tries to create an aristocratic and sophisticated
image of her, but is in fact the complete opposite, displays this
ambiguity.

There is another way to explore her last name, and it leads to the
pronunciation of it. If one pronounces DuBois with the correct French
accent, there is nothing uncommon about it, but since an American
wrote the play, who most likely knew the way most Americans would
pronounce it, a very obvious connection to Blanche’s past appears.
Being pronounced with an American accent, DuBois sounds more like “Do
boys,” which accompanies the fact that she has an affair with a
student while she was a teacher. Her kissing the paperboy in scene
five underlines the sexual symbolic meaning of that last name as well.

Overall, Blanche’s entire name is heavily symbolic because it reflects
her true nature in a very clear way. Just as first and last name are
being read out in an exact order. Blanche’s character is revealed in
the same way. At first she seems to be innocent and pure, but later
her past and her true nature can be discovered.

This essay points out a few of the many symbols used in A Streetcar
Named Desire. Williams introduces most of the symbols in the first
scene, to create a certain atmosphere and to give the reader a deeper
insight into the character from the beginning.

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