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How does Blanche DuBois represent the faded grandeur of the American past?

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Introduction

How does Blanche DuBois represent the faded grandeur of the American past? The South, old and new, is an important theme of the play. Blanche and her sister come from a dying world. The life and pretensions of their world are becoming a thing of memory: to drive home the point, the family mansion is called "Belle Reve," or Beautiful Dream. The old life may have been something beautiful, but it is gone forever. The two sisters, symbolically, are the last living members of their family. Stella will mingle her blood with a man of blue-collar stock, and Blanche will enter the world of madness. Stanley represents the new order of the South: chivalry is dead, replaced by a "rat race," to which Stanley makes several proud illusions. Blanche expects a certain level of behaviour from men; she wants them to be gentle, good-tempered and friendly. She also expects a certain prudery. ...read more.

Middle

Here we can see the change which happened in the South - people weren't able to run their farms anymore. So the loss of Belle Reve is a symbol of the economic change in the South. As the airy and aristocratic Blanche, dressed in white, appears, you can immediately feel that she is in sharp contrast with her new surroundings, New Orleans, which is a noisy and dirty city. The extensive stage directions and her conversations with neighbours show this - firstly, Williams describes her as, "[looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district.]" More than anything else, this immediately introduces Blanche's character as a representative of the Old South, as much as Stanley's introduction epitomizes him as the herald of the New. Everything that happens to these characters throughout the play is symbolic of this. ...read more.

Conclusion

We are reminded of her description to Stanley of how the family wealth dwindled - "... piece by piece, our improvident grandfathers and father and uncles and brothers exchanged the land for their epic fornications." Again we have the idea of desire leading to death; the death of Belle Reve, the ultimate image of the Old South in the play. "Why, the Grim Reaper had put up his tent on our doorstep! ... Stella. Belle Reve was his headquarters!" However much she increasingly tries to hide from the truth with her illusions, Blanche is painfully aware that what she cherishes most of all is dying, and she is powerless to stop it. The rape of Blanche and the subsequent death of her sanity, combined with the birth of Stanley's child, firmly establishes the victory of the New South over the Old. ...read more.

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