• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

To what extent can Blanche Dubois be considered a tragic hero?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Blanche DuBois is often referred to as a 'tragic figure.' How does Williams' presentation of this character allow her to be seen in this way? Aristotle defined 'Tragedy' around 330BC: "Tragedy, then, is an imitation of a noble and complete action; . . . and achieves, through the representation of pitiable and fearful incidents, the catharsis of such incidents." In a tragedy, the tragic hero is tested by suffering; as a result they're forced to face the consequences. Some will be crushed by their misfortune and may even die; others will somehow overcome their difficulties. Aristotle also states that the character must be of noble character - defined not by birth but rather by moral choice. This does not mean that they're perfect. There would be a sense of outrage if the individual were not marred in some way and yet still suffered. Conversely, a tragic hero can not be completely heinous. Aristotle felt the best type of tragic hero will fall somewhere between the two extremes - ". . . a person who is neither perfect in virtue and justice, nor one who falls into misfortune through vice and depravity, but rather, one who succumbs through some miscalculation." When the character is presented to the audience, there is empathy as their flaw (Hamartia) humanises them; a sense that it could happen to anyone because of this Hamartia, which while contributing to the character's lack of perfection, is essentially an error of judgement, so that along with their hubris it has disastrous results. ...read more.

Middle

. ." she is in contrast to her surroundings and appears out of place. Williams states in his directions that "There is something about her uncertain manner . . . that suggests a moth." 'Moth' symbolic of the human soul, supports this sense of fragility and innocence, further emphasised by Blanche's "delicate beauty that must avoid a strong light." In the early scenes of the play, however, doubt begins to creep in as to Blanche's purported innocence - shown, for example, in the nuances in which her drinking habits are described; to Stella "No, one's my limit" and to Stanley "No, I - rarely touch it." The reasons for her drinking habit are not clear; but as the play unfolds it becomes obvious that Blanche drinks to forget, to blot out the ever present reminders of the past (symbolised in the play by the Polka music) and to lessen the guilt she feels for her husband's death and her promiscuity. Drinking allows her to create in her own mind a world full of romance and glamour, a world full of admirers. Similarly, Blanche's habit of taking long baths throughout the play, often as Stella explains to Stanley ". . . to quiet her nerves" is used by Williams to symbolise Blanche's attempt to cleanse herself of her guilt - in the same way that she drinks to try and forget the past, she bathes to wash away her guilt, to present herself as fresh and clean, free of the implications of her husband's death and her less than virtuous lifestyle. ...read more.

Conclusion

It seems that Blanche deceives those around her, but also herself. The use of the Chinese lantern over the lightbulb helps conceal Blanche's age. But Williams' uses the light to reveal more about Blanche's character - her interpretation of the truth - Blanche states that she doesn't want realism, she wants "magic." She admits she doesn't tell the truth; she tells ". . . what ought to be truth." Towards the end of scene 11 when Stanley tears the paper lantern from the lightbulb, Williams indicates Blanche represents the lantern. Stanley tears the lantern, tears Blanche; suddenly the truth is finally revealed. The audience sees this so that the conflicting images of Blanche allow the audience to be sympathetic to Blanche while realizing that she is a flawed human being. Stanley and all that he represents, emerges victorious. Donald Pease in Tennessee Williams: A Tribute, p840 states ". . . Flight forces the presence of the past on his characters as the presence of what they attempted to flee." Blanche is forced to leave Laurel and seeks refuge with Stella and Stanley only to be confronted with the realities of her promiscuity when Stanley exposes her for what she is. Blanche's fragile inner life is destroyed - the traditional world is forced to make way for the modern one. The tragedy lies in a character unable to reconcile the two. Whether Blanche survives by eventually coming to terms with this new age is unclear; what is clear is that Blanche is certainly a literary tragic figure. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level A Street Car Named Desire section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

5 star(s)

This is a very well presented essay. There is evidence of sharp insight into the play, especially the contradictions and evasiveness of Blanche's inner/outer lives and her fragile self pride and delusion. Quotations and text references are well chosen and effectively used.

Paragraph and sentence structure are excellent, with very few grammatical mistakes and excellent lexical resource.

The argument is closely developed throughout, leading to an effective conclusion, but this could have been improved by measuring the findings against the Aristotelian definitions of tragedy introduced in the first paragraph. Nevertheless, this is a very good essay.

5 stars

Marked by teacher Jeff Taylor 23/07/2013

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level A Street Car Named Desire essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Tennessee Williams wrote in a letter that It (Streetcar) is a tragedy with the ...

    5 star(s)

    From the beginning of the play, Williams makes it clear that Stanley is an animalistic man, holding 'a red-stained package' which 'he heaves' at Stella. This is epitomised when Williams notes in stage directions that 'he sizes women up at a glance, with sexual classifications' and explains that 'the centre

  2. Marked by a teacher

    TO WHAT EXTENT CAN A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE BE CALLED A TRAGEDY?

    5 star(s)

    by brute force (Stanley), therefore portraying the rape as such instead. These contradictory interpretations illustrate the crucial problem in labelling 'Streetcar' as a tragedy, at least in a strictly Aristotelian sense: there is no singular, defined hero or heroine, both can be interchangeably depicted as victim or antagonist.

  1. Peer reviewed

    To what extent can Blanche Dubois be described as a tragic victim in A ...

    4 star(s)

    Drinking allows Blanche to escape from the real world and let her imagination take over. Blanche's alcoholism is closely linked with her passion for 'soaking in a hot tub', to 'quieten her nerves'. It is a symbol for her wanting to wash away the guilt.

  2. In what ways can 'A Streetcar Named Desire' be seen as a modern tragedy?

    single redeeming feature - in this case her doomed relationship with Allen Grey that has fuelled her desires ever since - practically all of Blanche's flaws can be explained (if not excused) by her tragic experiences. Her deception of Mitch is the desperation of a woman alone in a patriarchal

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

    The recurring themes of desire and mortality strongly emphasize this - she tells Stella that to get there, she had to take two streetcars, named Desire and Cemeteries - as we read on we discover that this is directly describing the events in her life that actually did lead her

  2. Language in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'.

    Blanche uses innuendoes, particular ones of a sexual nature to familiarise herself with the male characters, especially Mitch - "big capable hands". This may be a way to make the other person feel a little bit more relaxed and at ease, although it is just as likely to have the

  1. A Steercar Named Desire - Blanche's Psychological Breakdown.

    Stanley and she would have gotten along better if she would have been frank with him during their first encounter. Blanche made a grave mistake by trying to act like a lady, or trying to be what she thought a lady ought to be.

  2. Discuss Williams dramatic presentation of Blanche.

    a change which is the first sign of Blanche being an alcoholic. Blanche is described as ?springing? up to get to the alcohol and ?tosses? it down and Williams uses the same wording to describe how Blanche reacts to Stella coming into the room which shows the relationship Blanche has with alcohol.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work