What “Ordeal” Has Blanche Been Through, and How Is It Related to Belle Reve?

Blanche DuBois is one of the most iconic and tragic characters in American literature. She is the protagonist of Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, which depicts her downfall and mental breakdown in New Orleans after losing her family home, Belle Reve, and being rejected by her lover, Mitch. In this article, we will explore what “ordeal” has Blanche been through, and how is it related to Belle Reve, the symbol of her lost past and identity.

The Loss of Belle Reve

Belle Reve, which means “beautiful dream” in French, is the ancestral plantation of the DuBois family in Laurel, Mississippi. It represents Blanche’s heritage, culture, and social status as a Southern belle from a wealthy and aristocratic family. However, Blanche loses Belle Reve due to a foreclosed mortgage, after the deaths of several family members who had squandered their fortune on debauchery and pleasure. According to Wikipedia, Blanche attributes her family’s decline in fortune to the debauchery of its male members over the generations. She says:

I stayed and fought for it, bled for it, almost died for it!

The loss of Belle Reve is a devastating blow to Blanche, who feels that she has been robbed of her identity and dignity. She also feels guilty and ashamed for not being able to save the family estate, and for being unable to cope with the harsh realities of life. She says:

I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth.

Blanche tries to escape from her painful past by creating a fantasy world where she is still young, beautiful, and desirable. She lies about her age, her past affairs, and her financial situation. She also avoids direct light, covers a light bulb with a paper lantern, and bathes frequently to wash away her sins and sorrows. She says:

I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action.

The Rejection by Mitch

Blanche’s only hope for a new life is Mitch, a friend of Stanley Kowalski, her sister Stella’s husband. Mitch is a kind and gentle man who is attracted to Blanche’s charm and sophistication. He also sympathizes with her loneliness and grief, as he has lost his mother recently. Blanche sees Mitch as a potential husband who can provide her with security and stability. She says:

Sometimes—there’s God—so quickly!

However, Mitch’s love for Blanche is shattered when he learns the truth about her past from Stanley. Stanley tells him that Blanche was fired from her teaching job for having an affair with a 17-year-old student, that she had a reputation as a “woman of loose morals” in Laurel, and that she had been staying at a cheap hotel known for prostitution. Mitch feels betrayed and disgusted by Blanche’s lies and promiscuity. He says:

You lied to me, Blanche…You’re not clean enough to bring in the house with my mother.

Mitch confronts Blanche on the night of her birthday and demands that she confess her sins. He also tries to force himself on her sexually, but she resists and screams for help. Mitch leaves her alone in the dark, saying:

You need somebody. And I need somebody too. Could it be—you and me, Blanche?

Blanche’s rejection by Mitch is the final straw that breaks her fragile mind. She realizes that she has lost everything: her home, her family, her lover, and her dignity. She also realizes that she has no place in the modern world that values realism over illusion, brutality over gentility, and lust over love. She says:

Whoever you are—I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Blanche’s ordeal is a tragic example of how one’s past can haunt one’s present and future. She is unable to let go of Belle Reve, the symbol of her lost dream and identity. She is also unable to adapt to the new environment that rejects her values and ideals. She is ultimately destroyed by her own illusions and delusions, as well as by the cruelty and indifference of others.


Blanche DuBois is a character that evokes both pity and contempt from the audience. She is a victim of her own circumstances, but also of her own choices. She is a flawed human being who tries to cope with her suffering in the best way she knows how: by creating a beautiful dream that masks the ugly reality. However, she pays a high price for living in denial: she loses her sanity and dignity, and is taken away to a mental institution. Blanche’s ordeal is a reminder of the importance of facing the truth, no matter how painful it may be, and of finding a balance between realism and illusion, between the past and the present, and between oneself and others.

Doms Desk

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