Dissolution of a Southern Belle : Blanche DuBois

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Southern Belles, ladies of society, dedicated to the family and community, characterized by Southern hospitality, a cultivation of beauty, and a flirtatious yet chaste demeanor. Proper manners and etiquette were a must in the proper society – and any deviation from that was not looked upon well. Strict guidelines in courting had to be followed- as the slightest ‘look’ of impropriety could ruin their reputation. The 1950’s saw some of the last of these elegant, porcelain ladies raised with the graceful, clever, and socially upstanding Southern virtues. Blanche DuBois was one of these Southern Belles, fading along with her ancestry tradition, her family, and her mental stability.

When we are first introduced to Blanche, William’s describes her as “daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace, and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district…There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her clothes, that suggests a moth…” With nowhere left to turn, Blanche stares up at an unfamiliar building, in an unfamiliar town, surrounded by unfamiliar sounds and faces. Having left her home in Mississippi and traveled to boisterous New Orleans, she is clearly out of her element.

Throughout her time spent with Stella and Stanley she continues to dress in elegant white clothes, a reflection of her attempts to seem pure and innocent, despite the hidden truth about her. She bathes repeatedly, almost compulsively, trying to wash herself clean of her misdeeds. Having turned to promiscuity after the suicide of her husband, the high class Southern Belle is now seen as tarnished and worn out in the eyes of most of the society of the time, and in Blanche’s own eyes as well. No longer a young lady, but a grown woman, Blanche skirts around her true age, hiding in the shadows of dimly lit rooms, unwilling to show her face if not first properly made up. Continuing to run from the truth of her past she tells others “what ought to be truth” rather than admit to reality. This eventually leads her into a downward spiral when Stanley and Mitch begin to unweave her web of lies, finding the innocent moth to be more of a spider after all, preying on young boys for comfort and protection. With no one willing to accept her lies any further, and with Stanley and Mitch both forcing reality upon her, she eventually loses touch. She creates her own reality, convinced that a man is coming to sweep her away not for her beauty – which has now been downplayed by those around her – but for her refined cultural background. However it soon becomes clear that no suitor is coming for her. Instead, a psychiatrist is sent for. Seeing the unexpected man at the door pulls another thread loose from her woven non-reality and she panics. It is when the doctor complies with her illusion, removing his hat and offering an arm as a gentleman would, that Blanche is able to regain her fantasy and follow him to the mental hospital.

The beautiful southern belle had finally withered and faded away from the real world, along with the traditions and cultures, and her homeland.

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