Blanche: A Complex Study in Insanity

        Found in the Tennessee Williams 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire, also presented into a film in 1951 by Elia Kazan, the character Blanche DuBois, depicted by Vivien Leigh in the movie, has serious problems. The play and movie begin with Blanche being a woman who in society's eyes is nothing. Her family estate, Belle Reve, and fortune are gone. She had lost her husband to suicide a few years earlier, and she is a social outcast due to her unacceptable sexual behavior. In addition, she has a drinking problem that she covers up very poorly. I am personally not a psychologist; but I believe Blanche, who tries to cover up her problems by lying, suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and is bipolar. The obsessive compulsive disorder would explain worrying so much about her appearance, and bipolar would explain her being promiscuous and an alcoholic. It is obvious that Blanche has many issues and needed to be placed in the insane asylum as she really did in the end of the play and movie.

        This schoolteacher from Mississippi, forced to leave after having sexual interactions with one of her seventeen-year-old male students, shows up in the New Orleans apartment of her sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), and her husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando), in New Orleans. Blanche tells Stella that she had lost everything when her husband had died. Blanche does not tell Stella the whole truth about all of this, as she later does to Mitch except that the homosexuality is left out of the movie, and she had later been given a leave of absence from teaching due to bad nerves, instead of admitting that she had gotten in trouble by carrying on with a seventeen-year-old student. Everything that Blanche has told her sister is a lie, as one can see, which will turn to be the first of many lies. She goes on to take a shot of whiskey that she had spotted in the closet when she was left alone for a few moments. When Blanche and her sister, Stella, talk to get caught up things in each others lives, she redirects the conversation to asking if she has any liquor. She goes on to say that she could really use some to calm her nerves, and that she really is not an alcoholic. She basically came out to Stella, saying in effect that she is and needs help because she had answered a question that had not been asked.

        In her new home with an awkward situation, Stella's, Blanche pretends to be a woman who has never known indignity. This false image is used to make herself appear attractive to the male species. Blanche finds self-esteem in men, such as Stanley, looking at her sexually. She leaves little bits of information out of the conversation about how she has had sexual experiences with many men back in her old home in Mississippi and how she was basically a prostitute in the eyes of many due to the way she had had relations with so many men. She hopes to leave her world of poverty and bad reputation by simply finding and marrying a nice gentleman, namely Mitch (Karl Malden). She is paranoid about interacting with individuals in the light because they may find out about her true age and she would not be able to appear younger than what she really is. She also denies any of the sexual behaviors she has acted in the past and thinks very highly of herself. She looks in every mirror she possibly can and never passes one without looking at herself.

         I strongly believe Blanche suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and is Bipolar. The obsessive-compulsive disorder would explain worrying so much about her appearance, and Bipolar would explain her being promiscuous and an alcoholic. In conclusion, Blanche has many issues and needed to be placed in the insane asylum as she really did in the end. The play presented the side of Blanche that she tried to hide, but the film showed and made this problem even more evident to its viewers.

Nicole Zelesnikar

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