Undesirable: The Tragedy of Blanche Dubois
One of the victims of this tragedy is Balance Dubos, a delicate and fragile minded outcast. Ostracizes by her hometown and abandoned by her family, she resorts to prostitution and alcoholism for consolation. In her efforts to assure herself of her own worth in her growing age, and to rescue her sister, Stella, from an abusive lifestyle, she offends the male-dominated society in which she is trapped. Despite Blanches controversial lifestyle and destructive actions, she is nonetheless a tragic heroine whose downfall resulted from poor treatment at the hands of a cruel society to which she refused to comply.
Aristotle defined a tragic hero as a character of nobility with a tragic flaw that eventually leads them to their own downfall. Balance Dubos, a beautiful and sophisticated belle, once represented the vision of the south. Born into a wealthy family and happily married to a young romantic, Balance seemingly had everything desired by women of her period. However, when her young husband is revealed to be a homosexual, she is unable to cope and drives him to suicide with her disapproval. This sends Balance into a spiral of mental degeneration, rendering her unable to adjust to the changes happening in ere world, namely the fall of the south.
When she goes to her sister Stella for support, she clashes with the ideals of Stellar abusive husband Stanley, ultimately leading to her mental and physical destruction through rape. Balance meets the criteria of a tragic heroine from her noble beginnings to her humble end. She was the perfect example of southern class and sophistication before the fall of the aristocracy. She lived a lofty life at her plantation, Belle Reeve, and married her first love. Her downfall began when her husband, Allan, was caught in his homosexual actions; she confronted IM and he escaped her disappointment by killing himself.
The damage to her mental health resulted in the loss of her home, her self-esteem, and eventually her concept of reality, which was further broken by Stanley brute invasion. While some critics argue that Balance cannot rise to the title of tragic hero due to her many character flaws, critic Kathleen Lana, in her essay A Streetcar Named Misogyny, defends Balance by reminding the readers of her humanity: In her dramatic situation, Balance is – indeed – flawed, culpable, tragically imperfect, but she is fully and flagrantly human. As a tragic Geiger she functions as a subject, to be judged by her action or inaction… ere will to save herself, her sister, her home. She is being fully female, driven beyond her ability to cope with the wholly male world. At this level of the play, we may grieve as the environment destroys Balance, or we may rage as Balance backs herself into a corner with her lies and evasions. But no matter how we view Balance we see and judge Balance as Balance, a fully developed human character. Balance, as a human, has several flaws that could be considered tragic. However, the flaw that initiates the beginning of her nonfatal, Élan’s suicide, is her inability to be compassionate.
In his paper The Tragic Downfall of Balance Dubos, Leonard Bergman describes this flaw by stating that “Blanches most fundamental regret is not that she happened to marry a homosexual… Or the discovery of Élan’s homosexuality… But when made aware… She brought on his suicide by her expression Of disgust. ” A second tragic flaw is the inability to forgive herself for denying her husband forgiveness. Bert Caraculs states in his essay Balance Dubos as Tragic Heroine, that while “Balance could hardly be expected to respond with love and understanding… E never truly had an intimate, an open and trusting, relationship with him. ” Caraculs goes on to say that “Balance refuses from the beginning to forgive herself for denying Allen the compassion that would have saved or perhaps changed him. ” Balance could not move on from the past because she felt guilty for telling the truth, something she often praised herself for doing. At the end of the play, it seems apparent that Stanley has won; that he has conquered and triumphed over a woman who defied and insulted the wills of men.
However, tragic heroes are not necessarily defined by their victories, but y their struggle against their fate. Rather than bending to the whims of men in her male dominated society, Balance instead exposed their evils, beginning with Élan’s and ending with Stanley. Balance redeemed herself by admitting her own flaws to Mitch after Stanley reveals her lies. She emerged from her romanticizes fantasy land to deliver the real truth: the person she fooled the most was not him, but herself.
In scene ten, Stanley believed that his personal and violent invasion of Balance would finally break her, forcing her to admit all of her wrongs and finally live in reality. While he’s made out to be the actor, with nobody believing Blanches declaration of rape, he only achieved his goal of taking all of her privately. Her mind retreated into her fantastical world of the past, allowing her to escape her reality permanently. Memories Of southern gentleman supporting their decorative belles allowed her the peace she could not find, even as she was escorted to the asylum, her new “home”, by a kindly doctor.
Balance is a tragic heroine. She fits the Aristotle defined criteria, she has not only one, but two tragic flaws, and though she lost her sanity and pride by the end of the play, she does not submit to her harsh reality. Some critics argue that, in her mad hysteria, she is not befitting of the title tragic hero. However, they are simply preying on her open weakness, something that many male tragic heroes are too prideful to show. Her weakness only makes her more eligible for the title; she is exposing her flawed humanity to all who condemned her.
She dares them to come clean of their own flaws, many of which her society condoned. As Lana states, “She may be quite simply too noble to exist as a female in a world run by a phalanx of Stanley Kowalski. ” “Balance becomes a tragic protagonist and transforms the play into an allegory; Williams uses her plight to criticize the social circumstances that have shaped her flawed persona and led her to her demise. ” The social circumstances that Lauren Siegel mentions in her essay Balance Dubos: Antihero are what condemn, ostracize, and serve to flaw Balance and her fragile mind.
Aside from her own tragic flaws, Blanches society is to blame for her downfall. By creating societal norms and expectations, her society placed restrictions on her actions and convinced her that what she did to survive, both mentally and financially, was morally wrong. It glorified the actions of en such as Stanley Kowalski, who measured women’s worth only by their sexual attractiveness, and rejected free female sexuality. Lastly, it condemned homosexuals and anyone else who did not fit into society’s cookie cutter conformity, namely Balance Dubos. In her hometown, Balance was known as the town nut.
After the death of her relatives, paying for the plantation became her responsibility, a responsibility that weighed heavily on her damaged psyche after her husband’s death. Prostitution served a dual purpose in Blanches mind; it paid the bills and allowed for meetings with “strangers” who would remind her Of her beauty. However, as knowledge of her promiscuity spread throughout the town, her name became trash and her reputation resulted in her termination from the hotel in which she worked. Though the hotel was known for its shady business, society placed her sins above others.
Why? Because she was a woman who went against what was expected of her: to be married and supported by a husband, with whom she was allowed to have free intimacy. Caraculs supports this by stating, “These “strangers”, in “wising up” to Blanches thinly disguised cries for help and devotion were as much to blame for her panic-driven promiscuity as she herself was. Even before the South’s decline, men were the bread winners of society. However, during the reign of the aristocracy, men were expected to be gentlemen to their women, to be their financial supporters and protectors.
When industrialization replaced the plantation lifestyle, a new attitude was formed. Men became cold, brutish, and domineering over every aspect of their lives, including their women. Women became objectified as property rather than respected as equals. While society praised men for owning a lot of “property, women, like Balance, were hounded for promiscuity and damned as harlots. As Lana complains, “Stanley, on the other hand, is applauded for his sexuality, for his sadistic exploitation of Stella, for his love of the ‘colored lights’. Men were permitted their adultery because of their usefulness, while women, who were viewed only as burdens, were denied their freedom. Allan and Balance needed each other to conform to society’s expectations. Allen used Balance to disguise his homosexuality, and Balance used him for financial support and protection. After Balance discovered Élan’s affair with another man and confronted him, she unconsciously sacrificed both her and is position in society. By embarrassing Allan, she ruined his reputation and his chances for success. His suicide left her without support or an outlet for intimacy.
Caraculs uses this fact to explain Blanches acceptance of Match’s courting, “she struggles at the end in his memory to achieve intimacy with Mitch which alone can restore her to grace through linking of sex with compassion. ” She recognized that, though she did not love Mitch as she loved Allan, the only way to be restored in the eyes of society was to conform: to get married. However, her inability to win over Mitch after her lies are revealed mode her chances and foreshadowed that she would never be able to rejoin the society that rejected her. Society’s expectations prevented both women and men from shaping their own destiny.
By forcing the cult of domesticity, both Stella and Balance, the women who conformed and the women who failed to conform, suffered at the hands of men. Conformers often found themselves in unhappy or even abusive relationships and nonconformists were left to their own devises. Likewise, the men, like Allan, who could not abandon their gentle southern upbringing or hide their preference of gender, were rejected and replaced by heir more manly counterparts. Society condemned, ostracizes, and served to flaw what it did not accept. Part of what makes Blanches tragedy a tragedy is how her society treated her when she was found to be undesirable.
Instead of being provided with proper help and treatment, she is hauled off to the madhouse in an embarrassing and demeaning manner. She is also denied an investigation of her declaration of rape by Stanley, as no one believed she was in her right mind. It is this mistreatment that resulted not only in Blanches fate, but also Élan’s and Stellar: mental institutionalizing, suicide, ND domestic abuse. Women were considered undesirables due to their lack of skills. However, they were never trained to be anything other than good mothers and wives in their cult of domesticity.
When faced with the brutality of male dominance, women were often mistreated through physical and emotional abuse. However, because they were objectified as the property Of men, society often condoned this ruthless behavior and allowed the abuse behind closed doors. Even the women themselves thought of it as the price paid to keep the peace. Lana shows this in Stella by stating, ‘Stella knows that, t a deeply unconscious level, she must keep Stanley happy to preserve the economic and emotional security she has achieved as his woman. ” Homosexuals had an equal, if not lower, position with women in society.
While they were still men, they were seen as having a closer relation to that of women. Lana shows this relation by her description of the author Williams, “Williwaw’s homosexuality in a heavily masculine society rendered him naturally sympathetic toward the plight of the women… With whom he identified with. ” When Balance revealed Allan as a homosexual, she condemned him as less than a man by society standards. As a result, suicide became a better option than living in shame. Although he is a character with greater morality than Stanley, Élan’s inability to conform to society wishes made him a reject nonetheless.
Despite her protective retreat into her memories of the past, Balance still had recollection of Stanley act of violence against her. However, because of her lack of mental stability, her claim is brushed off by the doctors, her neighbors, and even Stella. Her society denied her human rights and savagely stripped her Of her dignity in her last scene. In her madness, she believed she was making her escape with a gentlemanly lealer, but instead was greeted by two doctors intending to take her away to an asylum.
After fighting them at first, she allows herself to be led away by her kindly doctor, after informing him that “she has always depended on the kindness of strangers”. These strangers, who abused her mental fragility and took advantage of her, are the same men that society praised for their masculine dominance. To conclude, Lana sums up Balance Dubbing’s tragedy: “in the struggle with the dark forces of her society, Balance, with her typically female characteristics, is ultimately lost and savagely exploited.