l have always depended on the kindness of strangers. ‘ Blanches last words of the play are a direct and most effective appeal for the audience’s sympathy and pity. To what extent do you feel that the character of Balance Dubious can be viewed as a tragic victim.
Word count = 1,500 By Georgia Tucker Balance Dubious, The leading role in Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire is often viewed as a tragic victim – This is a woman who doesn’t want realism, She wants magic, but even despite the way she lives her life, she will always be at the mercy of a very realistic and brutal world, which loud be one of many reasons she can be viewed as a victim.
She has endured a life of torment from a young age, beginning first when her ‘young husband’ committed suicide, through the death Of her family and the loss Of her job due to her promiscuity, the loss of her family home and finally her time spent with her sister and brother-in-law. Her brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, is the final piece in the jigsaw showing the picture of her downfall, due to their conflicts during her time in the Kowalski household. Blanches downfall began when her young husband Allan committed suicide.
Blanches character comes across as remorseful over her husband’s death, as she feels she pushed him to his early death. Her dark moods are reflected through her need to be sat in a dimly lit room, whilst at the same time, she wishes to be the centre of attention. This inspires the audience to pity her and feel involved with her struggles, which in turn, fulfils Blanches need for attention. From that moment on, the ‘light’ in her life had been no brighter than a candle light or dim lantern. In my opinion, Williams has created Blanch to be ‘like a moth to a flame’, metaphorically.
She is compared to the moth, as the moth is naturally drawn to go towards the light, much like Balance is now naturally drawn to her metaphorical light of a fantasy world, and to feel wanted. Her self-destructive personality creates an attraction so great over takes the mind and nothing else matters, except reaching the goal, like a moth to a flame, until her downfall is bought about. Her job was compromised due to her relationship with a young man, a student at the school in which she taught, and he wasn’t even the first young man she’d been sexually involved with.
Also, all members of her family except she and her sister had passed on, (some of the deaths Balance actually witnessed for herself) leaving Belle Reeve (the home in which she grew up) to Balance, which was then lost, as well as the fortune she’d inherited with it. She tells her sister Stella: “l stayed at Belle Reeve and tried to hold it together! I’m not meaning this in any reproachful way, but all the burden descended on my shoulders. ” This tells us that she almost tried to put the blame on her sister, rather than keeping the stress on her, as she already had so many troubles.
On top Of his, Balance surrounds herself in clothes and jewelry, seemingly expensive, but in actual fact, as Stella explains to Stanley, her outraged husband, that the ‘diamond crown’ is actually just a costume rhinestone tiara she wore to a ball when she was younger, but Stanley is adamant that the loss of Belle Reeve bought her the clothes and jewelry. Once again this shows Blanches idealism for a fantasy world of materialistic values and so on.
Balance poorly covers her alcoholism, too, such as within the very first scene, just after Stella and Balance reunite, Balance shakily reaches for an alcohol bottle, but it almost slips from her grasp. She tells her worried sister in an unconvincing way:”… Don’t get worried, your sister hasn’t turned into a drunkard, she’s just all shaken up and hot and tired and dirty! ” And later to Stanley, after he offers her a shot: “No, I – Rarely touch it” To which Stanley remarks that although she says she doesn’t drink much, drink often affects them more.
This shows that despite her attempt of social aristocracy, Balance is lacking in confidence, despite her bid to hide it, and Stanley very quickly became wise to his sister in law. Balance is sometimes also referred to as a tragic hero (a literary character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on a tragedy ), for example she has many flaws, such as her pretense Of innocence, despite her impurities “Intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with”.
She also requires permanent attention and could be seen as an unconventional tragic victim (for example, she is the last one to say something at the end of most scenes) and tends to take the spotlight from other characters. Aristotle said a raging hero’s ‘downfall is brought about by a tragic weakness or error in judgment’. It is possible to see that Balance is looked down upon in society A ‘fallen woman’, One example of this was when she was told to leave her job due to a relationship with a student.
By appealing to younger men, Balance temporarily is relieved of her bleak past, and enjoys feeling wanted, especially by men of a younger age. “That’s where I brought my victims. Yes, I had many intimacies with strangers. After the death of Allan – intimacies with strangers was all seemed able to fill my empty heart with. I think it was panic, just panic, that drove me from one to another, hunting for some protection. Blanches downfall is brought about by her previous promiscuity and her previous flirting with Stanley. Stanley rapes her as a result, assuming that as SSH?d previously had intimacies with many other men, one more would not matter to her, but her previous intimacies had been with strangers and Balance had given herself willingly. Stanley ruthless, savage behavior, and Stall’s disbelief when informed by her sister what Stanley has done is what causes her cracked personality to completely break.
When Stanley admits Balance to a mental institute after her final breakdown, Balance begins to struggle, resisting that this will be her final journey, but she soon re-renters her fantasy world, and goes with the doctor sent to retrieve her – maybe this is because he is yet another stranger – and as she leaves she says ‘l have always depended on the kindness of strangers’ to the doctor whilst holding his arm, due to the fact that she has been so let down by the others in her life. Aristotle said that ‘A man cannot [truly] become a [tragic] hero until he can see the root of his own downfall”.
This, Balance does not add up to. A tragic hero usually has the knowledge of something going wrong after their downfall, but Balance in fact, is less aware of herself as she was before. This disproves that she is a tragic hero and in fact, is actually a tragic victim. Her constant battles and conflicts with Stanley are what finally pushes her over the edge and in to a state of mental meltdown. Throughout the play, it is visible to the audience that she and Stanley are always conflicting, and toward the end, the audience can see that this is taking its toll on Balance, pushing her closer to the edge.
If a single character in contemporary American stage literature approaches the classical Aristotelian tragic figure, It must surely be Balance Dubious. ” One critic says “Deceptive, dishonest, fraudulent, permanently flawed, unable to face reality, Balance is for all that thoroughly capable of commanding audience compassion for her struggle and the crushing defeat she endures have the magna etude of tragedy. ” The critic continues. “The inevitability of her doom, her refusal to back down in the face Of it, and the essential humanity of the forces that drive her to it are the Very earth of tragedy.
No matter what evils she may have done, nor what villainies practiced, she is a human being trapped by the fates, making a human fight to escape and to survive with some shred of human dignity, in full recognition of her own fatal human weaknesses and the increasing absence of hope” (Miller 11). My personal opinion is that throughout the entire play, Balance Dubious has the audience’s pity and sympathy, although it may be argued that she only has sympathy when Stanley bullies her, or during her final scenes where she is no longer in control of her life.