Study Guide

A Streetcar Named Desire Tone

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What we’re getting at here in our discussion of "Tone" is Williams’s attitude toward his protagonist, Blanche DuBois. We admit that Blanche comes off as quite silly for a good chunk of the text (spraying Stanley with her perfume, flirting with the men at the poker table), but it’s actually more tear-jerking than laughable. She's unstable from early on, and totally terrified:

… I want to be near you, got to be with somebody, I can’t be alone! Because—as you must have noticed—I’m – not very well… [Her voice drops and her look is frightened.] (1.141)

We feel bad for her—and probably embarrassed on her behalf. The rape in Scene Ten and the broken-down Blanche in Scene Eleven is what really drives the point home, and what convinces us that the play takes a sympathetic approach—not a ridiculing one—to this fading Southern belle:

You know what I shall die of? I shall die of eating an unwashed grape one day out on the ocean. I will die – with my hand in the hand of some nice-looking ship’s doctor, a very young one with a small blond mustache and a big silver watch. […] And I’ll be buried at sea sewn up in a clean white sack and dropped overboard – at noon – in the blaze of summer – and into an ocean as blue as my first lover’s eyes!

If you don't read this mini-monologue and think "Poor Blanche," then you should have your heart checked. It might be made out of ice.

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