Blanche is a woman from the Old South, harbouring the Antebellum Southern values and in denial of the dominance and inevitability of the influx of the modern values. Due to her denial, she creates the illusion that she’s a Southern Belle, a stock character that is an epitome of charm, grace, purity and obedience – a girl of the Old South. Blanche, however, knows she is no longer a Southern Belle and the audience understand this immediately when she “pours half a tumbler of whisky and tosses it down” but when asked about it she lies saying “I rarely touch it.” Alcohol creates a lack of self-control, representative of Blanche’s inability to control her actions that are opposite to the values of the old south, thus forcing her to create this illusion for herself and other people. She also uses illusions to manipulate Mitch into believing she is a refined and pure woman.
Blanche’s illusions are somewhat justified – as a woman she has no financial independence and no means of surviving on her own so her quest for a person to protect and care for her, despite the means, makes sense.Blanche has had a tragic past. The death of her relatives, the suicide of her husband and the collapse of the old south makes her metaphorical exclamation of witnessing the “long parade to the graveyard,” which would’ve seemed slightly melodramatic when first said, understandable. Perhaps Blanche’s tragic past is the reason behind her illusions – she understands the harsh reality of the world, having experienced it herself, and therefore she chooses to live in a world with “magic” where she can fulfil her fairy-tale-like life in her head. Blanche, however, soon starts believing her own illusions as they transform from a survival mechanism to the cause of her insanity. Her monosyllabic “Oh” in response to Stanley breaking down her illusions highlight her vulnerability without them – they were more than a means of manipulation; illusions were her way surviving.
After the assault, Blanche falls into insanity completely as we hear the “Varsouviana filter into weird distortion.” The only aspect clear in Blanche’s mind was the death of her husband and even that is now unrecognisable. In fact, the “jungle cries” from Scene 10 are mixed in with the Varsouviana suggesting that it was the assault that plunged Blanche into madness.Blanche, arguably, is a tragic hero and her hamartia is desire. Through the symbolism of the streetcars named “Cemeteries” and “Desire” it conveys the idea that it is Blanche’s desire that has brought her to the Kowalski apartment where she is “not wanted and ashamed to be.” The Kowalski apartment is where Blanche meets her tragic downfall, suggesting that it was due to her desire that she went there.