Slipping in the Quicksand: Guilt, Psychology, and the Fall of Blanche Dubois

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The Greek tragedian Aeschylus once wrote that “a god implants in mortal guilt whenever he wants utterly to confound a house,” and as the creator of A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams is no exception. The guilt of Blanche DuBois makes the emotional, tragic, and often extreme circumstances of the play possible. Williams creates Blanche’s vulnerabilities, including her dependence on others and her inability to face reality, so that her guilt over Allan’s death becomes the primary cause of her promiscuity, neurasthenic behavior and ultimate downfall. Blanche’s guilt, the principal force driving her downfall, stems from her involvement in the circumstances surrounding her husband Allan’s suicide. After finding her husband with…show more content…
Blanche’s dependent nature makes her particularly susceptible to the effects of guilt, a vulnerability which Williams creates in order to allow her emotions to become so extreme that they lead to insanity. At the play’s conclusion, she tells the doctor that she has “always depended on the kindness of strangers,” (235) and although insanity has by this point deprived Blanche of her grip on reality, her statement rings true. Indeed, from Blanche’s first moments on the stage, the audience witnesses her dependence on others in both her imposition on the Kowalski household and her constant need for Stella’s attention and assistance. Psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden reports in The Psychology of Self-Esteem that moral independence is an essential element of self-forgiveness; a lack of psychological autonomy contributes to feelings of worthlessness and unquenchable guilt (Branden 165). Consequently, Blanche’s total dependence on others renders her incapable of forgiving herself for the role she played in Allan’s suicide. Instead of accepting her error and moving on, Blanche remains trapped in her emotional anguish, which grows in intensity and destroys her mental health. Williams creates in Blanche this psychological vulnerability because it allows him to imbue her with guilt that is severe enough to lead to madness. Blanche’s inability to face reality serves as another contributing factor to her insanity, encouraging her to invent additional fantasies which

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