Note: My apologies for the lateness of this blog post, when I submitted it I thought I had it had been lost. I spent the past day looking for it, so here it is.
Very literally the bathroom can be taken for a chamber which purity (water) flows through the taps and faucets. We are often shown by Williams that this very chamber of purity is most occupied by a rather odd presence of Blanche Dubois. When she bathes it is an attempt at cleansing herself, her soul, of her past, her very dirty, unclean, and impure past. The whole purpose of the bathing scenes is to present the audience of Blanche’s attempts to essentially reconcile her past conflicts with the predicament of reality and her present circumstances. The very action of bathing in reality is to clean the body of whatever dirt accumulated over the course of the day. However the dirt accumulated by Blanche Dubois is not physical, it is an internal dirt where such a physical thing like water cannot possible cleanse. The very illusion she presents herself with is one of redemption, such that can be obtained by soaking herself in this chamber of purity and drowning her past in it ans emerging a “brand new human being”. The false reality implanted by her paranoia is what has preserved her sanity for so long ans it was the same notion that that had kept her illusory charm intact. As well, in a bath it is when the individual steps into the bathwater that it no longer become fresh and clean, instead like the dirty body it becomes unclean and impure soaked through and through by the same dirt we are trying to wash off. With the presentation of this false reality and bling optimism, Blanche has completely rendered herself oblivious to the fact that she in fact is not sitting in a tub of purity, but rather she is soaking herself willingly in her own filth. In the filth of her past which she attempts to wash off.
With these words come very impure and sinful connotation. Blanche, despite her hygienic habits is undoubtedly very unclean in a moral sense. She drinks alcohol like many of us drink water, she drink impurity itself from a bottle. The alcohol she consumed is not something that is easily washed away by the endless flow of water through the faucets and pipes of the Kowalski residence. When Blanche bathes, the water washes off, the purity washes off. When she drinks, her body accepts the alcohol, her soul is impregnated with alcohol; it does not wash off, but rather it flows through her veins and through her entire body, having its effect. By drinking all this alcohol Blanche in inadvertently bathing her soul in alcohol, but the moment the illusion is at stake there is a great fear expressed. There is a certain level of implicit acceptance created by Williams with his choice of characterization for Blanche. By having her regularly drink regularly and the genuine pleasure there is an internal acceptance, where Blanche accepts her impure and aged physique and by consuming more impurity for pleasure. Then having her express alarm when her “pretty white dress” is stained represents Blanche’s fear for the loss of her fifty percent illusory charm; that feigned youthful charm to which Mitch falls for. Seen throughout the play Blanche’s panic is triggered only when her illusion is threatened, it is this illusion that provides her with the incentive to continue on flirting and desire for intimacies. The soul bathes in impurity where the illusion is Virgo herself.
Tennessee Williams creates this internal conflict of illusion versus reality that eventually tears Blanche apart: the fear of loosing a comforting lie, which in its place will come the truth reality. Blanche’s entire sanity is built around these comforting lies which she has indoctrinated herself to believe that she is still in possession of teenage energy, beauty, and desirability.