The Moth and the Butterfly

Blanche DuBois, in Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire, is initially described as a “delicate beauty [who] must avoid a strong light.” There is said to be “something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggests a moth.” (5)

PicMonkey CollageMoth: a nocturnal creature with a stouter body, duller colouring, and proportionately smaller wings than its relative: the butterfly.

From her introduction, one can already pick up on the disconnect Blanche has with her surroundings. She feels out of place: bland, compared to the vitality and liveliness of the New South. She instantly is in shock and awkward with her gaudy trunk-full of clothes and her baggage of the “beautiful dream,” which all are parts of a queen-like identity. As well, Blanche often mentions she hasn’t powdered her face yet, an act which helps cover blemishes— blemishes that she wishes to remain unknown. This also connects to the idea of the moth, a creature that makes a failing attempt to be bright and colourful like the butterfly but only barely even achieves the outlines of glamour.

Williams effectively uses the blandness and timidness of the moth to symbolize Blanche, and contrastingly: the luminosity and colourfulness of Stanley as a butterfly. It is interesting to note that both of these characters, as suggested through their insects, are similar as a whole. Butterflies seem to be the ones more liked, found more attractive because they demand the attention through their brilliant appearance. Thus, Stanley is said to be a man who, “since earliest manhood [has revolved around] pleasure with women […] a richly feathered male bird among hens.” He’s efficiently able to win, because he believes and will do anything to win.

Perhaps that is why Stanley is seen shattering many of the fantasies Blanche has tried to create as a one-sided window between the world and her reality. He is a vulgar, coarse man that is not afraid to be loud, not afraid to show off. It bothers him to see someone share the same competitiveness as him, and Stanley quickly hunts for a way to exile the one other competition from his life altogether. This causes Blanche to, accurately, perceive him as a threat to her search for a shut window between the harsh reality and her desired illusions.

One could argue that Williams’ straightforward reasoning for choosing to symbolize Blanche as a simple moth and Stanley as an ornate butterfly, was to exemplify that like in nature, butterflies always come out on top.


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One thought on “The Moth and the Butterfly

  1. Dear Ayisha-

    Your blog was definitely thought-provoking. The comparison of Blanche to Stanley as a moth to a butterfly really struck me, especially because in my own thought process I came to the conclusion that Stella was the butterfly that Blanche yearning to become. Part of the reasoning behind this idea was that Stella has everything Blanche wants, and that Stanley views Stella as being attractive whereas he does not find Blanche’s ‘Hollywood glamour’ to be appealing. I thank you for this difference in opinion, because it made me revaluate my conclusion. I stand by it, however, and I would be curious to hear more about your reasoning so as to better understand your perspective on this subject.
    Another thing that I loved was your structure and your flow. The paragraphs, I felt, had an equal divide and broke off naturally, while the flow of your piece easily brought your audience to the conclusion you presented in the final paragraph.
    Something in which I felt you were slightly lacking was in the tone and depth of your piece (I really struggle with this one too, but this struggle has just made me all the more aware of it in my own writing and in other’s.) You present your ideas clearly and efficiently with evidence, but in a sense it was almost too efficient and came across as being dry and slightly one-sided. I make the same mistake all the time, but I found that there was a tone of informativeness that lingered in the realms of say and mean, while not quite scratching the surface of matter yet. Somethings that I have found help me with this include planning my writing before I write, and asking myself, ‘so what?’
    Thanks for a great read! Once again I have to compliment you on making me think, and in the excellent structure and flow of your piece. I especially liked how you formatted your definition for the moth; that was really well done. All in all, a great piece.

    Infinite Love and Gratitude,

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