Blanche Dubois – a ruined Antebellum with the incapability to separate realism from her fantasy world of candlelight and magic. Dorian Gray – a beautiful, yet self destructive narcissist, caught between the realities of time and the grotesque salvation of his portrait. Both consumed in the mad pursuit of maintaining their youth and beauty, both damned to fail.
After reading both Tennessee William’s modern play A Streetcar Named Desire and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, the parallels between the two protagonists are striking. I can only imagine what would happen if Blanche and Dorian somehow ended up in the same room, at a masquerade ball filled with liquor and longing. The prospect of their love affair has been filling up the caverns of my mind for weeks, stemming from the similarities in both the symbolism and theme of the two pieces, along with the meticulously crafted characterization of Blanche and Dorian.
Blanche, though manipulative and deceitful, is one of the most beloved characters in the literary and theatrical world. Williams’ portrayal of Blanche makes the readers feel a sort of empathy toward her, especially after understanding her motivations through the quote, “I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth. And it that’s sinful, then let me be damned for it!” We almost pity Blanche, for she is so utterly misunderstood. The tragedies she has experienced has led her into retreating into “magic”, and the harsh light of truth is too much for her fragile soul to bear. She has conditioned herself to wholeheartedly believe her “truth”, though tinted by rose-coloured lenses. When the cracks in her facade begin to show, she only retreats further, which is why being exposed to reality destroys her. The diction choices of the words “sinful” and “damned” are also extremely interesting when compared to Wilde’s portrayal of Dorian.
From their first encounter, the blank canvas of Dorian’s impressionable mind and soul was painted by the influence of Lord Henry Wotton. Dorian’s interactions with Lord Henry caused him to become vain, convinced that his beauty was deteriorating with every fleeting moment. Wilde exemplifies Dorian motivations clearly through the quote, “If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture was to grow old! For that – for that – I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!” For Dorian, his misrepresentation of reality is depicted through his portrait, etched with signs of sin after every sinister decision Dorian makes, and worn with age through the slow deterioration of his beauty every day. For Dorian to stay young and beautiful, he would give “everything”, even his soul. Blanche is as desperate, convincing herself and the world that she too would give everything, even if she is “damned for it”.
Both characters attempt to blur the lines between illusion and reality, though they go about this desire in different ways. Blanche is described as wearing all white throughout the play, and is constantly bathing to wash away her sins from her aging body. Dorian, however, submits to sin unconditionally, as no remnants of his decisions are shown on his body. As Blanche conceals her past, Dorian conceals his portrait – each a symbol of the truth in their souls. Furthermore, Dorian becomes obsessed with anything that gives him pleasure – whether that be sex, liquor, or opium, and Blanche earns herself a tarnished reputation as a result of affairs with younger men. Their actions represent the human need to escape reality by means of sin. One could also argue that the flame igniting their need to escape was lit through the lack of love in their lives, and the guilt of completely destroying the objects of their affection. For Blanche, it was Allan, for Dorian, Sybil Vane.
The idea of an interaction between Dorian and Blanche may be so captivating because there are two distinct ways in which their infatuation could play out. Firstly, that Blanche and Dorian retreat further into fantasy together, and their downfall would almost mirror that of Romeo and Juliet. Secondly, that the two are able to face the harsh light of reality together, anchoring each other into a truth which could save them from destruction.
Both consumed in the mad pursuit of maintaining their youth and beauty, both damned to fail; I only wish that Wilde and Williams could have had a drink together over two of their most influential characters. Perhaps then, the love affair between Blanche and Dorian could escape my fantasies and become a reality.