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.
10 thoughts on “Blanche Dubois & Dorian Gray – A Love Affair Carved From Illusion”
Wow- your ability to take these two characters from completely different worlds and make them seem as if they’re long lost lovers is amazing! From the quotes you chose to the way you described the two in the beginning- I could instantly already see the comparisons. Although I haven’t read “A Streetcar Named Desire” yet, one of my “ah-ha’s” was when you said, ” 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. ” It was so insightful since it defines their differences as well as their similarities for they both cloak their deeds in the illusion of purity.
I would have loved if you went into a bit more detail about the consequences the characters had to go through for living in their illusions rather than facing their realities. Not to mention, I would be really curious to see this idea put into a critical essay format with a prompt concerning illusions v.s. reality. And, just for fun….how cool would a Dorian and Blanche fanfic be where they bumped into each other at a party or something ? Free choice blog idea? No? Okay, haha. I also think it would be really cool if you drew comparisons/contrasts between Dorian’s society and Blanche’s society. Their personal similarities/differences were articulated perfectly; though, I think if you did weave in how their situations affected their society, and vice versa, it would add a lot more matter into your statements. Plus, who doesn’t want to read about the Victorian England v.s. 1940’s New Orleans?
Once again, thank you for blessing our AP brains with your insights comparing these two literary masterpieces!
Thank you so much for reading this post and for your lovely comment. I honestly cannot wait for you to read Streetcar, because judging by your immaculate taste in literature and the themes you often write about, I know you’ll adore, if not appreciate it. I found it so funny that I compared Streetcar with Dorian Gray and you did the same with Frankenstein.
The insight into ideas for expansion for this post that you provided are so intriguing. Now, I really want to write more about comparing the setting because I think that would be so much fun to both research and write. Also, the quotes you could pull from both novels to add to the comparison would take the piece to another level, and I had never even thought of adding in anything about social propriety. So thank you.
(Oh, and maybe I will throw up a creative piece about the two meeting!! Either in prose or in poetry.)
This blog is incredible – I have not read “A Streetcar Named Desire,” yet, as Liza previously mentioned, but the parallels between Blanche and Dorian are so succinct that I feel as if I have insight into both novels without even fully knowing about one. The way in which you write always leaves me astounded – there is a poetic quality strewn with logic in all of your pieces, and it just leaves me wanting to read more.
In terms of improvement, there isn’t anything major that I feel I could offer. However, I would love to have read more about your opinions of the two characters if your fantasy did become a reality, or, as an addition to this blog, a comparison of the two authors, and their biographical experiences in relation to creating both Blanche and Dorian.
Thank you for posting this. It is always a pleasure reading your blogs.
Thank you for your comment! I’m so glad you liked the piece. Wow. I’m getting so many good ideas in the comments for additions to the piece, and now I want to write a whole new post about Wilde and Williams – comparing and contrasting their lives, their novels, and their great loves. I find that often, an author’s characters are a reflection of either themselves or the people they wish they could be.
I LOVE THIS
THANK YOU <3
(Of course this gets deleted and I need to retype it. Sorry if this isn’t nearly as elegant as it used to be.)
You’ll have to forgive me for saying this, but as I read your post and experienced your excitement, my mind instantly went to one thing: Fan fiction. A crude word that can describe something beautiful just as easily as it can hint at something ugly. You have presented these two characters to us in such a way that, regardless if they have read the books or not and regardless if they know these characters and the world around them, anybody can relate and become just as fascinated about this topic as you are. This is why I want to challenge you to take control of your thoughts and actually write something about these two. You have already presented us with two different possibilities that these two could have, but I want to see where your thoughts and feelings would take a piece about them. I would love to read it.
And that is also my only feedback for your improvement. I want to know more about what you think would happen, more about where you see the characters of Blanche and Dorian going if they were to meet. Pardon the irony of me (of all people) asking you to write about this, but I am honestly fascinated as to where you think these two characters would end up.
That, and I seriously can not get enough of your writing. Thank you so much for writing this!
Thank you so much for reading this post! And LOL, that seems to be the major response I’m getting from this piece – Fan Fiction. I think it would be so much fun to write and I might throw it up on the blog soon for a free choice. I’ll definitely take inspiration from your famous fan fiction from last year.
Very well done work here. I honestly thought that the way you organized your ideas and you supported your findings with evidence was superb. It allowed me, who had never read A Streetcar Named Desire, to appreciate and understand the away that the preeminence of narcissism and corruption in human nature persists, regardless of the time period. I have a new found appreciation for your very unorthodox layout of your essays, and how much easier it makes understanding your work. I loved this piece and I love how you chose your evidence.
I really got to appreciate your writing style as well. It is objective and carries a strong cadence, while being rich with Alysha such that the piece is presented as both personal and professional.
As far as improvement goes, the only thing I have to offer, although it may be a side effect of your unorthodox structuring, is to spread out your quotes throughout your different arguments. Quote, then explain. You did this excellently for the most part, but that’s the one thing I could offer to you for improvement.
All in all, amazing work Alysha. I look forward to learning more from you (and about you) in the future and I can’t wait to read more of your future pieces.
Thank you so much for your comment!! I really appreciate everything you said and your compliments. I’ll definitely work on the structure and formal analysis for the next post and for future improvement.