In A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche’s character is a complex one. She has very many intriguing and unusual traits that interest the readers and further influences most of the action in the plot. Through her character, she causes a lot of dramatic moments and tension throughout the play. The author presents Blanche’s character in a very interesting manner. This is more in particular when the reader makes Blanche’s initial impression in the first scene. The author describes Blanche’s character as a delicate beauty that must avoid a strong light (Williams, Scene 1). Similarly, Catherine in the Proof shows these character traits. The reader cannot really define Catherine on seeing her in the play for the first time. This presents issues that could create mixed reactions to different readers. Catherine is a strong youth who has given up her college to take care of her ailing father. Unfortunately, the father dies out of the mental illness, a situation that left her in a kind of Limbo. She is apparently not ready to deal with the outside world. However, she has some sense of humor and her novel character traits are so close between heartbreaking instances and making fun.
Like Blanche, Catherine has a particular social awkwardness and appears to be short, sarcastic and gruff even though she is not mean spirited (Auburn, pp. 20-96). The reader can sense her discomfort while she deals with other drives that provoke her to say things she would not have said. In A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams depicts Blanche as a fragile creature that is accustomed to darkness although attracted to light which could be perceived as a her downfall. Her character remains obscure and is filled with a lot complexity. At some point, she is seen looking out for a better life with Stella in New Orleans. However, her ambitions are cut short as she walks into a worse situation contrary to her expectations. She gets to a point of heart ache and tension. This fills the reader with mixed feelings about her.
Blanche lacks strong sense of character. She is a very delicate personality. She is presented as a person with a very fragile personality that can fall apart in a bright light. At some point she says, “And turn that over-light off! Turn that off! I won’t be looked at in that merciless glare!” Blanche lacks resilience and she is apparently insecure in a number of occasions. Williams presents her as unstable and prone to disintegration. She seems to get damaged so easily. Catherine seems to behave in a similar manner. She looks unprepared for what will happen in the outside world. In some way, she is also not resilient. She has not interacted with the outside world for quite some time. Catherine’s life has not been fully devoted to the father even though she gives up everything to take good care of him (Auburn, pp. 20-96). She keeps herself active mentally all through the years while studying mathematics during her leisure.
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Mathematics has drawn her nearer to the father. Moreover, Catherine shows some fear of the people surrounding her. She fears that she could succumb to the same mental illness that has attacked his father. Catherine only takes pleasure in her brilliance in mathematics. Just like Blanche, she exhibits some delicate nature in herself. As Catherine interacts with Hal, she is too emotional to Hal. She cannot withstand her emotions and she succumbs very easily. This shows her frail nature. She is very vulnerable to such things which evoke her emotions. She is not resilient enough to deal with her issue without attacking others.
All the same, everybody likes Catherine despite the fact that she lacks social grace. She is a peculiar and endearing person. This is also true of Blanche who despite her frailty causes a lot of humor and promotes the development of the plot. All the same, Blanche could be different from Catherine in the sense that Blanche is almost void of any normal emotions. In French, Blanche is a word that connotes, “white”. This does not only match with her frail and delicate nature but also with other symbolic connotations. In most cases, white is not regarded as a color but in essence, it is the absence of color. Williams portrays Blanche as a person without emotions and at the same time blank. This is more in particular when she is compared to other characters in the story like Stella which actually means, ‘star.’
Blanche is self-obsessed. There is an instance where she engages into a very big monologue when she meets Stella. Her personality shows a person that is obsessed with his or her own self. For instance, she absolutely talks concerning herself. One of the most conspicuous examples is where she says, “You haven’t said a word to me.” Moreover, she makes reference to herself nine times in a single speech. This presents her as egotistical and very much self-centered. However, this cannot be said of Catherine. If Catherine was self-centered, she would care less about her father. She would have chosen to continue with her studies and devote her time fully doing mathematics and show little concern about his ailing father. Therefore, Catherine is a different kettle of fish in this aspect when compared to Blanche.
Unlike Catherine, Blanche is so much obsessed with herself. This does not seem to worry her. When she meets Stella, she is so much centered on herself telling Stella that she has not said anything concerning her appearance. She constantly refers the conversation to herself. She says, “You haven’t asked me how I happen to get away from the school before the spring term ended.” Stella feels like Blanche should have just gotten right away and began the whole story. Considering that Stella is her sister, it would be expected for Blanche to say right away without being prompted. She is so much egotistic that she thinks people must be concerned about her and should seek to know what is happening around her life.
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This cannot be said of Catherine. Despite opening emotionally to Hal and among other occurrences in the play, she is not such a self-centered person like Blanche. Her concern for her father stretches out even to the other characters. There is no doubt that Catherine reaches out to other people in every possible way. She does not draw everything to herself. She believes that every other person too has their own story to tell or business to do. That is why she does not bother anyone but chooses to study mathematics without disturbing anyone. She has a likable character (Auburn, pp. 20-96). This shows the contrasting nature of her character to that of Blanche as is evident in A Streetcar Named Desire.
These two characters however have some similarity. Blanche is somewhat unstable mentally in the first scene. She has an unbalanced state in her mind. She effectively repeats some particular words, to create a frenzied and hysteric impression. In her maiden dialogue with Stella, she constructs very short and half formed sentences and says something like “Stella, oh, Stella, Stella! Stella for Star!” She is also seen saying the word ‘no’ in a repeated fashion. This creates a hysterical, frantic atmosphere and undoubtedly implies that Blanche is unstable and highly-strung. Other striking examples are the instances when she says “Don’t let me go… Don’t let me go!” and “I saw! Saw! Saw!” (Williams).
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In a similar manner, Catherine fears that she may inherit her father’s illness. This is evident in the way she behaves towards the people around her especially Hal and Claire. The evidence of her unstable condition of the mind is an instance where Claire talks of her aggressive tendencies towards the officers of police who visited their house after she reported a case of burglary taking place. This was surprisingly her reaction to the attempt by Hal to smuggle out one of the notebooks belonging to her father. This is a very extreme reaction which can well tell that she is mentally disturbed. Just like Catherine, it is very clear that Blanche cannot be left alone. Blanche says that she cannot be alone. She even confesses this with her mouth that she is not very well. Both these characters share this similarity of people who are mentally disturbed and depressed in some way.
In another way, Blanche is presented by Williams as a self-pitying and a self-righteous person. When she talks about the way Belle Reve was lost, she blames Stella on several occasions to lift the blame from her side. She tells Stella, “You left! I stayed and struggled! You came to New Orleans and looked out for yourself! I stayed at Belle Reve and tried to hold it together! … all the burden descended on my shoulders.” This is how Blanche comes out as a character who quickly justifies herself from all manner of blame of things that have gone the wrong way. She presents herself as some kind of a saint. Williams is showing Blanche to be very unwilling and sanctimonious to take any blame or responsibility. However, the case could be different to Catherine. She tackles her issues bravely. She does not seem to blame anyone for all her misfortunes. She leaves school and apparently is presented as a person that has lost life’s direction. She however chooses to live with that and she does not seem to be at logger heads with any one anyone about everything that transpires in her life and environs.
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Again, Blanche is presented by Williams as a character that is always set in the paths of the rich. There is a predisposition in Blanche towards ‘Old South’ and high ignorance and prejudice towards the North together with its chaotic and contemporary lifestyle. She does not like the shabby neighborhood where Stella lives. The manner in which she refers to Stanley as ‘Polack’ suggests that she is inclined to rich people’s ways. However, we do not see this anywhere in Catherine. This completely delineates her from Blanche. Catherine is not out to prove anything of herself. Even when Hal and Claire do not believe that she actually wrote the play, Proof, she only gets disappointed and does not bother herself so much. She feels that Hal has betrayed her trust in him but does nothing to belittle or look down upon any person (Auburn, pp. 20-96). Thus, Blanche and Catherine have almost similar character traits but they can be considered as having very different personalities altogether.
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