Pegah Qanbari Professor in the Department of English Language

Pegah Qanbari, professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Tehran, discusses Blanche’s hidden fear of death sheltered within her unconscious mind and how the use of self-defense mechanisms to attempt to alter her reality inevitably leads to her downfall within Tennessee William’s, A Streetcar Named Desire. It can be determined that the thesis of Qanbari’s literary criticism, “Death Terror, an Incisive Factor in Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire: An Existential Psychotherapy,” is that this paper “aims to prove the cause of Blanche’s predicament and her eventual downfall are her untreated death terror,” through the use of self-defenses such as believing in her “specialness” and an “ultimate rescuer.


Qanbari argues that Blanche’s fear of death is not clearly stated within the play, but it is discovered through the replacement of this fear with multiple other fears, such as the fear of being recognized as an old woman or the fear of being abandoned by her current lover and remaining lonely or the fear of not being accepted by others.

In agreement with the author’s analysis, it is evident that the emphasis of Blanche’s false perception, her careless attitude toward morality, and her constant practice of denial, are defenses that are rendered ineffective as Blanche is eventually lead to her inevitable demise.

One of the arguments presented within Qanbari’s article states Blanche’s utilization of her defense mechanism. One that plants a seed within her mind causing her to believe that she is a figure deserving of the utmost importance.

Get quality help now
Sweet V

Proficient in: Alcoholism

4.9 (984)

“ Ok, let me say I’m extremely satisfy with the result while it was a last minute thing. I really enjoy the effort put in. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

The author provides a clear depiction of Blanche’s mental fantasy through the implementation of information gathered from outside sources. For example, the article defines specialness as a trait when “Individuals have deep, powerful beliefs in personal inviolability, invulnerability, and immortality” (Qanbari, 41). Being born into an aristocratic family, Blanche considers her status to be permanent and herself to be invulnerable and privileged at all times.

That is why after she loses her family’s plantation, Belle Reve, as a result of the increase in industrialization, she expresses the inability to accept this loss; so the constant fluctuation between past and present was the aftermath of this loss and is the state in which Blanche’s mind is in. Blanche believes that upholding an outward appearance that is of the upper-class will allow her to gain the attention of others much more easily, so that she may fill the sense of loneliness she experiences within her life while simultaneously covering up her previous transgressions as an escape from the thought of death; from the death of her family members at Belle Reve, to the death of her husband Allan.

Her fault lies within the length of time she maintains this persona because she upholds her false status all the way to the end of the play. As she is being taken away to the mental asylum, she processes the situation as an escort to her luxurious vacation with a wealthy man, and not once within the play does she accept the fact that everything she performs is a lie. When a person believes in their specialness and it is dismantled by whatever means are available, the individual finds themselves greatly unprotected and the severity of it can turn to a point where a sane mind transforms into an insane one.

Additionally, one of the other self-defense mechanisms Blanche uses is her constant lust for a male, and the countless affairs she has been in. Following the death of Allan, Blanche’s husband, she becomes highly susceptible to the wanting of a male figure in order to replace the love once provided by Allan. She gains a strong desire for men to desire her and achieves this by seducing any male she comes across.

Blanche goes to many lengths to feel the sensation of being wanted by a man, and even crosses the age barrier when she has an affair with one of her students as a teacher, resulting in the loss of her job, and when she kisses a teenaged mail man when he makes a delivery. The presence of a male figure assured Blanche that she would be shielded by the reoccurring aura of death that accompanied her no matter her location. Blanche made use of everything in her power to attempt to find a guy who would accept her forever thereby decreasing the fear of death and dying lonely.

Qanbari states that, “Blanche’s egregious error was her tendency to make everything everlasting which is in sharp contrast to the transitory nature of this world; and when this tendency remained unaccomplished, this causes her alienation and discontent” (Qanbari, 42). She constantly tries to cling onto anything or anyone that can serve as a means for her protection from death, so that she can be able to stabilize her life. Blanche cannot let go of the perfect past she once had and constantly strives to achieve the same lifestyle or repair it in a way, but her constant deviation from the truth and the movement forward from her past inevitably causes her to remain stuck in her fantasy and renders her unable to lead a normal life.

Lastly, within the play Blanche cannot accept a single portion of her improper actions, and uses denial as one of her many tactics of defense, shielding her from a fear of death. She performs certain actions to escape her past and maintain a formal outward appearance, with a few of them originating from wrong intent, but she becomes unaccountable for some of these items because she constantly rejects the idea of her mistakes and completely erases them from her mind to continue creating a mental simulation or fantasy within her brain where she is completely perfect and ideal to the world.

Qanbari observes the habits of Blanche within the play and articulates the connection it has to the broken relationships she faces within the plot. The author states, “She constantly tries to pretend to be young and fresh by bathing and wearing make-up and gaudy clothes” (Qanbari, 41). She also conceals her age by dimming the lights within any room she is situated in. With these actions Blanche denies her real age and strives to achieve her imagined youthful body and pushes to attain it within reality, because age is deemed as a characteristic which is flawed and holds many imperfections as it increases. Denial is also evident when Blanche constantly consumes alcohol within the Kowalski household but insists that she is a clean female who is always sober and does not drink much.

She attempts to douse her fear of the past by utilizing items that alter an individual’s mental state, explaining why she is truly an alcoholic as a result of her constant search for refuge from the thought of death. Blanche’s persistent fantasy and thought of perfection allows for her to be perceived as a pure female figure, but she slowly and eventually becomes viewed as a hypocrite when her true age and her alcohol addictions is revealed to the characters. Her constant lying and manipulation expanded into a large burden where the weight became too much to bare and inevitably came crashing down on her mental dream state.

In conclusion, overall through Blanche’s constant use of self-defense mechanisms developed from her unconscious mind, such as her false importance, denial, and immorality, the author of the article, “Death Terror, an Incisive Factor in Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire: An Existential Psychotherapy,” successfully analyses William’s play and displays the harsh yet foreseeable downfall of Blanche and her inability to face reality.

Cite this page

Pegah Qanbari Professor in the Department of English Language. (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved from

Pegah Qanbari Professor in the Department of English Language
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7