There are thousands of papers, stretching back over hundreds of years, affecting Belle Reve as, piece by piece, our improvident grandfathers and father and uncles and brothers exchanged the land for their epic fornications—to put it plainly! . . . The four-letter word deprived us of our plantation, till finally all that was left—and Stella can verify that!—was the house itself and about twenty acres of ground, including a graveyard, to which now all but Stella and I have retreated.
Blanche gives this speech to Stanley in Scene Two after he accuses her of having swindled Stella out of her inheritance. While showing Stanley paperwork proving that she lost Belle Reve due to foreclosure on its mortgage, Blanche attributes her family’s decline in fortune to the debauchery of its male members over the generations. Like Blanche, the DuBois ancestors put airs of gentility and refinement while secretly pursuing libidinous pleasure.
Blanche’s explanation situates her as the last in a long line of ancestors who cannot express their sexual desire in a healthy fashion. Unfortunately, she is forced to deal with the bankruptcy that is the result of her ancestors’ profligate ways. By running away to New Orleans and marrying Stanley, Stella removed herself from the elite social stratum to which her family belonged, thereby abandoning all its pretensions, codes of behavior, sexual mores, and problems. Blanche resents Stella’s departure and subsequent happiness. In Blanche’s eyes, Stella irresponsibly left Blanche alone to deal with their family in its time of distress.