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Essay on Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire

The Destruction of Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire is an intricate web of complex themes and conflicted characters. Set in the pivotal years immediately following World War II, Tennessee Williams infuses Blanche and Stanley with the symbols of opposing class and differing attitudes towards sex and love, then steps back as the power struggle between them ensues. Yet there are no clear cut lines of good vs. evil, no character is neither completely good nor bad, because the main characters, (especially Blanche), are so torn by conflicting and contradictory desires and needs. As such, the play has no clear victor, everyone loses something, and this fact is what gives the play its tragic cast. In a larger sense, Blanche and Stanley, individual characters as well as symbols for opposing classes, historical periods, and ways of life, struggle and find a new balance of power, not because of ideological rights and wrongs, but as a matter of historical inevitability. Interestingly, Williams finalizes the resolution of this struggle on the most base level possible. In Scene Ten, Stanley subdues Blanche, and all that she stands for, in the same way men have been subduing women for centuries. Yet, though shocking, this is not out of keeping with the themes of the play for, in all matters of power, force is its ultimate manifestation. And Blanche is not completely unwilling, she has her own desires that draw her to Stanley, like a moth to the light, a light she avoids, even hates, yet yearns for.

A first reader of Scene Ten of the play might conclude that sex between Stanley and Blanche seems out of place. It might not ring true given the preceding circumstances. There is not much overt sexual tensi…

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…al mechanism, and desire only a function of reproduction. Yet, it is not so. Individual human destiny is much stronger than the force of history if only individuals grapple with who they are and the forces pressuring them, and have the courage to meet the mass wave head on. Perhaps no one in this play does so, but the desire is there and we can learn from their failure.

Works Cited

Bloom, Herald (ed.). Tennessee Williams. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Donahue, Francis. The Dramatic World of Tennessee Williams. New York: Frederic Ungar Publishing Co., 1964.

Hirsch, Foster. A Portrait of the Artist-The Plays of Tennessee Williams. London: Kennikat Press, 1979.

Londre, F.H. Tennessee Williams. New York: Frederic Ungar Publishing Co., 1979.

Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. Stuttgart: Phillip Reclam, 1988.

Immortality Through Verse in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and Spenser’s Sonnet 75

Immortality Through Verse in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and Spenser’s Sonnet 75

Desiring fame, celebrity, and importance, people for centuries have yearned for the ultimately unattainable goal of immortality. Poets, too, have expressed desires in verse that their lovers remain as they are for eternity, in efforts of praise. Though Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and Spenser’s Sonnet 75 from Amoretti both offer lovers this immortality through verse, only Spenser pairs this immortality with respect and partnership, while Shakespeare promises the subject of the sonnet immortality by unusual compliments and the assurance that she will live on as long as the sonnet continues to be read. Spenser debates with his lover, treating her as his equal, and leaves his opinion open for interpretation as an example of poetic indirection.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 begins with the “whim of an inventive mind,” (Vendler, 120) a rhetorical question asking if he should compare the subject of the sonnet to a Summer’s day. After the readers see that Shakespeare does not ask to compare her to anything else, we realize that this one proposed comparison to a Summer’s day is, in his mind, perfection (Vendler, 120). However, in order to truly praise the woman, he must prove that she is “more lovely and more temperate” by deprecating the metaphor (Vendler, 121).

Though the metaphor seems sweet at first, the implied answer is “no,” and Shakespeare continues as to why she is not even worthy of the best possible metaphor (Colie, 36). His imagery of “rough winds” and the “too hot” sun together with the personification of Summer (“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date”) support Shakespeare’s belief that Summer is too short and unpredictable to be compa…

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…87. 36-37.

Felperin, Howard. “Toward a Poststructuralist Practice: The Sonnets.” Modern C Critical Interpretations: Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Ed. Harold Bloom. 1st ed. N New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 103-131.

Oram, William Allan. Edmund Spenser. Ed. Arthur Kinney. New York: Twayne, 1 1997.

Ray, Robert H. “Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.” The Explicator. Fall 1994: 10-11.

Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 18.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. E Ed. M. H. Abrams. 6th ed. New York: Norton, 1996. 471.

“Sonnet 75: Criticism.” EXPLORING Poetry. CD-ROM. Gale, 1997.

“Sonnet 75: Overview.” EXPLORING Poetry. CD-ROM. Gale, 1997.

Spenser, Edmund. “Sonnet 75.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M M. H. Abrams. 6th ed. New York: Norton, 1996. 415.

Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Cambridge: Harvard UP: 1998.

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