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Symbols and Symbolism in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire

The most obvious symbol used in A Streetcar Named Desire is its title and the actual reference, in the play, to the streetcars named Desire and Cemeteries. They are the means by which Blanche was brought to the home of Stanley and Stella and, as the play unfolds, we realize the names of the streetcars have a greater significance. Blanche’s instructions were to “take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries.” When Blanche first arrives she is possessed by a desire for love and understanding, but always in the background lurks the fear of death and destruction. If the one cannot be obtained, a transfer to the other will be the inevitable alternative. Blanche indicates this in her speech to Mitch in scene nine: “Death-I used to sit here and she used to sit over there and death was as close as you are. . .. We didn’t dare even admit we had ever heard of it. The opposite is desire.” A subtle use of the symbol makes scene six very poignant: Mitch and Blanche have just returned from the amusement park and Blanche, concerned about transportation to take Mitch home, is surprised to hear that Desire runs all night long. The two basic drives, desire and death, are persistent throughout the play in determining Blanche’s total behavior.

The destination for Blanche’s streetcar travels is Elysian Fields, which also has a symbolic significance to the play. It is the section of New Orleans in which Stanley and Stella live as well as a reference to Greek mythology meaning paradise. In Streetcar, Stanley and Stella have created their own type of paradise in the sensual and blissful existence in which they live. Ironically, the location has an opposite effect on Blanche. Instead of finding happiness and conten…

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…han the flicker of a candle. She intends to keep it that way for she is prepared to protect herself from the harsh light of reality with the use of a paper lantern. The paper lantern becomes a symbol of Blanche. She covers every bare light bulb for fear that her life of illusion will be discovered. Mitch finds the real Blanche by tearing the lantern from the light, and Stanley hands her the remains of her torn illusion in the very last moment of the play, as she is being led away to an asylum.

Works Cited

Adler, Thomas P. A Streetcar Named Desire: the Moth and the Lantern. Boston: Twayne, 1990.

Sievers, W. David. Twentieth Century Interpretations of a Streetcar Named Desire: A collection of critical essays. Ed. Jordan Miller. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.

Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: New American Library, 1942.

Stanley Kowalski of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire

The Character of Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, is a classical play about Blanche Dubois’s visit to Elysian Fields and her encounters with her sister’s barbaric husband, Stanley Kowalski. Stanley Kowalski is a very brutal person who always has to feel that he is better than everyone else. His brutish actions during the play leave the readers with a bad taste in their mouths. Stanley Kowalski’s brutality is clearly exemplified in several places during the course of the play: first, with the radio episode on poker night; next, when he beats his wife, Stella, and lastly, when he rapes Blanche.

Stanley Kowalski’s first exhibition of his brutal actions occurs on poker night. Blanche turns on the radio, but Stanley demands that she turn it off. Blanche refuses and so Stanley gets up and turns it off himself. When Stanley’s friend, Mitch, drops out of the game to talk to Blanche, Stanley gets upset and he even gets more upset when Blanche flicks on the radio. In Scene Three, “Stanley stalks fiercely through the…

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