Tennessee Williams is recognized as being one of America’s top playwrights during the twentieth century. His play A Streetcar Named Desire, written in 1947, tells the tale of two sisters and their struggle to find happiness. The Glass Menagerie, published in 1945, is a memory play, which profoundly impacted Williams’s career. Suddenly Last Summer, published in 1993, is a one-act play about a young girl’s horrifying experience while traveling abroad. All of these plays incorporate aspects of Williams’ own life and portray dysfunctional characters.
A Streetcar Named Desire is about Blanch Dubois a thirty year old southern belle. In the play Blanche loses her ancestral home of Belle Reve and her husband commits suicide leaving her emotionally scarred. Blanche then goes to live with her sister and her husband Stanley Kowalski, whom she finds vulgar and inappropriate. She attempts to hide from her past, but eventually the people there find out she had many affairs, even one with a student, and was forced to leave her teaching job (Marotous, 2006). At the end of the play she begins losing her mind and is sent to a mental hospital.
The play opened on December 3, 1947 and had instant success. It premiered five years after World War II and it “enfolded all the anxieties of the era in its story of perverse gentility colliding with the earthy truths of the working class.” (Hagopian, 2014) This is also why it went on to be made into a movie in 1951 with the screenplay written by Tennessee Williams and Oscar Saul.
The play connects to Williams’s life and his struggle to find satisfaction in his sexual relationships. “Throughout his life Tennessee Williams was driven from one sexual encounter to another, exactly like Blanche, and like Blanche he too seemed incapable of committing himself to a permanent relationship, in his case homosexual.” (Marotous, 2006) This is seen in the play when Stanley tells Stella the real reason Blanche came to visit them. Stanley states that Blanche was staying at a seedy hotel and that “The Flamingo is used to all kinds of goings-on. But even the management of the Flamingo was impressed by Dame Blanche! In fact they were so impressed by Dame Blanche that they requested her to turn in her room-key—for permanently!” (Tennessee, 1947, Scene 7) Blanche puts on airs and tries to be a proper lady, but she also sleeps with different men in order to feel attractive and loved. She is intent on marrying Mitch and starting a life with him, but she kisses the paper boy in order to feel like she is wanted. She admits that she has these flings because “After the death of Allan—intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with..” (Tennessee, 1947, Scene 7) She uses sexual encounters as a coping mechanism, rather than becoming truly invested in a relationship.
Death is also a theme in “A Streetcar Named Desire” which relates to William’s own life. The suicide of Blanche’s husband haunts her throughout the play....