Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams, an American playwright, has been known as the most prominent American southern dramatist. He won his first Pulitzer Prize with Streetcar Named Desire. In this play, Williams shows the need for belief in human value against the natural realistic world. He uses symbols to develop the characters and theme of illusion verses reality within Streetcar Named Desire. The two main characters are Blanche DuBois, an aristocrat southern belle, and Stanley Kowalski the "gaudy seed-bearer." Blanche lives in the superficial world she has made for herself while Stanley lives in the harsh realistic world. The confrontation between Blanche and Stanley is shown throughout the play and is so severe that one must be destroyed.
Williams uses specific names to describe his characters. The name Blanche comes from a French word meaning white and her last name Dubois meaning woods. This corresponds with Blanches character because she uses the French language to charm Mitch and to seem more intelligent. White being the color of purity suggests that she is pure and innocent although it will soon be shown that this is an illusion that she has engrossed in. She has come from Belle Reve, also of French descent meaning a beautiful dream, which is the plantation where she and Stella grew up. She has lost the plantation and in a since she has lost the dream she once had. The arrival at Stella's is her last hope to recapture this dream.
She is described as wearing white and having a moth like appearance. In literature a moth represents soul. So it is possible to see her entire voyage as the journey of her soul. She describes her voyage: "They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at - Elysian fields
(Williams 15). If one investigates Blanches past one can truly understand what this quotation symbolizes. Blanche left her home to join her sister, because her life was a miserable wreck in her former place of residence. She admits, at one point in the story, that "after the death of Allen (her husband) intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with"(Williams 118). She had sexual relations with anyone who would agree to it. This is the first step in her voyage - "Desire." She said that she was forced into this situation because death was immanent and "The opposite (of death) is desire"(Williams 120). She escaped death in her use of desire. However, she could not escape "death " for long. She was a teacher at a high school, and at one point she had intimacies with a seventeen-year-old student. The issue was not concealed for long. The revilement of this caused her to be fired and destroyed her image. She was basically banned from Laurel and sent on her next journey - "Cemeteries." Her final destination was Elysian Fields. Elysian Fields...