Tennessee Williams "A Streetcar Named Desire"

2035 words - 8 pages

Tennessee Williams was once quoted as saying "Symbols are nothing but the natural speech of drama...the purest language of plays" (Adler 30). This is clearly evident in A Streetcar Named Desire, one of Williams's many plays. I n analyzing the main character of the story, Blanche DuBois, it is crucial to use both the literal text as well as the symbols of the story to get a complete and thorough understanding of her.Before one can understand Blanche's character one must understand the reason why she moves to New Orleans and joins her sister, Stella, and brother-in-law, Stanley. By analyzing the symbolism in the first scene, one can understand what prompted Blanche to move. Her appearance in the first scene "suggests a moth" (Williams 96). In literature a moth represents the soul. So it is possible to see her entire voyage as the journey of her soul (Quirino 63). Later in the same scene 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" (Quirino 63). Taken literally this does not seam to add much to the story. However, if one investigate Blanche's 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 Allan (her husband) intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with" (Williams, 178). 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, 179). 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 superintendent, "Mr. Graves", found out about this and she was fired from her job. Her image was totally destroyed and she could no longer stay there. "Mr. Graves" sent her on her next stop of the symbolic journey-"Cemeteries". Her final destination was"Elysian Fields". The inhabitants of this place are described in Book six of the Aenied:""They are the souls," answered his [Aeneas'] father Anchises,"Whose destiny it is a second timeTo live in the flesh and there by the waters of LetheThey drink the draught that sets them free from careAnd blots out their memory."" (Quirino 61)This is the place of the living dead. Blanche came to Elysian Fields to forget her horrible past, and to have a fresh start in life (Quirino, 63). In fact Blanche admits in the fourth scene that she wants to "make myself a new life" (Williams 135).By understanding the circumstances that brought Blanche to Elysian fields it is easy to understand the motives behind many of Blanches actions. One such action is that during the play Blanche is...

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