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Tennessee Williams

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A Streetcar Named Desire

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 time

To live in the flesh and there by the waters of Lethe

They drink the draught that sets them free from care

And 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

constantly bathing. This represents her need to purify herself from

her past (Corrigan 53). However, it is important to note that

Blanche's description of her traveling came before she actually

settles into Elysian Fields. The description therefore represents the

new life Blanche hoped to find, not what she actually did find.

From the begging we see that Blanche does not fit in with the

people of her new community, nor her physical surroundings in her new

home. We can see that she did not fit in with the people of the

community by comparing the manner in which women in the story handle

their social life with men. In the third scene, Stella, who is

pregnant at the time, is beaten by her husband Stanley. She

immediately runs upstairs to her friend's apartment, upstairs. But,

soon Stanley runs outside and screams "Stell-lahhhhh" (Williams 133).

She proceeds to come down, and they then spend the night together. The

next morning Stella and Blanche discuss the horrible incident. Blanche

asks "How could you come back in this place last night?" (Williams

134). Stella



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