A Streetcar Named Desire – Symbols Tennessee Williams was once quoted as saying “Symbols are nothing but the natural speech of drama.
.the purest language of plays” . This is clearly evident in A Streetcar Named Desire, one of Williamss many plays. In 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 Blanches 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 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 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 Blanches 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 friends 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 answers “Youre making much too much fuss about this” and later says that this is something that “people do sometimes” (Williams 134). One sees that this is actually a common occurrence by the fact that the same exact thing happens to the neighbors a few scenes later.
Later in the story Mitch, Blanches boyfriend, yells at her and tries raping her, but she does not let him.Afterwards, she tells Stanley that she would never forgive him because “deliberate cruelty is unforgivable” (Williams 184). Blanche also does not fit into her surroundings. Tennessee Williams describes the place as having a “raffish charm” (Corrigan 50). But, this eludes Blanches. She describes it as a place that “Only Poe! Only Mr.
Edgar Allen Poe!-could do it justice!” (Corrigan 50).The person whom Blanche is most directly contrasted with is Stanley. Blanche loves living in an idealistic world, while Stanley strictly relies on facts. In the story Blanche makes up a good portion of her past for the majority of the play. When she was young she lived an eloquent life in a mansion, but she eventually lost it due to unpaid bills. She tells everyone this part of her history but neglects to tell them what she had done during the interim period, before she came to Elysian Fields.
Ms.DuBois never told them about the promiscuous life she lived before she came. Stanley, on the other hand, persisted in trying to find out her true past throughout the story. Considering that this is Stanleys house, his domain, it is easy to see that this spells doom for Blanche. The difference between Blanche and Stanley would not be so bad if it were not for one of Blanches flaws. This harmful trait is Blanches inability to adapt to her surroundings.
This is seen by noting a play on wo …