A Streetcar Named Desire

1288 Words6 Pages
Though the “primitive,” rituals described in Schechner’s article diverge from the realism found in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, the same “reactualization” process exists in his work. Williams’ Streetcar focuses on the “mock battle” or complete contest between the generational cultures symbolized by Blanche Dubois and Stanley Kowalski’s characters. Blanche, representative of the fallen southern aristocracy, searches for sensitivity and kindness in the new world of Stanley Kowalski, the modern labor class. In Blanche’s search for safety, the semiotic theatrical qualities of the play become a ritualistic “clash of the titans” as both Blanche and Stanley fight for domination and control over the future generations realized in Stella’s womb. Yet the tragic dethronement of previous generations - represented by Blanche’s exile from the community and her subsequent departure for the asylum – leaves the audience without an Aristotlean catharsis. Rather, the classically regenerative “sacrifice of the hero…is gone; what we have instead is a resignation to general guilt,” (Vlasopolos, 323), as Williams’ titanic “unmasking” dies away rather than resolving the conflict. With such little hope offered in Williams’ dénouement audience members frequently question Streetcars’ resolution, finding no reactualizing forces in the death characters’ masks. However, the answer to this question lies in the mythological characterizations Williams creates in the battle between Stanley and Blanche. By examining the basic semiotic properties Williams foregrounds in both Blanche and Stanley’s titanic characters the audience may understand the moral force actualized in A Streetcar Named Desires as mythic ritual.

Tennesse Williams’ ...

... middle of paper ...

...colors of men” have already been established in earlier instances in the play. When Stanley first meets Blanche, he is returning from the bowling alley. Though the stage directions do not explicitly state whether or not Stanley wears his bowling shirt in this scene, the bowling alley evokes the images of Stanley’s bowling shirt, “his green and scarlet bowling shirt,” (717). In this case, Stanley’s appearance not only demonstrates his generations definition of masculinity, as an “aggressive, indulgent, powerful, and proud expression of sex,” (Falk, 95), but also as a bright splotch of color in the otherwise “physical grubbiness,” (Brown, 41) of his home. Thus, Stanley’s character, through both his physical gestus and colorful costumes, becomes symbolic of his generations masculine dominance, overwhelming and controlling the environment in which Blanche arrives.
Open Document