A Streetcar Named Desire Analysis

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In literature, desire can take on any number of roles. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the titular character’s “extraordinary gift for hope” gives life to a novel concerning the lost generation of “carless” and “impersonal bodies”. However, the narrator’s own latent desires and the tragic fate of the protagonist undermine this hope as an exaggerated figment of imagination. Similarly, in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, the overwhelming decadence that surrounds the setting, both economically and in morality, leads the heroine to escapism in a desperately constructed web of fantasy; her eventual insanity emphasises the fragility of desire, particularly when constructed upon lies. In a progressing sinister order, desire in William Shakespeare’s Othello is the catalyst of numerous calamites: deceit, insanity and murder to name but a few. Nick, unlike Gatsby, is unable to act on desire; instead he consumes his time with “vicarious” experience: “imagining that I, too, was hurrying toward gayety and sharing their intimate excitement". This is reflected by his emotional investment in Gatsby’s dream; Nick does not simply suspend his disbelief – a quality of the Romantic Poetics who favoured emotion over reason – in reconstructing the tale, but actively manipulates his narrative structure in order to present Gatsby’s dream in a positive light. Nick delays Gatsby’s introduction to conjure a mystery surrounding him; this is heightened by a change from present to past tense, and a slow in pace – “a lull in entertainment” – which mark his introduction, implying that the narrative has led up to this point, and reflect Nick’s distortion of chronology, and in extension, his distortion of reality. Additionally, Nick’s fre... ... middle of paper ... ... obstacle to capture. Nick's past, grounded in a sensible Midwestern upbringing, allows him to place his hope in those around him, not things – like Gatsby who places his “infinite capacity for hope” in material items which he believes will impress Daisy. It is this materialistic view of the American Dream that provokes Nick’s scorn. Critic, R.W. Stallman, imagines Gatsby as “a modern Icarus”. Gatsby’s delusional belief that his creation of this ideal character would undoubtedly lead him to his American Dream is in part response for his downfall; it is with the idea of promise where Fitzgerald lays the ultimate blame. This perhaps explains why this “cautionary tale” was initially met with lacklustre sales in the decade of prosperity, the “Roaring 20s”; Fitzgerald criticizes the institutions of government – the essence of Modernism – for installing this false hope.

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