A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams

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A Streetcar Named Desire

From the beginning, the three main characters of Streetcar are in a state of tension.
Williams establishes that the apartment is small and confining, the weather is hot and oppressive, and the characters have good reason to come into conflict.
The South, old and new, is an important theme of the play. Blanche and her sister come from a dying world. The life and pretensions of their world are becoming a thing of memory: to drive home the point, the family mansion is called "Belle Reve," or Beautiful Dream. The old life may have been something beautiful, but it is gone forever. Yet Blanche clings to pretensions of aristocracy. She is now as poor as Stanley and Stella, but she cannot help but look down on the humble Kowalski apartment. Stanley tells her that she'll probably see him as
"the unrefined type." The differences between them, however, are more complex and volatile than a matter of refinement.
Desire is central to the play. Blanche is unable to come to terms with the force of her own desire. She is clearly repelled and fascinated by Stanley at the same time. And though she stayed behind and took care of the family while Stella ran off to find a new life, Blanche is both angry and jealous of Stella's choice: she seems a bit fixated on the idea of Stella sleeping with her "Polack." Stella has chosen a life built around her powerful sexual relationship with
Stanley. Blanche is both repulsed by and jealous of the choice. .
The play is haunted by mortality. Desire and death and loneliness are played off against each other again and again. The setting is one of decay; the dying Old South and the dying DuBois family make for a macabre and unsettling background. Blanche's first monologue is a rather graphic description of tending to the terminally ill. There is also the specter of Blanche's husband, who died when they were both very young; indeed, Blanch still refers to him as a
"boy."
Another symbol is the meat: Stanley enters carrying a package of bloody meat, like a hunter coming home from a day of work. Stanley is a superb specimen of primitive, unthinking, brutal man. The meat-tossing episode is seen as humorous by Eunice and the Negro Woman, who infer a sexual innuendo from the incident. Apparently, it is obvious to the neighbors that the sexual bond between Sta...

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...us line is full of terrible irony. It is true that Blanche has often depended on the kindness of strangers, but all of them have abused and abandoned her. In the end, even her own sister has betrayed her. Her fragility, her inability to fend for herself, and her self- deception have brought her to madness. The representative of the new man, Stanley, is more ape than knight. But Blanche's line is earnest in that it shows her terrible loneliness. For so long, she has known only strangers; young girl in a house full of the dying, and then a woman losing her looks seeking protection from callous men.
Her tragedy will for the most part be forgotten. Stella is crying, but she has nonetheless decided to stay with Stanley. She also will have to busy herself with caring for the baby. The other men have callously chosen to go on with their poker game on this day, denying Blanche the dignity of being taken away in private. The Old South dies, and the New South does not mourn her passing. Everyone is going to move on: as the play ends, Steve is already dealing a new hand.
Sources:Streetcar Named Desired by Tenesse Williams
Northon Anthology www.Sparknotes.com www.classicnotes.com
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