Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

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Tennessee William's novel, A Streetcar Named Desire, is the story of the brutish Stanley Kowalski and his meek wife Stella, a New Orleans couple whose lives are turned upside down with the arrival of Stella's neurotic, Southern belle sister Blanche who is immediately drawn into a battle of wills with Stanley. Blanche's childlike helplessness, romantic desires, and pretensions to aristocracy completely collapse when Stanley's ruthless exposure of her past brings about Blanche's final disintegration. When reading the scenes, the symbolism struck me as the most prominent aspect of the novel. Williams uses symbolism throughout the novel to progress the plot of the story, character growth, and foreshadowing of future events in the novel. In this essay, I have chosen a few symbols to discuss how Williams uses them in his novel. In addition, one symbolic event will show evidence of foreshadowing a future event in the novel. Throughout the novel, Williams has referred to animalistic behavior and virtues. He presents New Orleans as a jungle; a metaphor Williams uses to portray the primitive, sub-human nature of its inhabitants. Stanley epitomizes this as he represents the brutes of society that dominate in this jungle. Williams conveys both imagery and dialogue to portray this notion throughout the novel as Stanley performs brutish acts and declares, "I am the king around here, so don't you forget it." Beating his wife Stella is one significant act that portrays Stanley's brutish characteristics. In addition, throughout the novel Stanley presents himself as a self-important brute, driven by the force of desire that enables him to thrive in the jungle that really is his "Elysian Fields." Examining the climax, it is apparent that the animalistic predisposition are out in full force in Stanley as he parades around in a "vivid green silk bowling shirt" and "brilliant silk pajamas." Therefore, the rape is a result of an act of brutal desire in its most futile form, stemming from animal impulses and hostility that propelled the two towards each other. The rape is an act in which each character is at the peak of their battle, which is to be the "final hand" in the game of desire. Furthermore, a symbolic event that I believe foreshadows the rape is when Stella pours Blanche a drink, a coke with a shot of whiskey. It overflows and spills foam on Blanche's dress. Upset by being dirty and violated, Blanche screams with a piercing cry about stains on her pastel-colored dress.
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