Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire is considered by many critics to be a “flawed” masterpiece. This is because William’s work utilizes and wonderfully blends both tragic and comic elements that serve to shroud the true nature of the hero and heroine, thereby not allowing the reader to judge them on solid actuality. Hence, Williams has been compared to writers such as Shakespeare who, in literature, have created a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty in finding a sole “view or aspect ” in their works. Because of the highly tragic elements encountered in Streetcar, many immediately label it a tragedy. Nevertheless, the immense comical circumstances encountered in the play contradict the sole role of tragedy and leave the reader pondering the true nature of the work, the question being whether it is a tragedy with accidental comic incidences or a comedy with weak melodramatic occurrences.
It has been said that the “double mask of tragicomedy reveals the polarity of the human condition”(Adler 47). The contrariety of forces in the work serves to enforce a sense of both reality and drama that are present in everyday human life. The comic elements in the play serve as a form of determined self-preservation just as the tragic elements add to the notion of self-destruction. This is the true nature of a tragicomedy. By juxtaposing two irreconcilable positions, ambiguity is produced in the judgment of the main characters, most notably Stanley Kowalski and Blanche Dubois (Riddell 83).
Ambivalence in the play is largely caused by the relationship between Stanley and Blanche. They concurrently produce both appalling and appealing tendencies. Both characters display elements o...
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...ilable forces come face to face. The two opposing forces are destined to become locked in a death grip and society will be the loser.
Adler, Thomas P. A Streetcar Named Desire: The Moth and the Lantern. New York: Twayne, 1990.
Baym, Nina et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: WW Norton & Co., 1995.
Falk, Signi. Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Streetcar Named Desire. Ed. Jordan Miller. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.
Riddell, Joseph. Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Streetcar Named Desire. Ed. Jordan Miller. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.
Szeliski, John T. von. Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Streetcar Named Desire. Ed. Jordan Miller. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.
Williams, Tennessee. The Theatre of Tennessee Williams. New York: New Directions, 1971.