Tennessee Williams was once quoted as saying "Symbols are nothing but the natural speech of drama...the purest language of plays" (Adler 30). This is clearly evident in A Streetcar Named Desire, one of Williams's many plays. In analyzing the main character of the story, Blanche DuBois, it is crucial to use both the literal text as well as the symbols of the story to get a complete and thorough understanding of her.
Before one can understand Blanche's character, one must understand the reason why she moved to New Orleans and joined her sister, Stella, and brother-in-law, Stanley. By analyzing the symbolism in the first scene, one can understand what prompted Blanche to move. Her appearance in the first scene "suggests a moth" (Williams 96). In literature, a moth represents the soul. So it is possible to see her entire voyage as the journey of her soul (Quirino 63). Later in the same scene she describes her voyage: "They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields" (Quirino 63). Taken literally this does not seem to add much to the story. However, if one investigates Blanche's past, one can truly understand what this quotation symbolizes. Blanche left her home to join her sister, because her life was a miserable wreck in her former place of residence. She admits, at one point in the story, that "after the death of Allan (her husband) intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with" (Williams 178). She had sexual relations with anyone who would agree to it. This is the first step in her voyage-"Desire". She ...
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Engle, Paul. "A Locomotive Named Reality," The New Republic, CXXXII (Jan. 24, 1955), 26, 27.
Falk, Signi. Tennessee Williams. Grosset & Dunlap, Inc. New York, 1961.
Jackson, Esther M. The Broken World of Tennessee Williams. Madison and Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin, 1965.
Quirino, Leonard. “The Cards Indicate a Voyage on A Streetcar Named Desire.” Modern Critical Interpretations:
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Vowles, Richard B. "Tennessee Williams: The World of His Imagery," Tulane Drama Review, III (Dec., 1958), 51-56.
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