Essay on Symbols and Symbolism in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire

Essay on Symbols and Symbolism in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire

Length: 786 words (2.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

 


The most obvious symbol used in A Streetcar Named Desire is its title and the actual reference, in the play, to the streetcars named Desire and Cemeteries. They are the means by which Blanche was brought to the home of Stanley and Stella and, as the play unfolds, we realize the names of the streetcars have a greater significance. Blanche's instructions were to “take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries." When Blanche first arrives she is possessed by a desire for love and understanding, but always in the background lurks the fear of death and destruction. If the one cannot be obtained, a transfer to the other will be the inevitable alternative. Blanche indicates this in her speech to Mitch in scene nine: "Death-I used to sit here and she used to sit over there and death was as close as you are. . .. We didn't dare even admit we had ever heard of it. The opposite is desire." A subtle use of the symbol makes scene six very poignant: Mitch and Blanche have just returned from the amusement park and Blanche, concerned about transportation to take Mitch home, is surprised to hear that Desire runs all night long. The two basic drives, desire and death, are persistent throughout the play in determining Blanche's total behavior.

The destination for Blanche's streetcar travels is Elysian Fields, which also has a symbolic significance to the play. It is the section of New Orleans in which Stanley and Stella live as well as a reference to Greek mythology meaning paradise. In Streetcar, Stanley and Stella have created their own type of paradise in the sensual and blissful existence in which they live. Ironically, the location has an opposite effect on Blanche. Instead of finding happiness and conten...


... middle of paper ...


...han the flicker of a candle.  She intends to keep it that way for she is prepared to protect herself from the harsh light of reality with the use of a paper lantern. The paper lantern becomes a symbol of Blanche. She covers every bare light bulb for fear that her life of illusion will be discovered. Mitch finds the real Blanche by tearing the lantern from the light, and Stanley hands her the remains of her torn illusion in the very last moment of the play, as she is being led away to an asylum.

Works Cited

Adler, Thomas P.  A Streetcar Named Desire: the Moth and the Lantern.  Boston:  Twayne, 1990.

Sievers, W. David.  Twentieth Century Interpretations of a Streetcar Named Desire: A collection of critical essays. Ed. Jordan Miller.  New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.

Williams, Tennessee.  A Streetcar Named Desire.  New York: New American Library, 1942.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams Essay

- Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams In Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire, the character of Blanche Dubois is a vivid example of the use of symbolism throughout the play. Blanche wants to view things in an unrealistic way. “I don’t want realism. I want magic…I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth…” (Blanche p.117). She doesn’t want reality; instead she wishes to view a rose-colored version of life that goes along with her old-fashioned southern belle personality....   [tags: Streetcar Desire Tennessee Williams Essays]

Better Essays
794 words (2.3 pages)

Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams Essay

- Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams “Symbols are nothing but the natural speech of drama…the purest language of plays.” Once, quoted as having said this, Tennessee Williams has certainly used symbolism and colour extremely effectively in his play, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. A moving story about fading Southern belle Blanche DuBois and her lapse into insanity, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ contains much symbolism and clever use of colour. This helps the audience to link certain scenes and events to the themes and issues that Williams presents within the play, such as desire and death, and the conflict between the old America and the new....   [tags: A Streetcar Named Desire Literature Essays]

Better Essays
1254 words (3.6 pages)

Essay on Symbols and Symbolism in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire

-   The most obvious symbol used in A Streetcar Named Desire is its title and the actual reference, in the play, to the streetcars named Desire and Cemeteries. They are the means by which Blanche was brought to the home of Stanley and Stella and, as the play unfolds, we realize the names of the streetcars have a greater significance. Blanche's instructions were to “take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries." When Blanche first arrives she is possessed by a desire for love and understanding, but always in the background lurks the fear of death and destruction....   [tags: Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire]

Better Essays
786 words (2.2 pages)

Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams Essay

- During the late nineteen-forties, it was common for playwrights such as Tennessee Williams to use symbolism as an approach to convey personal thoughts, through the attitudes of the characters and the setting. Williams' actors have used symbolism to disguise the actuality of their thoughts and to accommodate the needs of their conservative audience. A Streetcar Named 'Desire' has a few complicated character traits and themes. Therefore, they have to be symbolised using figures or images to express abstract and mystical ideas, so that the viewers can remain clueless....   [tags: A Streetcar Named Desire Essays]

Better Essays
3836 words (11 pages)

Tennessee Williams' Use of Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire Essay

- Tennessee Williams' Use of Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire Many playwrights use the technique of symbolism in their plays because it adds to the dramatic impact and allows the playwright to give the audience a deeper understanding of the play on a different level; this makes the play more interesting. Symbolism can be used to add tension to a scene, to foreshadow certain events in a play or even to give us a deeper understanding of a character. In "A Streetcar Named Desire" the author Williams uses a numerous amount of symbols to create all of these effects....   [tags: Papers]

Better Essays
1207 words (3.4 pages)

Tennessee Williams' Use of Imagery and Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire

- Tennessee Williams' Use of Imagery and Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire Throughout the play symbolism is used to capture attention and to appeal to viewers' emotions. It is expressed through music, colour and imagery all of which help to heighten tension and reflect the atmosphere created by an impending force. The actions involved in the development of imagery and symbolism in the characters are, for example, Blanche's sitting, her whisky drinking, her jumping, etc, actions which show her nervous personality of a stressed woman....   [tags: Papers]

Better Essays
1194 words (3.4 pages)

Character Analysis of Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire

- Character Analysis of Blanche Through Text and Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire           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....   [tags: Streetcar Named Desire]

Better Essays
2157 words (6.2 pages)

Essay about A Streetcar Named Desire By Tennessee Williams

- A Streetcar Named Desire written by Tennessee Williams is about a women named Blanche who goes to live with her sister Stella and her husband Stanley. Blanche has begun to mentally deteriorate due to all the stress, sadness and disappointment she has dealt with throughout her life. Blanche had lost her husband, lost Bella Reave which was a place the family had owned since they were young girls and has lost in a sense self-respect for herself. Tennessee Williams was born in Columbus, Mississippi in 1911....   [tags: A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois, Symbol]

Better Essays
1592 words (4.5 pages)

The Gender Struggle in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams Essay

-        After two world wars, the balance of power between the genders in America had completely shifted. Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire is a harsh, yet powerful play that exposes the reality of the gender struggle. Williams illustrates society’s changing attitudes towards masculinity and femininity through his eloquent use of dramatic devices such as characterization, dialogue, setting, symbolism, and foreshadowing. Stanley, the protagonist, is a symbol for society’s view of the stereotypical male....   [tags: Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire]

Better Essays
1937 words (5.5 pages)

A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams Essay

- 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....   [tags: A Streetcar Named Desire Essays]

Better Essays
2333 words (6.7 pages)