A Streetcar Named Desire is an intricate web of complex themes and conflicted characters. Set in the pivotal years immediately following World War II, Tennessee Williams infuses Blanche and Stanley with the symbols of opposing class and differing attitudes towards sex and love, then steps back as the power struggle between them ensues. Yet there are no clear cut lines of good vs. evil, no character is neither completely good nor bad, because the main characters, (especially Blanche), are so torn by conflicting and contradictory desires and needs. As such, the play has no clear victor, everyone loses something, and this fact is what gives the play its tragic cast. In a larger sense, Blanche and Stanley, individual characters as well as symbols for opposing classes, historical periods, and ways of life, struggle and find a new balance of power, not because of ideological rights and wrongs, but as a matter of historical inevitability. Interestingly, Williams finalizes the resolution of this struggle on the most base level possible. In Scene Ten, Stanley subdues Blanche, and all that she stands for, in the same way men have been subduing women for centuries. Yet, though shocking, this is not out of keeping with the themes of the play for, in all matters of power, force is its ultimate manifestation. And Blanche is not completely unwilling, she has her own desires that draw her to Stanley, like a moth to the light, a light she avoids, even hates, yet yearns for.
A first reader of Scene Ten of the play might conclude that sex between Stanley and Blanche seems out of place. It might not ring true given the preceding circumstances. There is not much overt sexual tensi...
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...al mechanism, and desire only a function of reproduction. Yet, it is not so. Individual human destiny is much stronger than the force of history if only individuals grapple with who they are and the forces pressuring them, and have the courage to meet the mass wave head on. Perhaps no one in this play does so, but the desire is there and we can learn from their failure.
Bloom, Herald (ed.). Tennessee Williams. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.
Donahue, Francis. The Dramatic World of Tennessee Williams. New York: Frederic Ungar Publishing Co., 1964.
Hirsch, Foster. A Portrait of the Artist-The Plays of Tennessee Williams. London: Kennikat Press, 1979.
Londre, F.H. Tennessee Williams. New York: Frederic Ungar Publishing Co., 1979.
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. Stuttgart: Phillip Reclam, 1988.
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