Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams Essay

Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams Essay

Length: 1254 words (3.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Strong Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

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.

Scene Three is one of the pivotal scenes of the play. That Williams thought of it in this way is indicated by his choice of the title ‘The Poker Party’ for the third version of the play. The scene begins with extremely explicit stage directions, and one will note that Williams intends the stage to be full of bright, vivid colours - to signify the coarseness and directness of the poker players and their surroundings. The yellow linoleum, the bright green glass shade, the blue red and green of the men’s shirts - all are colourful and contrasting, and this is indicative that they are impervious to subtlety and ambiguity, two of Blanche’s key characteristics. She is usually seen wearing whites and pinks, and looking very soft and feminine. This will, on stage, contrast oddly with the colour and brightness around her. Williams uses this technique of colour to signify Blanche’s inability to fit in with her surroundings. However, she is also seen in different colours, symbolic of what she is doing at that moment. She is usually seen in white, indicative of the purity she claims to possess. At other instances, she is dressed in a scarlet silk robe, when she is flirting with Stanley and Mitch. This is suggestive of a ‘scarlet woman’, and draws the audience’s attention to Blanche’s fatal flaw. When on stage together, Blanche’s frilly, dainty clothes are in sharp contrast with Stanley’s greasy seersucker pants, or his vivid green bowling shirt. Blanche herself is symbolic of the old, genteel South, while Stanley epitomises the new generation of working-class Americans; this clash is cleverly brought out by their contrasting costumes. It is also interesting to note that in Scene Eleven, Blanche is dressed in ...


... middle of paper ...


... all the games. Blanche’s fear of bright light is symbolic of her fear of being exposed for who she really is, and her incessant bathing is almost like a ritual cleansing of sins that she can never really purge. Her inability to use the telephone to contact Shep Huntleigh and Mitch is also indicative of her inability to communicate with the other people in her world, which is partly the reason for her subsequent insanity.

Few playwrights use symbolism as extensively as Tennessee Williams, and even fewer use it as effectively as he. Even in ‘The Glass Menagerie’ he uses Laura’s collection of glass figurines as symbols, giving insight into her multi-faceted character, and her delicate, fanciful ways. The fate of the unicorn is also a smaller-scale version of her fate at the end of the play. Williams is fully aware of the fact that plays are meant to be staged. His themes and issues are complex, so he uses symbols and colours to highlight events and important issues, thus helping his audience. Looking deeply into his play, we see that not only is ‘A Streetcar Names Desire’ full of symbolism, the play itself is symbolic of the clashes between Old and New, the Past and the Present.

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]

Strong 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]

Strong 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]

Strong 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]

Strong 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]

Strong 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]

Strong 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]

Strong Essays
2157 words (6.2 pages)

Essay about A Streetcar Named Desire By Tennessee Williams

- ... It also shows her inability to let go of the past, which is one of the many reasons for Blanche’s downfall. The light for Blanche is symbol as well. Blanche never wants to be seen in direct light. She always has something covering the light, it off and she does not go out during the day. It is said that “The obvious conclusion is that she’s getting older and doesn’t want anyone—particularly Mitch—to see that she’s no longer a girl of sixteen” (Shmoop Editorial Team). However, it can also be said that Blanche does not want to be seen in the light because she is metaphorically hiding from her past....   [tags: A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois, Symbol]

Strong 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]

Strong 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]

Strong Essays
2333 words (6.7 pages)