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“A Streetcar Named Desire” Analysis

Updated April 26, 2022
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“A Streetcar Named Desire” Analysis essay

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In the play, A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, he shows us through his writing, that reality is triumphant over fantasy. Throughout the play, he does an excellent job of displaying how a person may react when their reality does not align with their fantasies.

Tennessee Williams was very well known and one of the greatest American playwrights of the twentieth century. He was born on, March 26, 1911. He had an unloving father who was a heavy drinker, but a mother who loved him immensely and was very protective over him. Growing up, Williams did not enjoy spending time with boys his age. He had always been different and spent most of his time alone. The only person that he was very close to was his sister, Rose. Sadly, Rose dealt with mental issues and had to be taken away to a mental asylum. Williams writes his plays, mainly A Streetcar Named Desire, based on his family and his personal experiences throughout his life, as content.

A Streetcar Named Desire was one of Williams most well-known plays. It was first performed on December 3, 1947, on Broadway, produced by Irene Mayer Selznick and directed by Elia Kazan. Because the 1940s were marked with fear of the government and terror over nuclear attacks, people became estranged with the old traditions that they held onto before. Society saw this play as striking. It was seen and is still viewed today as more than just entertainment. It was also a shock to its audience due to the vivid illustration of sexuality and brutality that was displayed. This play holds many conflicts existing in society which allows it to maintain its relevance and meaning.

When the cast left New York, on December 17, the show would be executed for more than 800 performances. The play turns out to be such a big hit that Williams was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Then, in 1951, it was turned into a film by Kazan. Although the play seemed to be loved by its audience, some issues came to the surface in the making of the film. When Williams refused to remove the rape scene, the Catholic Legion of Decency threatened to censure the film if Stanley was not punished onscreen for the rape of Blanche. In the film, unlike the play, after Blanche is taken away to the mental asylum, Stella takes her baby and leaves Stanley in the end. The film was nominated 12 times for an Oscar and won for Best Art Direction.

This play takes place in New Orleans which was transitioning into the new industrialized south. Blanche arrives at the two-story corner building called Elysian Fields, which is where her younger sister, Stella, and her husband, Stanley, lives. As soon as she got there, she did not like it and could not believe that her sister would decide to live there and abandon everything they had back home. Blanche and Stella are originally from Laurel, Missouri, where they had a plantation, Belle Reve. It is described by Eunice, the upstairs neighbor, as “A great big place with white columns” as she let Blanche into Stella and Stanley’s small 2 bedroom flat. The way that Williams described Blanche’s appearance insinuates that she comes from money and doesn’t quite fit in with the setting which her sister lives in. “Her appearance is incongruous to this setting. She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace, and earrings of pearl, white gloves, and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district.” Blanche is also described as delicate. Not only delicate in beauty but, also emotionally. When she feels like her nerves are not in her control, she turns to drinking as a way to calm herself down. She even tells Stella that she shouldn’t worry for her because she doesn’t have a drinking problem and that the only reason she was taking a drink was because “she’s just all shaken up and hot and tired and dirty!”. Throughout the play, her nerves were always on edge and her feelings were too hard for her to restrain. She tells Stella that this is why she had a leave of absence at the school where she taught English. Although she does have an issue with controlling her nerve, that is not the real reason why she was let go from her teaching position or why she left Laurel at all.

Blanche is a perfect example of how reality is triumphant over her fantasies. Throughout the play, she continuously lies to herself and to others around her and tries to make her life seem the way that she believes it should be instead of what it actually is. Back home, Blanche was infamous for sleeping with multiple men in a hotel room that she occupied called, The Flamingo Hotel. Not only did she have encounters with strangers, she also had sexual relations with a seventeen-year-old boy that attended the school she taught English at. This is why she was fired from her job and eventually kicked out of her hometown. When she arrived to New Orleans, she hid this from Stella and did not speak of it to anyone. She kept it to herself and made everyone believe she was innocent and incapable of doing the things she has done.

In her fantasy, Blanche seems to believe that if she dresses elegantly or nice enough to draw attention to herself and also sleep with a lot of men, that it would restore her youth. Since she arrived to New Orleans, Stanley was the only one that seemed to think she was playing the victim and didn’t really believe in the story that she was feeding to everyone. She sold Belle Reve and said that she felt forced to do it to pay for the funerals of their family members who were dying and left her to fend for the place herself. “I stayed at Belle Reve and tried to hold it together! I’m not meaning this in any reproachful way, but all the burden descended on my shoulders.” When Stanley finds out about this, he approaches her and accuses her of using the money that she made from selling the plantation to buy herself pretty new clothes. “Open your eyes to this stuff! You think she got them out of a teacher’s pay?… Look at these feathers and furs that she come here to preen herself in! What’s this here? A solid- gold dress, I believe! And this one! What is these here? Fox-pieces!” Blanche might have convinced her sister that she was left with nothing but Stanley wasn’t convinced of it. In Stanley’s eyes, it seemed that Blanche sold Belle Reve for her own benefit, used the money for herself without telling Stella and when she was all out of money she sought out to her sister to give her a place to stay and play the victim.

In the fifth scene is where things begin to unravel badly for Blanche. Stanley finds out about all the different men that she was with from a man named Shaw. This, of course, fills Blanche with panic and accepting a soda from Stella which contains mostly alcohol to subdue her nerves as always. While Blanche is left alone in the flat, to wait for Mitch to stop by, a young man collecting money for the paper comes in. The already drunk Blanche immediately begins to flirt with him. As mentioned before, Blanche’s fantasy of staying young and not being the older not-yet-married woman consists of her using men to keep herself feeling this way. She feels that if she does this it will keep her young and farther away from inevitable death. Seeing that she has already behaved in this way with another young man back in Laurel and is now doing it again, goes to show that she has a perverse desire for younger adolescents. Although Blanche would like to be with a youthful man, she knows that the reality of her fantasy is that there would be consequences for her actions if she continued. After she gave the boy a light kiss on the lips she proceeds on saying, “Now run along, now, quickly! It would be nice to keep you, but I’ve got to be good–and keep my hands off children.” In spite of the fact that she did live out her fantasy at least for a couple of minutes with the young man, she came back to reality and knew that what she was doing was wrong and that she shouldn’t be touching children the way she would like to.

Towards the end of the play, Stanley tells Stella the real reasons as to why Blanche was actually in New Orleans. Stella doesn’t believe him right away until she confronts Blanche and she tells her the whole truth. Still not happy with the damage he’s done, Stanley goes on to telling Mitch the type of woman whom he wanted to marry was. After telling him the things that Blanche has done, Stanley convinces Mitch to not marry her. Blanche realizes that Mitch was possibly her last shot at being needed and desired the way that he did. She tells him that her she felt as if her young was fading away until she met him. But Mitch was still not interested in marrying her, he just wanted what she was doing back home with those other men. This, of course, does not sit well with Blanche and just pushes her deeper into her fantasies and closer to insanity.

“Flores? Flores para los muertos?” An older woman asks Blanche at the front door. This terrifies her and shuts the door screaming “No, no! Not now! Not now!”. Blanche feels that her youth is slipping from her fingertips. In her mind, she believes that she is facing death soon with nobody to love and no one who truly loves her for her.

In the end, Blanche locks herself in her fantasies and is no longer sane after Stanley takes her into the bedroom and rapes her while Stella was in the hospital with their newborn baby boy. Her reality has become so much for her to bare, that she to convince herself that she was going away with her first lover, a millionaire by the name of Mr. Shep Huntleigh. But, instead of being picked up and taken away by Huntleigh, there was a doctor and a nurse there to take her to a mental asylum.

The plot in A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, shows us that reality is triumphant over fantasy. Although this is what happens all throughout the play, Williams also proposes that fantasies are important and can be convenient when needed. This is what happened with Blanche when she couldn’t handle the reality that she had to live in. But, even though she was able to live her fantasy, she lost herself and her sanity in the process.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” Analysis essay

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