A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire is the play by American author Tennessee Williams. Published in 1947. The title of the play refers on the one hand to the real train line in New Orleans, on the other hand metaphorically to the power of desire as the driving force of the characters’ actions. The plot of the play is led by the antagonistic personalities of Blanche and Stanley.

Blanche Dubois one of the most memorable female characters in American drama

In the first scene we meet Blanche DuBois. Blanche comes from an old family in the south and was educated to be part of the social elite. She is an elegant woman, dressed in white. It is the image of a rich woman.



She came to New Orleans to live with her sister Stella and her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski in their small apartment in the French Quarter. Despite her elegant clothes, she is a woman without money.  Her physical appearance is an illusion that hides the truth: she lost her family estate, Belle Reve, and was fired from her job because she had a romantic liaison with a student. But apart from her poor financial condition, she has an unstable mental state. Blanche’s mental instability seems to have been caused by the shock of her husband Alan’s death. To forget this drama she uses promiscuity, alcohol and escapes into a fictional world.

Stanley Kowalski comes from an immigrant Polish family and is a proud member of the working class. Blanche’s description of Stanley as “bestial”. Blanche wants to portray herself as a high-class woman, but Stanley suspects that Blanche is not telling the truth and begins to dig into her past.


3 Symbols used by Tennessee Williams to reveal Blanche’s inner life

1. Light. Tennessee Williams uses light as a metaphor to reveal the characters’ inability to accept real life. Blanche prefers magic and shadows, she can’t stand the strong light that puts her in front of reality.
2. Music. The blue piano expresses “the spirit of the life which goes on here” in Elysian Fields. Which creates a relaxing time, as well. For Blanche, the polka reminds her of her past, especially of her previous marriage and her young husband “the boy who died.” That is why music makes her sick.
3. Bathing. Blanche makes frequent baths. They help her to calm her nerves and also to wash her body to cleanse her of the past.

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