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A Streetcar Named Desire

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A Streetcar Named Desire

In what way can A Streetcar Named Desire be seen as an exploration of"old" America versus the "new" America?

In the play, Blanche represents old America and Stanley represents new America. Why Blanche represents old America is because of her way of thinking, lifestyle and values. When Blanche walks into the room where the guys are playing poker, there is a great example of how Blanche represents old and Stanley new. When she walks in, the guys are sitting around the table, then Blanche says "Please don't get up". Stanley replies "nobody's going to get up, so don't be worried". Before men were always supposed to treat women with respect, and get up from the chair when they came in, and when they left. Blanche expects or imagines that they are going to treat her like that. In this way Blanche appear as the "old" America, how people used to think. Stanley is a large contrast and represents new America, when he says nobody's going to get up. None of them were even thinking of getting up for her, because that is not their manners, and that is not what people do in the "new" America. New America is when there was a lot of immigration. In this new "world" the old fashions and norms were bit by bit disappearing, for instance racism. Also the lower classes in society became more common. This is the world Stanley lives in. In contrast Blanche is stuck in the old world.

Stanley represents new America because he is from Poland. America's growth of immigration is shown, and very many people in America today are immigrants. Blanches behaviour towards Stanley's background shows that she is old-fashioned. When Stella says that Stanley is Polish, Blanche says "They're something like Irish, aren't they?". Her racist view is very old and conventional.

Stanley represents the "new" America, and he can be seen as a message from Tennessee Williams about how the society in America was changing and what it was changing into. Stanley is a chauvinist, because he obviously takes what he desires, referring to where he rapes Blanche. Stanley is very dominant, he rules and his word is always the strongest. He has a strong sexual desire, even in the end of the play when Blanche is taken to the hospital, he starts making love to Stella. It is quite obvious that Tennessee Williams shows Stanley as "new" America, and this might be what he means America is developing into, a raw, aggressive and direct society. If this really is what Williams meant through the character of Stanley, he might have been exaggerating a bit, but he is probably exaggerating just to open our eyes. If you take a look at the unstable and chaotic society in America today, he might have had a point. Something to take into consideration is that Williams was homosexual, he might be showing the bad sides of heterosexual men through Stanley's superficial and ego actions.

When Blanche comes to Stella and Stanley, she wants Stella to come with her. She says to Stella that Stella is everything she has in this world. Stanley notices that Blanche is there to take Stella away, and acts like an animal and he protects his territory. This is why he is so hostile towards Blanche.

Blanche has problems adapting to the "new" world, because she is stuck in the old world. This is different to Stella, who has learned that she has to adapt and accept. When Blanche lost her husband she lost a big part of her life. That she is not over the loss of her husband is shown very clear in the play. She is clearly becoming mentally ill because of the loss and that she is not able to move on. She is always bathing, from the moment we first meet her, after she has taken her baths she says that she feels like a new person. She is trying to wash off the dirt from the past, trying to clear her mind. She is constantly drinking, and she is also trying to hide it. People who are alcoholics rarely have a good life, and they are very often not satisfied with their lives, there are things that are bothering them. This description fits Blanche, the death of her husband has really scarred her.

The family mansion is called Belle Reve, which means beautiful dream. The old life in Belle Reve might have been something beautiful, but now it is only a dream and it is gone forever. Even though Blanche has lost her mansion and wealth and is now poor, she looks down on Stella and Stanley's life. This also demonstrates that she is really stuck in the past and has problems adapting.

The instructions to get to Elysian Fields, where Stella and Stanley live, Blanche had to take "a streetcar named Desire" and then a "streetcar named Cemeteries." These symbolic names give us an idea of the themes of desire and mortality. Elysian Fields is from Greek mythology, this is a land for the dead. The journey Blanche describes to get to Stella and Stanley is similar to her life up to this point where she has just arrived. Her immoral and unethical sexual desire led her to social death and exclusion from her hometown. Blanche is already dead when she arrives, and here she lives a kind of afterlife where she learns the consequences of her life's actions.

Blanche feels guilty about the death of her husband. She had said to her husband "I know, I know, you disgust me", this is when he ran off and shot himself. After that she had never been exposed to any bright light. This also shows that she has been really scarred and she really will not let it go. Her guilt of the death leads to insanity. The polka tune from the night her husband died keeps coming up in the background, this illustrates that it is on her mind all the time, destroying her sense of sanity. The polka tune also disappears when Mitch comes, this shows that he can be her way out, he can be her saviour. But this is not what happens



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