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The Great Gatsby The Jazz Age

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A Streetcar Named Desire : Analysis

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. The

old life may have been something beautiful, but it is gone forever. Yet Blanche clings to

pretensions of aristocracy. She is now as poor as Stanley and Stella, but she cannot help but

look down on the humble Kowalski apartment. Stanley tells her that she'll probably see him as

"the unrefined type." The differences between them, however, are more complex and volatile

than a matter of refinement.

Desire is central to the play. Blanche is unable to come to terms with the force of her own

desire. She is clearly repelled and fascinated by Stanley at the same time. And though she

stayed behind and took care of the family while Stella ran off to find a new life, Blanche is

both angry and jealous of Stella's choice: she seems a bit fixated on the idea of Stella sleeping

with her "Polack." Stella has chosen a life built around her powerful sexual relationship with

Stanley. Blanche is both repulsed by and jealous of the choice. .

The play is haunted by mortality. Desire and death and loneliness are played off against each

other again and again. The setting is one of decay; the dying Old South and the dying DuBois

family make for a macabre and unsettling background. Blanche's first monologue is a rather

graphic description of tending to the terminally ill. There is also the specter of Blanche's

husband, who died when they were both very young; indeed, Blanch still refers to him as a


Another symbol is the meat: Stanley enters carrying a package of bloody meat, like a hunter

coming home from a day of work. Stanley is a superb specimen of primitive, unthinking,

brutal man. The meat-tossing episode is seen as humorous by Eunice and the Negro Woman,

who infer a sexual innuendo from the incident. Apparently, it is obvious to the neighbors that

the sexual bond between Stanley and Stella is intense.

In their attitudes toward money, we see the tremendous difference in class between them.

Stanley is convinced that he is being swindled, but after a moment it becomes clear that

Blanche is capable of no such thing. She cares nothing for money; her class only understands

how to spend it, and that is part of why Belle Reve was lost. When Stanley demands if it was

lost on a mortgage, Blanche can only respond uncertainly, "That must have been what

happened." She is completely ignorant on business matters. Stanley is no expert, but his basic

approach is that of a new world, the real world in which Blanch is so unable to survive.

Blanch has suffered terribly; we have only seen hints of it so far, but later we will learn more

about the depths of her loneliness. Loneliness and desire are integral to Blanche's being. She

chose the harsh road of staying at Belle Reve to care for the dying, and she has suffered

because of it. For many years, she was a delicate young woman who lived alone in a house

full of the terminally ill.

There is both honesty and illusion in her comments about the sincerity of the suffering. On

one hand, Blanche is very insincere. She has dealt with her suffering by making-believe, by

taking refuge in fanciful dreams about herself and her surroundings. She lies about her age.

She also insists that Mitch cover the naked bulb. She does not want to be seen in the harshness

of bright light. In darkness, she is free to fabricate and re-imagine whatever cannot be seen.

On the other hand, there is something very sincere about Blanche's affection and kindness.

She lies, but never with the intent to hurt. She seeks to become what she thinks will please


The streetcar named Desire comes up again as a metaphor. As Blanche and Stella argue about

desire, Blanche talks about the rattletrap streetcar. Stella asks if Blanche has ever ridden it;

Blanche says that it brought her here.

They're talking about the literal streetcar, but the symbolism is clear. Blanche denounces the

streetcar, just as she denies the power and appeal of desire. But in reality, she has known

desire, too. In her loneliness, it's been one of her refuges. As she says of the streetcar, "It

brought me here," she is speaking also of how her desire and loneliness caused her to be run

out of town.




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