A Streetcar Named Desire


A Streetcar Named Desire Essay, Research Paper

The Realistic View-Point of A Streetcar Named


Through out the twentieth century, many great writers have come along and

altered the public?s thoughts of normality, and in many cases shocked their audiences by

presenting them with the brutal truth. This is exactly what the drama A Streetcar Named

Desire accomplished. Whether, intentionally or unintentionally, Tennessee Williams

succeeded in illustrating the need to forget what was in the past and stressed the idea of

looking ahead to the future. The use of realistic drama at the time were almost unheard

of, and Williams succeeded in becoming an innovator by setting the foundation for the use

of plays with themes of realism in modern dramatic theater. ?Williams synthesizes depth

characterization, typical of drama that strives to be an illusion of reality, with symbolic

theatrics… In short, realism and the theatricalism, often viewed as stage rivals,

complement each other in this play(Mary Ann Corrigan, 575).?

Thomas (Tennessee) Lanier Williams was born on March 26 1911, in Columbus,

Mississippi. His father, Cornelius Coffin Williams, was a shoe salesman who spent a good

deal of his time out on the road away from his family. Williams had two siblings, one

older sister and one younger brother. The children spent most of their childhood in the

home of their maternal grand father who was an Episcopal minister. In 1927, Williams

received his first taste of literary acclaim when he placed third in a national essay contest,

for his essay entitled ?Can a Good Wife Be a Good Sport?.? After high school Williams

studied for several years at the University of Missouri, but dropped out before he received

a degree. Williams then took a job in St. Louis at the International Shoe Company where

his father worked. Williams did eventually return to college and received a degree from

the University of Iowa in 1938. In 1939, Williams moved to New Orleans where he

formally adopted the name ?Tennessee,? which was the state of his grandfather?s birth. In

1945 Williams had his first real big success as a writer, with his play ?The Glass

Menagerie? making its introduction on Broadway. Williams went own to write

twenty-five full lengthier plays, including A Streetcar Named Desire, he produced dozens

of short plays and screen plays, two novels, sixty short stories, over one hundred poems,

and an auto biography. For these works Williams received many awards including two

Pulitzer Prizes, one for A Streetcar Named Desire, and four New York Drama Critic

Awards, one for A Streetcar Named Desire (Tom Sullivan, 1). When asked by a reporter

why he began writing, Williams replied by stating ?Why did I write? Because I found life

Unsatisfactory(Steven Daniels,1).?

?Williams has written some of the most moving dramas of the modern theater

(John Whitty, 575).? The realistic concepts displayed in A Streetcar Named Desire are

best exemplified through the conflicting characters of Blanche DuBois, and Stanley

Kowalski. Blanch posses as an illusion established in an effort of sustaining her normality,

portraying herself as a Southern belle, a fine, cultured, radiant young woman. This false

sense of identity is put up as a front to conceal the reality of her identity as a lonely,

alcoholic, prostitutive hussy. This disillusionment is forced out of her by Stanley, the

barbaric womanizer, who possesses animalistic values. Stanley succeeds in stripping away

Blanche?s false egocentric illusions and forcing her to face his animalistic reality (Mary

Ann Corrigan, 575). This incident is symbolically represented in the drama when Stanley

forces Blanch into the direct light of the lamp, symbolically enlightening her on the

absurdity of her disillusionment . These two character serve as contrasting figures

representative of the everyday struggle of reality verses disillusionment, in which reality,

as it did in the play, usually comes out as the victor. The one key factor which makes this

play realistic is the fact that Williams gives the character both positive and negative

personality traits, which makes the play easier to relate to by the audience and makes the

plot seem like it really could have occurred.

In placing the characters of Blanche and Stanley against each other, Williams

depicts an image of the weak being defeated by the strong. Dispite this fact, Stanley

represents an ambiguous moral character. Even though he possess a rough exterior of

animalistic and savage values he genuinely loves and needs his wife (Mary Ann Corrigan,

575). Thus further increasing the overall believability of the drama and adding to the

credential evidence of its realistic content.

Blanche DuBois is the epitome of the tragic hero. She is a liberated woman who

stops at nothing to get what she wants. Her tragic flaw lies in her false pretensions, and

disillusioned views of what life is really like. ?Blanche is often regarded as a symbol of

decaying tradition, beauty, and refinement pitted in a losing battle against the crude vitality

of the progressive mainstream (Felicia Hardison Londre, 79).? In the controversy of

Blanche verses Stanley, it is evident that Williams sides with Blanche. Evidence to

support this theory can be found in Williams response to a reporter after he was asked

about the significance of the drama?s chief male character, he stated ?[A Street Car Named

Desire] means that if you do not watch out the apes will take over (Joseph Wood Krutch,

462).? This is obviously in reference to over powering nature of Stanley?s brute strength.

With this statement Williams is telling his audience not to let go of all that is dear to you

and all the hopes you have for the future, because the ?apes? [Stanley] will force you to

discard these desires.

Through out this drama, Williams uses many objects and actions symbolically of

the greater internal conflict that lied deep with in the confines of Blanche DuBois?s soul.

Evidence of this symbolism can be found in the opening scene when Blanche shows up to

meet Stella. We learn that the two sisters? plantation, called Belle Reve, has been lost due

to financial circumstances surrounding it. the name Belle Reve is symbolic it that the word

Belle is the feminine form of the adjective beautiful in French. While the word Reve is the

masculine form of the noun dream. It has been proposed by many scholars that the

original title of the plantation was Belle Rive, which means Beautiful Shore, and the

corruption of the name from Belle Rive to Belle Reve is symbolic of the false hood of it

reality that it has acquired by the time it has come to Blanche?s generation (Felicia

Hardison Londre, 89) Another specific example of symbolism can be found in the context

of chapter three. In this chapter Blanche makes the statement ?I can?t stand a naked light

bulb, anymore than I can a rough work or a vulgar action.? She than asks Mitch to put a

colored paper lantern over the bedroom lamp. This lamp is symbolic of reality and the

truth behind her past. She can?t bare the fact that she is an alcoholic, a tramp, and a lonely

has-been, so she conceals it and covers it up with a front of fabricated sophistication and

charm, just as she covered the lamp with a colorful paper lantern. More evidence to

support the lamp as an object of symbolism can be found in scene eight of the drama. This

is the scene in which Mitch as just learned the truth about Blanche?s secret past. Mitch

confronts Blanch about this knowledge he has of her and rips the paper lantern off of the

room lamp, in an effort to get a better look at Blanche since he has never seen her in the

light of day. Blanche cries out for him to stop and states, ?I don?t want realism. I want

magic! … I don?t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth( Felicia Hardison Londre, 92)?

Another object of heavy symbolism in the drama are the many wore drobes that Blanche

possesses. While they may appear exquisite, elaborate, and very expensive, they are

actually all made of synthetic material and are actually cheap in value and quality. This is

symbolic of the front Blanche puts up for her self, while she may seem charming, beautiful,

and sophisticated, when you examine her more closely it is revealed that she is nothing but

a corrupt, lying, whore.

Tennessee Williams is obviously one of the most innovative playwrights of modern

theater. Through his play, A Streetcar Named Desire, he set the stage for realistic plots

and characters to combine with conventional theatrical dramatics, for an overall

spectacular show. Through his use of realistic characters, whom the audience could relate

with, as well as humanizing his characters with personality strengths and flaws, Tennessee

Williams portrayed a realistic drama that his audience can relate to. The Characters of

Blanche and Stanley, are two characters that the audience could believe were real people.

I see other peers at school, which I view as having the same personalities, as well as the

same strengths and weaknesses as Blanche and Stanley. You can see other real life people

through the characters in this drama and this was, I feel, was done intentionally by

Tennessee Williams in order to draw a closer tie between his drama, and real life.

Through his drama A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams has become the true

innovator of modern dramatic theater.

List of Works Cited

1. Londre, Felicia Hardison et all. Tennessee Williams. New York: Frederick Ungar

Publishing Co., 1971.

2. Corrigan, Mary Ann. ?Realism and Theatricalism in ?A Streetcar Named Desire?.?

Modern Drama. 1976. Rpt. in Contemporary literary Criticism. Vol. 30. Stine, Jean C.

Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1984, 575-576.

3. Daniels Steven. ?A Tribute to Tennessee Williams.? Nov. 1998, April 9, 1999

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