” Blanche’s lines are normally quite long and intricate and always dodging around the subject. (ironically at one point she asks “can I speak plainly? “) This all shows she is quite a sociable and chatty person but also insecure so she tends to drag on trying to justify herself and also quite dainty and proper never wanting to be seen as blunt or rude. “In A Streetcar Named Desire” Williams uses symbolism as an important factor in highlighting the themes and characters of the play. A lot of the symbolism is linked back to Blanche showing her character and the traces back to the old south.
The first example of this in the play is Belle Reve. Belle Reve translates as “Beautiful dream” which is what it means to Blanche, not just as a physical home but as all of the things that she valued being good in the old south. When Belle Reve was lost, as well as showing the loss of the old south it symbolises how Blanche becomes lost in the changing world. Blanche’s trunk also has a big symbolic significance especially during the first part of the play. On two occasions Stanley tries to pry into Blanche’s life and find out the truth behind her past and the loss of Belle Reve.
To do this “he pulls open the wardrobe trunk standing in the middle of room and jerks out an armful of dresses” This shows symbolically how Blanche’s life is contained completely in the trunk admitting to Stanley “Everything I own is in that trunk” When Stanley invades the trunk pulling out various items and disregarding them he is in fact invading her life stirring it up, destroying any order and showing no concern for anything’s well being. The trunk gives the audience an insight into what is going to happen later in the play, how Stanley destroys the trunk symbolising Blanche and then later in the play destroys Blanche by raping her.
So Williams uses symbolism to foreshadow the rape. Tennessee Williams involves many different themes throughout the play. Some of the more obvious themes include loss, fate, a changing south and the past. Even within the title the theme of fate is present referring to a street car. A streetcar is much like fate as it can only go along in one direction with no different paths or turning back. Just like the idea of fate that you are destined to follow one path in life from which you can not escape and to which you have no choice over.
The theme of fate and death plays a large part in Blanche’s character in particular. Blanche has come to live with her sister, running away from her previous life in which there could not be a happy end to find that in the end her fate is already destined and she can not escape from it. This ties to the symbolism used when Blanche takes the streetcar named Desire that ends up at the Cemeteries, showing that Blanche’s fate will take the same path of the streetcar. A message Williams tries to convey in this play is that of the past and how it is inescapable.
We see throughout the play how Blanche is haunted by her past and how every time she is made to think back over it we hear the polka music in the background as a recurring theme. This is the case as Stanley asks, “You were married once, weren’t you? The music of the polka rises up, faint in the distance. ” So, her past has made her present situation, and future, inevitable. She cannot escape. During the beginning scene of the play, the conversation between Stella and Blanche shows the difference between these two sisters as Blanche is remembering the past and Stella trying to forget is now that she’s got a new life with Stanley.
This is another of the themes apparent throughout the play, the idea of the old south disappearing into the new south. Blanche very much represents the old south, withering and feeling lost in the changing world while Stella and Stanley show the new south with Stanley working in a factory just as industry is becoming big and Stella leaving Belle Reve a long time ago to start a new fresh life with Stanley in the new south. Williams could have written this from his own experience from moving when he was younger from his large family home to an area much more like Stella and Stanley’s home because of money issues.
Another idea is the violence and brutality mostly either between Stanley and Stella or Stanley and Blanche. Williams conveys the message in the play that violence and brutality overpowers others, that the world is run by those who are brutal and overpowering. This idea that Williams portrays could be down to his own experiences as a child watching his father act in a similar way to Stanley, drinking and using violence to maintain his control and authority.
It is used by Stanley to keep his control in the household which he expects snapping at Stella when he is told what to do “Since when do you give me orders? ” This is especially the case when Blanche arrives and his control in the household seems threatened as Blanche tries to (in his mind) manipulate and have Stella depend on her instead of Stanley. In the end Stanley shows his authority over Blanche by raping her violently. In ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, the idea of violence and passion are closely linked.
This is shown through Stanley and Stella’s relationship how they have a violent but passionate relationship, and how the violence makes the passion. A good example of this is in scene three, after having a violent argument Stanley shouts on Stella “(With heaven-splitting violence) STELL-LAHHHHHH! ” At this Stella appears, as the violence turns to passion “They come together with low, animal moans. ” Desire is also closely linked to this with Stella’s all consuming desire for Stanley admitting to Blanche “when he’s away for a week I nearly go wild!
” and also admitting her dependency on Stanley “when he comes back I cry on his lap like a baby” Although all these themes play a major role in a streetcar named desire I believe the main theme Williams is trying to covey in the play is the idea of loss or losing something. This theme is present throughout the play in many different forms. Most of these are linked back to Blanche and her losses. She first loses ‘the boy’ and then Belle Reve, both of which lead to her loss of dignity, sanity, status and then need for security which she tries to find in Mitch.
Blanche also goes through losing many of her older relatives at Belle Reve which she describes very graphically to Stella to almost justify the loss of Belle Reve and showing to the audience that experiencing these deaths has obviously affected her. She talks about “All those deaths! The long walk to the graveyard! ” and how “The Grim Reaper had put up his tent on our doorsteps!… Stella, Belle Reve was his headquarters! ” This also ties in with the theme of death. There are many deaths spoken of in the play, the old relatives as well as the death of the young boy of which Blanche blames herself.
Mentioning these deaths is important to show Blanche’s background and how she has become a broken and insecure character. I believe that within the first two scenes of “A Streetcar Named Desire” Tennessee Williams sets the characters up well for what happens later by showing us parts of their characters that do not seem important at the time but show great importance at a later stage. I believe examples of this are how we see Stella telling Blanche how “wild” she is about Stanley. This is then built on to show the complete desire she feels that will compel her to always go back to him.
We also see Blanche being secretive, firstly about drinking but then later on Williams unveils Blanche’s secret disgracing history. I also think that Tennessee Williams helps set up the characters endings using the Streetcar to symbolise Blanche’s fate and Stanley destroying her trunk to give warning of the rape. Ultimately I think that Williams sets out the basis of each character well leaving audiences with a whole rounded view of each character within the first two scenes that then gets explored with much more detail and explanation throughout the play.