Summary: An analysis of some of the many symbols found in "A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams, with the help of psychoanalytical theory. Williams' expert use of these symbols helped him to convey the meaning of many characteristics of the protagonists in the play. It is very debatable nowadays how much psychology can influence an author or how much the author's psychological features can influence his work. The creation of a character demands different kinds of information and the most important part of this process happens when the psychological aspects of the character are put together to meet his life history up to that moment when the story is happening.When A Streetcar Named Desire is read by someone who knows something about Williams' life, it becomes quite an easy task to find similarities between his life and the characters in the play. Some of these similarities are:
Tennessee Williams had a sister who collapsed psychologically and had to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and this fact made him feel guilty about having abandoned her.Stella, in the play, also feels guilty about abandoning her sister, Blanche, when a doctor is called at the end of the play, and he takes her to a psychiatric hospital. •
Williams' grandparents came from a declining aristocratic background. Again, in the play, it is associated with Stella and Blanche's declining aristocratic family too. •
Blanche is always on the verge of collapsing psychologically, and so is Williams in real life. •
Williams had to leave his parents' house and move to another city in order to "get out of the closet" and try to live a happier life.Blanche also had to move to another city, and she also did it looking for a better life after her eviction from Belle Reve and her ostracism from Laurel due to her immoral past.
Symbols in A Streetcar Named Desire
But, what are symbols? What does symbolism represent in psychoanalysis? Symbols are all around us. We use symbols to represent numbers in maths and there are symbols to depict feelings - a heart shape is the symbol of love - for instance. Symbolism is probably the most important means of communication used by the unconscious, since it has to hide some sinful thoughts, such as the killing of a parent.It was the use of symbols that Williams did so well in his A Streetcar Named Desire to help him convey the meaning of a great many characteristics of the protagonists in the play.
Symbols in this novel
Blanche hates light. The only type of light she can bear is candlelight. This feeling of hatred started soon after her husband killed himself. Before that, being in love with him meant to have the world revealed in bright, vivid light. After his death everything became dark and gloomy for her. Her love to that man had been like a blinding light to her. She also avoids direct light because she is afraid to show people that she is "no spring chicken anymore." She refuses to reveal her age, and she does not want other people to see her ageing face. Right at the beginning of the play (pages 132 and 133), Blanche does not allow her sister to take a close look at her and she orders Stella to turn off the over-light. She even covers the light bulb with a Chinese lantern, so as to make the light dimmer. When Mitch manages to turn on the light and looks at Blanche attentively for the first time, Blanche feels as if she were naked and she begins to tell him all about her past in Belle Reve and in Laurel. Zodiac signs
Stanley was born under Capricorn the Goat. It is a very strong star sign, and here it refers to the fact that Stanley is not more than an animal for Blanche. Blanche was born under Virgo, the virgin. Deep in Blanche's heart and thoughts she is a virgin. Her fibs help her hide her cruel and immoral past from herself, but she means no harm when she lies.
Blanche uses water to bathe herself in a hot tub every time things get difficult for her. She tells Stella that she...
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