A Streetcar Named Desire Theme

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QUESTIONS
1. Did Stella ever know that Stanley raped Blanche? If so, why didn’t she care? 2. Why was there no apparent difference between blacks and whites in the play, given the time period? 3. Does Blanche ever heal and go on to live a normal life on her own? CRITISISM

From a feminist perspective, A Streetcar Named Desire is a work ready to be analyzed. The differences between men and women are especially prominent in the relationship between Stanley and Stella. The language and actions that Stanley uses to address his wife are quite vulgar. He swears at her regularly, and in many instances hits her. Stella’s response is that of a loyal dog, following Stanley around and excusing his maltreatment of her without a second thought. Also throughout the play, women never hold any significant position of power. In fact, men hold all the power, as seen when Stanley beats Stella and rapes Blanche, both without any repercussions. Neither Blanche nor Stella holds a job, and Blanche’s most recent job included prostitution. The female experience as portrayed by Tennessee Williams is that of an altogether suppressed and chained-down gender role. Women do not have any power, and they are in submission to the men’s desires at all times. Blanche is characterized as essentially hopeless without a man, and Mitch dictates their relationship. The major theme for female characters through the production is that they are weak individuals who do not possess the capacity to be worth much more than a reproductive machine and cook.

A Streetcar Named Desire
Fantasy is used as a coping mechanism until reality becomes too much to be covered by a simple illusion of the mind.

Ashley James
AP English 12 Period 5
January 10, 2013
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is a play that has been performed for years. The story of two sisters takes place in New Orleans. Tennessee Williams takes a situation and personifies it through the stage. Throughout the production, Williams uses multiple literary elements to get the theme across to the audience. The theme of the overall work has much to do with fantasy as a coping mechanism; every character Williams introduces is guilty of this in one degree or another. The drama is wrapped around two worlds; one that is made up and full of fantasy, and the real world. Hence, the theme of the work is that fantasy can only be used as a coping mechanism until reality becomes too much to be covered by a simple illusion of the mind. The theme is enhanced by Williams’ plot structure and the elements that it entails. The initial exposition is that Blanche and Stella grew up on a rich southern plantation, as evident when Eunice meets Blanche and asks EUNICE: And you’re from Mississippi, huh?

BLANCHE: Yes.
EUNICE: [Stella] showed me a picture of your place, the plantation… A place likethat must be awful hard to keep up (Williams 9). Since the plantation has been lost, Blanche’s life has gone downhill. It is because of this downhill trajectory that Blanche seeks to stay with her sister while she gets herself together, explaining to her sister that she has lost her job because BLANCHE: I was so exhausted by all I’d been through me – nerves broke. [Nervously tamping cigarette] I was on the verge of – lunacy, almost! So Mr. Graves – Mr. Graves is the high school superintendent – he suggested I take a leave of absence (14). The main complication of the entire play is that Blanche is struggling with insanity; however she refuses to admit any of it, as show in the preceding quote. Blanche has been fired for sleeping with a student, but in her own made-up reality, she is simply taking a short leave. Blanche even fantasizes even that Stella’s lowly apartment should be better than it is in reality, when she says BLANCHE: This –can this be—her home? (7).

The crisis scene is when Blanche’s fantasies become more noticeable and consequently, a bigger part of her life and the plotline. Blanche...
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