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
?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