A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams was once quoted as saying "Symbols are nothing but the natural speech of drama...the purest language of plays" (Adler
30). This is clearly evident in A Streetcar Named Desire, one of
Williams's many plays. I n analyzing the main character of the story,
Blanche DuBois, it is crucial to use both the literal text as well as
the symbols of the story to get a complete and thorough understanding
of her.

Before one can understand Blanche's character one must understand
the reason why she moves to New Orleans and joins her sister, Stella,
and brother-in-law, Stanley. By analyzing the symbolism in the first
scene, one can understand what prompted Blanche to move. Her
appearance in the first scene "suggests a moth" (Williams 96). In
literature a moth represents the soul. So it is possible to see her
entire voyage as the journey of her soul (Quirino 63). Later in the
same scene she describes her voyage: "They told me to take a streetcar
named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six
blocks and get off at Elysian Fields" (Quirino 63). Taken literally
this does not seam to add much to the story. However, if one
investigate Blanche's past one can truly understand what this
quotation symbolizes. Blanche left her home to join her sister,
because her life was a miserable wreck in her former place of
residence. She admits, at one point in the story, that "after the
death of Allan (her husband) intimacies with strangers was all I
seemed able to fill my empty heart with" (Williams, 178). She had
sexual relations with anyone who would agree to it. This is the first
step in her voyage-"Desire". She said that she was forced into this
situation because death was immanent and "The opposite (of death) is
desire" (Williams, 179). She escaped death in her use of desire.
However, she could not escape "death" for long. She was a teacher at a
high school, and at one point she had intimacies with a seventeen year
old student. The superintendent, "Mr. Graves", found out about this
and she was fired from her job. Her image was totally destroyed and
she could no longer stay there. "Mr. Graves" sent her on her next stop
of the symbolic journey-"Cemeteries". Her final destination was
"Elysian Fields". The inhabitants of this place are described in Book
six of the Aenied:

""They are the souls," answered his [Aeneas'] father Anchises,
"Whose destiny it is a second time
To live in the flesh and there by the waters of Lethe
They drink the draught that sets them free from care
And blots out their memory.""
(Quirino 61)

This is the place of the living dead. Blanche came to Elysian
Fields to forget her horrible past, and to have a fresh start in life
(Quirino, 63). In fact Blanche admits in the fourth scene that she
wants to "make myself a new life" (Williams 135).

By understanding the circumstances that brought Blanche to
Elysian fields it is easy to understand the motives behind many of
Blanches actions. One such action is that during the play Blanche is
constantly bathing. This represents her need to purify herself from
her past (Corrigan 53). However, it is important to note that
Blanche's description of her traveling came before she actually
settles into Elysian Fields. The description therefore represents the
new life Blanche hoped to find, not what she actually did find.

From the begging we see that Blanche does not fit in with the
people of her new community, nor her physical surroundings in her new
home. We can see that she did not fit in with the people of the
community by comparing the manner in which women in the story handle
their social life with men. In the third scene, Stella, who is
pregnant at the time, is beaten by her husband Stanley. She
immediately runs upstairs to her friend's apartment, upstairs. But,
soon Stanley runs outside and screams "Stell-lahhhhh" (Williams 133).
She proceeds to come down, and they then spend the night together. The
next morning Stella and Blanche discuss the horrible incident. Blanche
asks "How could you come back in this place last night?" (Williams
134). Stella answers "You're making much too much