TENNESSEE WILLIAMSí A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE:
A Reaction, Assessment of Literary Value,
Biography of the Author, and Literary Critism

Tennessee Williams's play A Streetcar Named Desire contains more within it's characters, situations, and story than appears on its surface. As in many of Williams's plays, there is much use of symbolism and interesting characters in order to draw in and involve the audience. The plot of A Streetcar Named Desire alone does not captivate the audience. It is Williams's brilliant and intriguing characters that make the reader truly understand the play's meaning. He also presents a continuous flow of raw, realistic moods and events in the play which keeps the reader fascinated in the realistic fantasy Williams has created in A Streetcar Named Desire. The symbolism, characters, mood, and events of this play collectively form a captivating, thought-provoking piece of literature.
A Streetcar Named Desire produces a very strong reaction. Even at the beginning of the play, the reader is confronted with extremely obvious symbolism in order to express the idea of the play. Blanche states that she was told "to take a streetcar named Desire, and then to transfer to one called Cemeteries". One can not simply read over this statement without assuming Williams is trying to say more than is written. Later in the play, the reader realizes that statement most likely refers to Blanche's arriving at the place and situation she is now in because of her servitude to her own desires and urges. What really makes A Streetcar Named Desire such an exceptional literary work is the development of interesting, involving characters. As the play develops, the audience sees that Blanche is less proper and refined than she might appear or claim to be. Her sexual desire and tendency to drink away her problems make Blanche ashamed of her life and identity. Desire was the "rattle-trap streetcar" that brought her to her pitiful state in life.
Blanche is the most fascinating character in A Streetcar Named Desire. One reason for this is that she has an absolutely brilliant way of making reality seem like fantasy, and making fantasy seem like reality. This element of Blanche's personality is what makes her character interest the audience and contribute to the excellence of the work. Returning to the beginning of the play, Blanche, shocked with the dirtiness and gloominess of Stella and Stanley's home in New Orleans, looks out the window and says "Out there I suppose is the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir!", to which Stella replies "No honey, those are the L and N tracks." Blanche would assume that something so common and simple as noisy, dark railroad tracks might as well be "ghoul-haunted woodlands." Further evidence of Blanche's warped view of reality and fantasy is shown throughout the entire play. She seems to hint to Stella and Stanley, and therefore the audience, that she is actually much more than she seems. In scene seven, Blanche soaks in a tub, singing:
"Say, it's only a paper moon, sailing over a cardboard sea
-But it wouldn't be make-believe If you believed in me!
It's a Barnum and Bailey world, Just as phony as it can be
-But it wouldn't be make-believe If you believed in me!"
As she sings this song, telling the story of her tendency to believe a more pleasant, warped view of reality over the actual reality, Stanley is telling Stella the horrifying truth about Blanche's scandalous past. The reader is as drawn into Blanche's illusion as much as Stella is, and just as Stella refuses to believe Stanley's harsh words, the audience also does not want to accept that the view they have had of Blanche for a good deal of the play is nothing more than a story made up to hide her unpleasant history. The clearest example of this is also one of the most intense and involving scenes of the entire play. In scene nine, Blanche is confronted by Mitch, who has learned the truth about her past. Mitch tells Blanche that he has never seen her in the light. He tears Blanche's paper lantern off of the plain, bright light bulb, and tries to see her as she really is, and not in a view warped by Blanche's efforts to make herself seem more innocent, young, and beautiful