Points to Ponder
The direct clash between Stanley Kowalski and Blanche Dubois represents an ongoing war between several sets of conflicting values: truth vs. fiction, reality vs. fantasy, ambition vs. imagination, lust vs. love. The marriage between Stanley and Stella makes no sense to Blanche because it is based on a reality that she has never been able to accept - that sex can be the foundation of love. She considers emotional security and trust as the roots of love, but she doesn't grasp the importance of fulfilling natural human desires. Blanche may have had many sexual affairs and sought comfort in the arms of strangers, but she only sought temporary relief from them to escape the terrors of loneliness - what she really wants out of a relationship is someone who she can share life with and who will understand her. The sexuality that exudes from Stanley is too overwhelming for her to handle because it is REAL - it is palpable and tangible in his figure, and it is not just a figment of her powerful and overactive imagination.
Symbolism runs rampant throughout this play; Tennessee Williams also seemed to have the same imagination as the distinguished Blanche Dubois. The delicate paper lantern that Blanche places over the light bulb in her room represents the fašade that she consistently wears. Because the light of the naked bulb is too harsh, the paper lantern dulls the light and makes everything appear more attractive. So too does Blanche try to misrepresent the truth about the mistakes that she has made in the past in order to make herself more attractive to others, for she believes that the "real" her is not beautiful enough to be loved.
Another example of the symbolism that is omnipresent in the play is Blanche's need for bathing. She takes several baths throughout the play because she is metaphorically washing off her past sins. These rejuvenating, cleansing baths, however, have only temporary power, for in a few hours, she feels dirty again - and the guilt and shame that tortures her from her past comes back to haunt her again. Note that Stanley always complains whenever Blanche is in the tub, for he constantly gripes to Stella about how Blanche always hogs the bathroom for her lengthy baths. The forceful presence of Stanley, the voice of harsh reality in the play, thus proves that Blanche's attempt to renew and redefine herself through washing away her sins and her guilt will ultimately fail.
In addition to the powerful symbolism that runs throughout the play, the autobiographical elements that appear in the cast of characters also lend poignancy to Williams' script. Tennessee Williams' life was filled with the same strains of alcoholism, isolation, depression, and insanity that echo throughout A Streetcar Named Desire. Williams was a homosexual who declared his sexuality during an era that did not embrace - or understand - homosexuality, and the suicide of Blanche's young homosexual husband, Allan, reveals some of the same loneliness, angst, and depression that tortured Williams throughout his life. By using Blanche, the main character of the play, to exemplify the disgust with which America met with homosexuality during the time period, Williams showed how alone and depressed he was. Like Blanche, Williams also toyed with alcoholism as an escape from the isolation that he experienced because of his sexuality, and after his partner died in 1963, the quality of his work diminished because of the depression that overwhelmed him.
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Points to Ponder
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