Reader Response A Streetcar Named Desire

Throughout the play “A Streetcar Named Desire” written in 1944 by Thomas Lanier Williams, better known as Tennessee Williams; we can meet various social issues such as homosexuality, loneliness, psychiatric illness and the contrast between the New and the Old America. This are all social issues presented during the life of the author. The protagonist of the play have the characteristics of Tennessee Williams’ family, Stanley is like his father, the one who decides everything, as a “KING”.

Meanwhile Blanche is a mix between his sisters Rose who was mentally ill and his mother who had hysterical attacks, and as we know the author of the play was homosexual who consumed his 1rst experience at age of 28 and declaring it openly during an interview, this connects directly to Blanches’ husband who was Homo and killed himself.

Once William said “Symbols are nothing but the natural speech of drama… the purest language of plays”.

In the whole play there is hidden meaning; we know that the initial title of the play was “the moth” which represents Blanche a fragile being, in literature the moth is the soul, therefore the entire play is a big allegory that talks about the way to heaven (Elysian Fields) of the soul.

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So the whole play is centred on Blanche. With her perfect fluent speech she reminds us of her past, of being an English teacher meanwhile Stanley with his slang speech gives us an idea of caveman like, so the scene when he rapes her is aspect.

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Blanche firstly fells superior to Stanley, secondly she represents the old America, a fragile, old minded and ready to the decay, thirdly she is going away with the age such as the old fashioned America, leaving place to the new America represented by Stanley, a big healthy well integrated, forward looking, and proud. This is clear when in the text says “I am not a Polack. People from Poland are Poles, not Polacks.

But what I am is a hundred per cent American , born raised in the greatest country on earth and proud as hell of it, so don’t ever call me again Polack. “(pg197). We can also say that the new America wins over the old one, by when Blanche gets raped by Stanley, we can suppose this theory even though Williams does not say it explicitly because of the time the play was written, and we can observe from the text “she moans. The bottle-top falls”. Moreover the old America is like a parasite depending on the new America and continuing judging it badly.

The contrast between the new and old America in the play is very obvious because 1900s there was the second world war which Stanley has participated with his friend Mitch and it also seen when Blanche talks about the relations with the young soldiers who had established next to her house. Another issue which is manifested through the play, is the marriage for convenience, this existed way before of this play, for example already in the BCE, the Emperor let their own son or daughter marry the other Emperors so at the end they could strengthen and unite the two kingdoms, another example is shown in “Pride & Prejudice”.

In “A Streetcar Named Desire” is manifested by Mitch who wants to marry Blanche because he thinks when her mother is going to die, he will be alone, it is clear when he says “You need somebody. And I need somebody, too. Could it be -you and me, Blanche? “(pg184). Meanwhile Blanche is living in her own fantasy world even though she knows of becoming old and if she does not marry out quick she would be alone and without a home where to stay for the rest of her life. Blanche is the main protagonist of the play because when she is brought to the mental hospital the play ends.

Furthermore Blanche has many obsessions like the one of taking baths, because like Macbeth’s wife who had committed a crime, Blanche has a dirty conscience and bad reputation of what she had done in the past. She says “Here I am, all freshly bathed and scented, and feeling like a brand-new human being! “(pg135). This shows us that she tries to clean of the dirt that she has accumulated by her actions. Continuing she is obsessed of her age and good looking, she lives in her own magic world with the “Chinese paper lantern”, but when Mitch rips it off the naked light bulb shows her real identity, which is certainly not a clean young girl’s one.

Adding to these problems, Blanche has also a psychiatric illness such as the one of hearing the background music, the Blue piano which reminded us the poor conditions where she lived in and the Varsouviana Polka, which after this she hears the gunshot from which his husband Allan died of . Is evident when it says “[the music of the polka rises up, faint in the distance. ]”(pg130) I think that at present day audience(2006) would judge “A Streetcar Named Desire” differently from the past one. Back in the 1950s the terms “nigger” and “negro” were common parlances with “negro” being the more polite term.

For example “negro woman”(pg117) or when in the play they make the joke upon a “nigger”(pg144), Since the Civil Rights movement in 1965 led by Martin Luther King, now they have the same rights of every human being and for respect they are called “Afro-Americans” or “black” . Continuing Homosexuality back then was considered a disgrace and illegal, no book, play or film could not talk about homosexuality explicitly. However it was shown implicitly for example Blanches’ husband, it is clear in the text when it says “a softness and tenderness which wasn’t like a man’s” (pg182) and “but had two people in it…

” (pg183). Nowadays there are also gay marriages and they can go around shouting their sexuality to the world, and the society would not say anything because people are more open minded, meanwhile back then they would been shot down. Another example are films like “Broke back mountains” or telefilms “Will & Grace”. Another issue which people would judge differently is sex, this is present in the play as “having them coloured lights going”(pg199), in the 1950s “sex” was not one of the issues that you would talk about in public, at present times it is normal to talk about it in bars or elsewhere.

This could not be shown on movie screens meantime now if there is no sex in a film barely someone would go and watch it. Last issue is that women did not have much rights back then, this was also thought by Stanley who says “Every man is a king! And I’m the king around here, so don’t forget it! ” by this quotation we see the control of man over women, they were considered inferior to men, moreover Stanley also punches Stella, Steve Eunice, Mitch maybe Blanche and Stanley rapes Blanche.

In the 1950s women were only beginning to enter the workforce and the man was the main breadwinner. Now, many women are feminists and all have an inspiration in their life and they want to have a career, and mostly important they have the same rights of men. Therefore men cannot punch anymore their wives because they can be put in jail. In conclusion the social issues explored by Tennessee Williams are all the issues that he has personally lived from the 1911 to 1944, which are homosexuality, loneliness, psychiatric illness and the contrast between the New and the Old America.

I also believe that in 60years period of time the audience would judge much differently upon the issues that we mentioned, such as the homosexuality, racism, feminism and sex. As I said the play finishes when Blanche ends into the mental hospital where she will spend the rest of her life, she instead dreamed to die between the arms of a young doctor on a boat floating in the sea. This creates a sad theme for the reader which will might fell pity for her end.

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Reader Response A Streetcar Named Desire. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Reader Response A Streetcar Named Desire

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