Symbols and Symbolism in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire

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The most obvious symbol used in A Streetcar Named Desire is its title and the actual reference, in the play, to the streetcars named Desire and Cemeteries. They are the means by which Blanche was brought to the home of Stanley and Stella and, as the play unfolds, we realize the names of the streetcars have a greater significance. Blanche's instructions were to “take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries." When Blanche first arrives she is possessed by a desire for love and understanding, but always in the background lurks the fear of death and destruction. If the one cannot be obtained, a transfer to the other will be the inevitable alternative. Blanche indicates this in her speech to Mitch in scene…show more content…
Perhaps one can go further in suggesting that Paradise was originally created for two. The intrusion of a third member caused sin and despair. Elysian Fields will never be the same for Stanley and Stella after Blanche's departure. During Blanche's slow and inevitable journey toward insanity she is constantly looking for a means of escape.With ‘defiant courage’ in the face of inevitable defeat, Blanche tries to survive with dignity (Adler 13). Realizing that satisfaction is impossible in the Kowalski household, she reaches out desperately to Mitch. When this means of escape becomes unattainable she creates an escape of her own, Shep Huntleigh. He is a symbol of the perfect gentleman for whom Blanche searched but never really found. She found him, however, in her world of fantasy. As Blanche's deterioration increases, Huntleigh becomes a more vital and dominant illusion for her. In scene nine we hear the vendor's cry of the Mexican Woman, "Flores, flores para los muertos" (flowers, flowers for the dead). It follows the moment when Mitch denounces Blanche as a liar and thereupon refuses to marry her. The vendor's cry becomes symbolic of Blanche's failure to remain among the living. Blanche protests by shouting "No, no! Not now! Not now!" but the cry persists and in the following moment Blanche loses her hold on reality. Throughout the play there is a continual reference to light. It is used in the form of bright sunlight,
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