Themes Of Death And Desire In A

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Themes Of Death And Desire In A Streetcar Named Desire Essay, Research Paper ” Desire, unreined, leads to death” To took what extent to Tennessee Williams’s plays lend support to such a proposition? Speaking to a reporter in 1963 Tennessee Williams said, ” Death is my best theme, don’t you think? The pain of dying is what worries me, not the act. After all, nobody gets out of life alive. “1 The themes of death and desire are central in the play A Streetcar Named to Desire. When the play was released in 1948 it caused a storm, its sexual content was controversial to say the least, but also it was, “virtually unique as a stage piece that is both personal and social and wholly a product of our life today.” 2 The play tells of the visit of the main character,

Blanche, a supposedly typical to Southern Belle, to her long estranged sister Stella, who she finds living in modesty in New Orleans. Williams brutally rips away the skin of conventionality to reveal the true motivations of the characters, focusing on Blanches apparent fall to madness, and culminating in her eventual rape by her brother-in-law Stanley. It is important to understand what Williams means when he talks of death to the reporter. For Williams the fact of being dead or the act of death is not important, but it is the pain that precedes it. This has metaphorical significance which resonates throughout the play. Though the characters do not physically die it is in their inevitable downfall that we see the symbolic pain of death. In all the characters it is clear that

their unbridled desires, their Id force, lead to significant downfalls. This essay aims to intricately analyse the many ways Williams uses ideas and themes of desire to bring about “death” in A Streetcar Named Desire, in particular focusing on the central issue of the play, the demise of Blanche. The first line that Blanche speaks is, “They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then up transferor to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at- Elysian Feilds!3 The theme that dominates the play is here to be found in its title. At the time when Tennessee Williams was working on A Streetcar Named Desire in New Orleans in 1946 there actually were streetcars which listed as their destinations “desire” and “Cemeteries” and it is little surprise that

these struck Williams as profound symbols. In an essay he wrote at the time he said, “their indiscourageable progress up and down Royal St struck me as having some symbolic bearing of a broad nature on the life in the Vieux Carre’ and everywhere else for that matter” 4. Here the symbolism is obvious, the Streetcar which is representative of desire, carries its passengers inexorably on its rails to its destination. This Streetcar is linked with another one going to ” Cemeteries” as Sambrook points out this is a, “fortuitous reminder of the likely eventual outcome of a life driven by passion served to reinforce the theme of fatal desire.” here we cannot be mistaken that Williams is implying that unbridled desire will surely lead to “death”. The facts that Blanche

journey has led her to the Elysian Fields, the resting place of the blessed after death, will unfold to reveal its irony, and perhaps cast allusions to Blanche’s deteriorating mental health. So right from the outset Williams has given us an unmistakable hint as to the ideas and themes, which will be unravelled throughout the play. Though this is where the play begins, the story’s roots can be found 30 years previously. It is the acts and events before Blanche’s arrival that precipitate her downfall within the play, these take us to Belle Reve, the ancestral mansion outside Laurel, Mississippi, which was once the centre of a great plantation in the antebellum days. As Boxill pointed out though the “the indulgence of decadent habits, on the part of the men in the family, in