Symbolic Dichotomy in a Streetcar Named Desire Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Streetcar Named Desire:

The symbolic dichotomy and opposition between Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski

Tennessee William's Blanche Dubois from an "A Streetcar Named Desire" is one of the most complex characters in dramatic literature. On one hand, Blanche represents fine, southern gentility. When she speaks of losing the family estate Belle Reve, in contrast to the practical Stanley Kowalski, she is vague about the legal and financial complications which led her to such dire straits. She simply does not seem to understand or care. "I think it's wonderful that Belle Reve should finally be this bunch of old papers in your big, capable hands" she says sarcastically to Stanley, mocking his emphasis on his legal entitlement to his wife's share of the estate (44). Hoping that a man will save her from her predicament, she flits like a moth in her sister's apartment, creating 'magic' with paper lanterns. She represents a fragile version of aristocracy that is literally and figuratively crushed by the Stanleys of the world.

Yet Blanche is also a highly sexualized woman. Although she relies upon the 'kindness of strangers' and the protections accorded to Southern women in traditional views of femininity, she lost her job because of improper relations with a male student. "I've got to be good and keep my hands off children" (99). She is devastated when her husband, whom she loved, was revealed to be gay and could not satisfy her sexually. Her need for sexual desire as well as sensitivity and poetry is not commensurate with her self-image as someone who needs constant protection and is above the earthly aspects of life. Within Blanche's own soul, there is a divided consciousness, that of a woman who has sexual desire and the ideal of the Southern belle who is virginal and decorous.

Throughout the play, Blanche is 'pitted' against Stanley. Williams makes this explicit when Blanche urges Stella not to sink to the level of 'the brutes' and to leave her husband. When Stanley…

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Work Cited

Williams, Tennessee. "A Streetcar Named Desire." Dramatis Play Service, 1998.

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