• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Assess the view that Tennessee Williams use of symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire enhances the audiences understanding of the characters and themes in the play.

Extracts from this document...


Assess the view that Tennessee Williams' use of symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire enhances the audiences understanding of the characters and themes in the play. Tennessee Williams' uses many literary techniques in A Streetcar Named Desire but the most valuable in constructing the plot and evoking understanding into the audience would be the technique of symbolism. The use of symbolism is effective in the due to the fact that it generates thoughts in the readers mind through a non-verbal narrative. The thoughts produced make it easier for the interpreter to form imagery and relate to the story. Williams use of symbolism help the audience to comprehend the themes and characters. One way in which symbolism is used is through the medium of light. In the beginning of the play when we learn more about the protagonist, Blanche DeBois, we find that she is not keen on the glare of a "naked light". Some may interpret this as Blanches' vain nature present as she fears people will see her faded looks. Her faded looks suggest that she is growing old and maybe the fear is less based on her vanity and in fact that she fears of being forgotten, like her ancestors and Belle Reeve which are both lost. This is further supported by her grasping for attention throughout the play and through conversations, for example when Blanche speaks to Stella she explains that men "...don't even admit your existence unless they are making love to you." ...read more.


Her struggle to keep this part of her alive is made apparent when she states on her birthday that Stanley's "commonness isn't necessary" when Stanley throws food, showing that she is still trying to uphold manners and common curtsy which is lacking. If Blanche is representative of the old America, then Stanley's representative of the new line of industrial labourers. In this sense Stanley is symbolic of the new. He believes that he is equal to Blanche in terms of status, perhaps even greater due to the fact that he is referred to as the "new heterogeneous" worker, who work to achieve everything they possesses. He states that he is "one hundred per cent American ... And proud of it". His suggests that his behaviour is due to the fact that he believes that he is representative of the real America whereas Blanches' representation offends him as it disregards meritocracy, which leads him into saying "everyman is a king". This could be to further elaborate the difference between him and Blanche as she views herself as royalty but Stanley is actually the king of the house. Williams' presented the theme of fantasy versus reality into the play. This is hugely significant as we see Blanche going mental and drowning herself in her lies and fantasies to a point where she's lost control of her mind. It is obvious that Blanche prefers her fantasies and lies as she mentions "I don't want realism, I want magic", which could be her pursuit of chivalric hero, which she can't seem to find. ...read more.


Blanche also mentions that the polka music ends after the gunshot which refers to the death of her husband at the end of the dance. Williams' has used the polka music to resemble any point in the play when Blanche is affected by the death of her husband. The fact that she hears it often indicates that she is haunted by her past. The poker game is largely significant as it takes place during the beginning of the play and at the end of the play. In the first poker game we see that Stanley is losing "when I'm losing you want to eat?" this symbolises the arrival of Blanche and the hard times coming into the household. During the second game Stanley experiences good luck in the game but could resemble the fact that Blanche's leaving and he's getting what he wants. Poker is cleverly incorporated since it is a game of bluff and at the end it seems top the audience that Blanche has run out of cards - lies to tell. The symbolism used by Williams brings more emotion into the play but also bring greater meaning to the characters' actions and to their emotions. Over all it is safe to conclude that the characters that Williams has constructed are complex even though the audiences are given indications to the core of them. The audience are left to decide how to categories the characters in genres of good and bad which is important since everyone has good and bad qualities. There are probably more hidden uses of symbolism in the play which aren't apparent as the ones explored in this essay. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level A Street Car Named Desire section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level A Street Car Named Desire essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Tennessee Williams wrote in a letter that It (Streetcar) is a tragedy with the ...

    5 star(s)

    Williams uses this motif to symbolise her escape from reality as she explains 'I won't be looked at in this merciless glare' to hide her deteriorating image, with her obvious intolerability of light on stage allowing the audience to focus on her constant escape from reality.

  2. Free essay

    Tennessee Williams wrote in a letter that It (Streetcar) is a tragedy with the ...

    5 star(s)

    has caused her downfall - this is evident as she cries 'this place is a trap' proving to the audience her realisation that Elysian Fields is the cause of her downfall. Therefore Williams makes it clear that a misunderstanding has caused Blanche's tragic demise, with the initial decision of going

  1. Marked by a teacher

    How does Williams present the character of Blanche in scenes 1-3 of A Streetcar ...

    4 star(s)

    Blanche has a drinking problem. Williams presents this through her actions during her isolated period on stage, and also during her conversation with Stella: '...talk while I look around for some liquor...No coke, honey, not with my nerves tonight!' On the one hand, she clearly is dependant on alcohol to calm her nerves, but on

  2. A Streetcar Named Desire - scenes 2 and 3 reviewed.

    This shows that Blanche has a sense of reality. She knows that her beauty is fading. * Blanche appears to believe that the men will act differently to how they do (old/new). She tells the guys, 'Please don't get up.'- She touches them though because later on in the book they do stand for her.

  1. A Steercar Named Desire - Blanche's Psychological Breakdown.

    The play A Streetcar Named Desire made playwright Tennessee William's name and has deservedly since had over half a century of success. This remarkable success can be credited to the intricate characters and their interactions with each other. Sisters, Stella and Blanche have had an enjoyable upbringing on the family plantation, "Belle Reve".

  2. What part does fantasy play in the lives of the characters in A Streetcar ...

    Dressed in "white clothes" she appears to be the moth like "Southern Belle" who she leads Mitch to believe she is, yet in her satin robe she presents herself to be the "scarlet woman" who has claimed so many "victims".

  1. Blanche and Mitch's relationship in "A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams.

    Instead of this, she finds hostility and rejection, especially from Stanley. To compensate for her loneliness and despair, she creates illusions. She wants to be seen for what she wishes to be, instead of who she really is. This is why she is constantly bathing and she puts up a

  2. How important are illusions and fantasy as themes in 'A Streetcar Named Desire?'

    At first, they would try to deny it but the illusion would soon be totally destroyed when Blanche let it slip while they were dancing that "I saw! I know! You disgust me..." Because of all this, Blanche falls into an illusion, and she truly believes that if she were

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work