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Streetcar Named Desire - Key Incident Essay

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Introduction

2006 Q4 - Theme of Desire and Key Incident "Streetcar Named Desire" is a play by Tennessee Williams in which the theme of desire is effectively highlighted by one specific scene. The theme is explored through the use of symbolism and characterisation. Scene 4 is effective in deepening my understanding of the play as a whole and reinforcing characterisation within the play. Stella, who is well educated, decides in Scene 4 to abandon her values and embrace Stanley's lower class way of living, for example Stella is reading "a book of coloured comics". She has become dependant on Stanley. Reading comics is childish and Stella has purposely left behind her well-educated background on her quest for Stanley's approval. We can see that by lowering her expectations of life and by marrying a common man, Stella has given into desire. This is effective because you wouldn't expect an educated woman to read a comic as they are associated with illiterates and low social classes. ...read more.

Middle

The theme of desire is also highlighted when Blanche tries to convince Stella to leave Stanley. The juxtaposition between Blanche and Stella's reaction to the brutal attack on Stella is ironic because Blanche is hysterical whereas Stella is calm and indifferent to the situation, even although it was her who was attacked. The irony highlights Stella's weakness for Stanley's brutality, this is effective because we are given an insight into how Stanley uses his animalistic side to control the people around him. Stella defends herself against Blanche by saying, "I'm not in anything I want to get out of", this reinforces that Stella does not want to leave Stanley because of her strong desire for him. Blanche's response, "I don't understand you.", then allows us to see that Blanche will not listen to anyone else's point of view which shows she is completely absorbed in herself and what she wants. ...read more.

Conclusion

But the streetcar also has a deeper meaning, it is a metaphor for Blanche's poor state of mental deterioration and how once you are on the track you can never come off it. It is a one way ticket to destruction. We are aware of Blanche's fragility throughout the play and Scene 4 is useful in demonstrating her hysterical state because calm Stella acts as a foil to Blanche. The symbol of the streetcar reminds us of why Blanche is present in Scene 4 at all because desire destroyed her life in Laurel. Throughout the scene Tennessee Williams makes successful use of characterisation and symbolism in the unravelling of the central idea of the play, desire. By exploring the theme of desire we are compelled to appreciate that Tennessee Williams believes that desire is a destructive force and will always end in tragedy. Therefore, the aftermath of the violent attack on Stella was extremely important in enhancing my understanding of the play as a whole. ...read more.

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