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

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Assess the view that Tennessee Williams’ use of symbolism in A Street Car Named Desire enhances the audience’ understanding of the characters and themes in the play.


Symbolism plays a large role in A Streetcar Named Desire, although it may be a discreet one. The tragic elements of the story are illustrated through many symbols and add meaning to the story and foreshadow upcoming events. Many scenes have stood out, such as the famous poker scene and the characters language and imagery have helped to develop the story for the audience’s understanding.

The main protagonist in the play is Blanche Dubois, a fading southern belle, as the story follows her visit to her sister in New Orleans and brings chaos and turmoil into lives of many other characters in her sister’s life, such as her husband Stanley and his friends.

The male dominance in the play is strongly influenced by the presence of Stanley Kowalski. The headstrong character is a modern man; he has a tight hold over his wife Stella. As he throws a package of meat for her to catch she is more then reluctant and delighted to catch which symbols her infatuation and his sexual dominance and power over her is obvious. Stanley shows animalistic characteristics in his animal-like behaviour that he produces, he eats like an animal at the table and refers to himself as a ‘king’ in his own home. Male dependency is a definitive key element during the 1960’s where the story was written and women are seen to always depend on a man and in the case of Blanche ‘the kindness of a stranger’ which is her downfall as she relies on others to look after her. The attention and power Stanley has over the women in his life namely Stella and sometimes Blanche is a tragic element in the play as it is this power that he has which forces the truth from Blanche and in the end sends her into a downward spiral of insanity.

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Another symbol to focus on is The Varsouviana. The Varsouviana polka tune plays in several scenes in the play; it is the polka tune that played when she shared the last dance with her late husband. The music normally plays when she is acting in a way that was affected by the death of her husband. It symbolizes her decline of mental health where she begins to reject reality and it has played during the first scene where Stanley asks about her husband and when she tells Mitch about him after which it appears more often throughout the play.


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