Streetcar Named Desire: Hidden Sexual Hesitations Of The Author

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In A Streetcar Named Desire, there is a big connection between the characters, plot, and the authors’ life. Tennessee Williams had hidden sexuality in this play and around the time the play was written, Williams was living as a homosexual at the time when something like this was considered wrong. He used Blanche DuBois as a main character to share his perspective and fear about hiding who he was and to show an individual stuck in two worlds. Blanche is unable and unwilling to let go of the past. Her destruction is upon her when her husband Allan dies from suicide, this is the only man she has loved before and she starts to become sexually promiscuous sleeping or having “intimacies with strangers to fill her empty heart, looking for protection” (Williams 1896). Reading this play may have a person think that Blanche is lost in illusions, but she is not rather she uses them as camo wearing like clothes and jewelry, this is a protection from facing reality something that she really does not want to do. Blanche must watch out because Stanley has strikes and suspicion against her. She tells lies in order to keep her past hidden, her concept of being a southern belle all come together to destroy her if she doesn’t watch out Stanley will expose her lies. Desire and fate play a big deal in the play with the main character Blanche DuBois. In New Orleans, there was a streetcar that followed the name desire as a destination, and the other being cemeteries. A car moving unswervingly along rails to the destination can symbolize fate. The word “desire” is more than a force or fate, but it is the force that drives Blanche to her desire for sexual passions. In scene 4 the sisters Blanche and Stella speak of desire using an image of a streetcar “that rattle-trap streetcar”, Stella says, “Haven’t you ever ridden on that streetcar?” (Williams 1872). Another connection between Blanche and Tennessee Williams is death. Williams mentioned that death was on his mind a lot because of a tragic fatal illness that occurred in his life when he was a young child. Death images occur throughout the play, Blanche recalling death at her home town Belle Reve makes descriptions that contain very gruesome details, “Father, Mother! Margaret, that dreadful way! So big it, it couldn’t fit in a coffin! But had to be burned like rubbish!” (Williams 1850).

The final thing that bothered Blanche was the repeating guilt and thoughts of her husband Allen’s death. Stella, Blanche’s sister refers to her as having “worshipped the ground he walked on! Adored him and thought him almost too fine to be human!” (Williams 1888). Blanche married him at a very young age, but she feels that she failed the man she loved because she didn’t know what he needed. Allen’s homosexuality would have been like Williams understood himself a burden. Blanche feels responsible for his death not because Allen was sleeping with another man, but because she made a comment to him that night at the casino on the dance floor, she said to him, “you disgust me” (Williams 1885). Her rejection was too much for him, so he took the gun, put it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. Earlier Blanche admitted to her part in her husband’s death, “I hurt him the way that you would like to hurt me” (Williams 1858). Time has gone by Blanche has aged, but she hasn’t aged mentally. Blanche is trapped still trying to hold onto her youth desperately only dating mitch at night when the reality of time can’t be seen. Her angry admission of her sexual exploit to Mitch is followed by the same bargain that she attempted with every other man.

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“What do you want?”

“What I been missing all summer.”

“Then, marry me, Mitch!” (Williams 1898). Blanche tries to trade sex for commitment, safety, and connection. This pattern of her life she cannot see as dysfunctional and destructive to her. The scene of Stanley raping Blanche gives a clue that William draws. Blanche fights and warns Stanley that something awful will happen and that she is in danger. The thing she is fearing is her hold on reality, that it will snap and the danger it holds her in will be the last threads of her illusion, should she lose them, then she loses everything. Williams offers Blanche a release by giving up the tension she has between reality and illusion and yielding entirely to fantasy because after all, it has nothing to give to her.

Works Cited

  1. Boggs, Bill. “Tennessee Williams Interview with Bill Boggs.” YouTube, YouTube, 1 Dec. 2011, https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FScWlr5qZUY.
  2. Henthorne, Susan. “A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.” Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature, 2019. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=87575013&site=eds-live&scope=site.
  3. “Tennessee Williams.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 20 July 2019, https://www.biography.com/writer/tennessee-williams.
  4. Tennessee, Williams. “A Streetcar Named Desire”. The Norton Introduction to Literature shorter 13th edition, edited by Kelly J. Mays, W.W, Norton and Company, 2019, pp.1843-1909.    

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