Friday, June 29, 2012

Tennessee Williams--A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1948, Streetcar follows Stanley, Stella, and Blanche in Stanley and Stella’s apartment in New Orleans.  Its New Orleans setting is a heavy influence on the story, for its jazz and its sense of decayed beauty, a place where Stella’s sister Blanche has to take a “street-care named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields” (I.1).  Blanche is described as having a “delicate beauty [which] must avoid a strong light.  There is something about her unusual manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggests a moth” (I.1).  Blanche, like New Orleans, is a decaying beauty, and it is her fraying beauty which gives away her own immorality.  Stanley, her foil, is of an animalistic masculinity: “Since early manhood the center of his life has been pleasure with women…with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens” (I.1).  (Notice how his masculinity is defined as sexual and in contrast to hens.)  Interestingly, Blanche’s difficulties are traced to her marriage to a “beautiful and talented man [who] was a degenerate” (I.7)—as with many Williams’ plays, the taint of homosexual masculinity is present and degenerative.

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