Motifs and Symbols in A Streetcar Named Desire

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  • Motifs and Symbols in A Streetcar Named Desire
    • Light
      • Throughout the play Blanche avoids appearing in direct bright, light, especially in front of Mitch
        • She also refuses to reveal he age, and it's clear that she avoids the light in order to prevent him from seeing the reality of her fading beauty
        • Blanche's inability to tolerate light means that her grasp on reality is also nearing it's end
      • Light also symbolizes the reality of Blanche's past
        • She is haunted by the ghosts of what she has lost: her first love, her purpose in life, her dignity and her status
      • Bright light represents her youthful, sexual innocence, whereas poor light represents her sexual maturity
    • Bathing
      • These baths represent Blanche's efforts to cleanse herself of her unpleasant history
      • Stanley also turns to water to undo a misdeed when she showers after beating Stella
        • The shower serves to soothe his violent temper; afterwards he leaves the bathroom feeling remorseful and calls out longingly for his wife
    • Drunkenness
      • Both Stanley and Blanche drink excessively at various points during the play
        • Stanley's drinking is social: at poker games, at the bar, and to celebrate the birth of his first child
        • However, Blanche's drinking is anti-social and she tries to hide it
      • For both characters, drinking leads to destructive behavior: Stanley commits domestic violence, and Blanche deludes herself
        • Stanley is able to rebound from his drunken escapades, whereas alcohol supplements Blanche's gradual departure from reality
    • Shadows
      • Discordant noises and jungle cries occur as Blanche descends into madness
      • All of these effects combine to dramatize Blanche's final breakdown and departure from reality in the face of Stanley's physical threat
    • The Varsouviana Polka
      • This polka music plays at various points in the play, when Blanche is feeling remorse for Allan's death
      • The polka and the movement it evokes represents Blanche's loss of innocence
        • The suicide of her young husband was the event that triggered her mental decline
    • Meat
      • By hurling the meat at Stella in Scene 1, Stanley states the sexual ownership over Stella, and Stella's delight with catching the meat signifies her sexual infatuation with him


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