A Streetcar of Symbols

     In Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, one of the opening lines of Blanche DuBois symbolizes the events that revolve around the life of Blanche throughout the movie (from what she did at Belle Reve to what happens while she is with Stanley and Stella). The memorable line--"They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields"-- sets the plot of the entire play and 1951 movie, directed by Elia Kazan.

     When Blanche (Vivien Leigh) was at Belle Reve, she let her desire for a younger man force her to become an outcast from the society of Laurel. Also, by losing Belle Reve, she is forced into staying at a local hotel, where she gains a "reputation." This represents the streetcar named Desire part of the quotation. She is to take the streetcar over to one named Cemeteries. The name of the streetcar symbolizes the desires she felt toward the men passing through Laurel. Her desires led her to leave and go to Stella.

     The streetcar named Cemeteries symbolizes Blanche's "death." By "death" I am not meaning that she passed away, but that she officially left the comfort of this world. Her "death" in the story comes when she has the nervous breakdown after her rape at the hands of Stanley (Marlon Brando). She has become dead to all around her, and she no longer is putting on the facade that she had arrived with.

     Elysian Fields symbolizes Blanche's "rebirth" after her death. Her "rebirth" in the story comes after her breakdown and she is carried off to the asylum. She is sent there so that she may receive treatment and recover from the pains of her life.

     In conclusion, the opening phrase of Blanche foreshadows the events she reveals in the story. Her life history can be summarized in just that one little phrase.

Richard Shepherd

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