A Streetcar Named Desire


Tennessee Williams

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A Streetcar Named Desire Themes

Themes and Colors
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Streetcar Named Desire, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Sexual Desire

Many critics believe that Williams invented the idea of desire for the 20th century. The power of sexual desire is the engine propelling A Streetcar Named Desire: all of the characters are driven by “that rattle-trap street-car” in various ways.

Much of Blanche’s conception of how she operates in the world relies on her perception of herself as an object of male sexual desire. Her interactions with men always begin with flirtation. Blanche tells…

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Fantasy and Delusion

In Scene One, Blanche takes a streetcar named Desire through Cemeteries to reach Elysian Fields, where Stella and Stanley live. Though the place names are real, the journey allegorically foreshadows Blanche’s mental descent throughout the play. Blanche’s desires have led her down paths of sexual promiscuity and alcoholism, and by coming to stay with the Kowalskis, she has reached the end of the line. Blanche’s desire to escape causes her to lose touch with…

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Interior and Exterior Appearance

The audience of Streeetcar sees both the inside of the Kowalskis’ apartment as well as the street, which emphasizes the tense relationship between what is on the outside and what is on the inside throughout the play. The physical attention to inside versus outside also symbolically demonstrates the complicated relationship between what goes on in the mind versus what occurs in real life. As the play progresses, the split between Blanche’s fantasy world and…

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Masculinity and Physicality

Masculinity, particularly in Stanley, is linked to the idea of a brute, aggressive, animal force as well as carnal lust. His brute strength is emphasized frequently throughout, and he asserts dominance aggressively through loud actions and violence. Even his clothing is forceful: he dresses in bright, lurid colors. Stanley’s masculinity is deeply connected to the “sub-human.” Williams describes him as a “richly feathered bird among hens” and a “gaudy seed-bearer.”

Much emphasis is placed…

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Femininity and Dependence

Blanche and Stella demonstrate two different types of femininity in the play, yet both find themselves dependent on men. Both Blanche and Stella define themselves in terms of the men in their lives, and they see relationships with men as the only avenue for happiness and fulfillment. Blanche is a fading Southern belle who clings to coquettish trappings, preferring “magic” and the night to reality and the light of day. She performs a delicate, innocent…

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