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 Stella that she and Stanley smoothed things over when she began to flirt with him. When Blanche meets Stanley’s poker-playing friends, she lights upon Mitch as a possible suitor and adopts the guise of a chaste lover for him to pursue.
Blanche nearly attacks the Young Man with her aggressive sexuality, flirting heavily with him and kissing him. Blanche dresses provocatively in red satin, silks, costume jewelry, etc: she calls attention to her body and her femininity through her carefully cultivated appearance. Blanche clings to her sexuality more and more desperately as the play progresses. To Blanche, perhaps motivated by her discovery that her first husband was in fact homosexual, losing her desirability is akin to losing her identity and her reason to live.
Stella’s desire for Stanley pulls her away from Belle Reve and her past. Stella is drawn to Stanley’s brute, animal sexuality, and he is drawn to her traditional, domestic, feminine sexuality. Stella is pregnant: her sexuality is deeply tied to both womanliness and motherhood. Even though Stanley is violent to Stella, their sexual dynamic keeps them together. When Blanche is horrified that Stanley beats Stella, Stella explains that the things that a man and a woman do together in the dark maintain their relationship.
Stanley’s sexuality and his masculinity are extremely interconnected: he radiates a raw, violent, brute animal magnetism. Stanley’s sexuality asserts itself violently over both Stella and Blanche. Although he hits Stella, she continues to stay with him and to submit to his force. While Stella is at the hospital giving birth to his child, Stanley rapes Blanche: the culmination of his sexual act with Stella coincides with the tragic culmination of his destined date with Blanche.
Throughout the play, sexual desire is linked to destruction. Even in supposedly loving relationships, sexual desire and violence are yoked: Stanley hits Stella, and Steve beats Eunice. The “epic fornications” of the DuBois ancestors created a chain reaction that has culminated in the loss of the family estate. Blanche’s pursuit of sexual desire has led to the loss of Belle Reve, her expulsion from Laurel, and her eventual removal from society. Stanley’s voracious carnal desire culminates in his rape of Blanche. Blanche’s husband’s “unacceptable” homosexual desire leads to his suicide.
Sexual Desire ThemeTracker
Sexual Desire Quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire
They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!
Sit there and stare at me, thinking I let the place go? I let the place go? Where were you! In bed with your–Polack!
Since earliest manhood the center of [Stanley’s] life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependently, but with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens.
I never met a woman that didn’t know if she was good-looking or not without being told, and some of them give themselves credit for more than they’ve got.
Now let’s cut the re-bop!
After all, a woman’s charm is fifty percent illusion.
Oh, I guess he’s just not the type that goes for jasmine perfume, but maybe he’s what we need to mix with our blood now that we’ve lost Belle Reve.
The kitchen now suggests that sort of lurid nocturnal brilliance, the raw colors of childhood’s spectrum.
There are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark–that sort of make everything else seem–unimportant.
What you are talking about is brutal desire–just–Desire!–the name of that rattle-trap street-car that bangs through the Quarter.
I told you already I don’t want none of his liquor and I mean it. You ought to lay off his liquor. He says you’ve been lapping it up all summer like a wild-cat!
Please don’t get up. I’m only passing through.
You left nothing here but spilt talcum and old empty perfume bottles–unless it’s the paper lantern you want to take with you. You want the lantern?