Death In A Streetcar Named Desire

999 words - 4 pages

Death in A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams uses the theme of death continually in the play ‘A
Streetcar Named Desire’ through the use of dramatic imagery and
literal references. The characters of Blanche and Mitch are used the
most frequently to express Williams’ own obsession with death. Though
neither of the characters actually obsesses about death, Blanche’s
life has been smothered by the deaths of those she loves and the
coming death of Mitch’s mother is an obvious motivation for his
actions.

Blanche first voices the theme of death in the very first scene whilst
discussing the fate that has befallen Belle Reve. She passionately
raves at length about the horrible deaths and her experience of loved
ones dying around her; “all of those deaths… Father, Mother, Margaret,
that dreadful way!” The horrific visions of bloated bodies and “the
struggle for breath and breathing” have clearly cast a permanent
effect on Blanche’s mind. She talks of the quiet funerals and the
“gorgeous boxes” that were the coffins, with bitter, black humour. The
deaths of Blanche and Stella’s family are important to the play as
they highlight the desperation of Blanche’s situation through the fact
that she has no other relative to turn to. This makes Stella’s
decision at the end of the play seem even harsher than if Blanche had
just simply shown up on her doorstep instead of going elsewhere.

Stella states that Blanche’s life has been heavily affected by the
death of her husband, Allan. Blanche’s marriage “killed her illusions”
which can be interpreted literally. Blanche states that she fell in
love “all at once and much, much too completely,” however, her love
was unrequited since instead of returning the love Blanche needed,
Allan’s homosexuality caused him to seek the comfort of another man,
which then led to his suicide when Blanche confronted him. Blanche has
been so affected by this experience because of both the depth of her
love and because she blames herself. Blanche knows that Allan shot
himself because of her words to him, which reveals death to be a major
theme in ‘A Streetcar…’ because Blanche is unable to think about his
death without with an immense sense of guilt and sorrow.

Williams also uses these deaths to serve the purpose of leading
Blanche into what becomes her bleak and dangerous past. Blanche’s
explanation of her actions shows how psychologically scarred she is as
a result of a life burdened with death. She tells Mitch she lived in a
house where “dying old women remembered their dead men” and of how
after Allan’s death she sought protection “in unlikely places.” She
then reminisces to herself about the bloodstained pillowcases and how
the family had become too poor to afford a servant to look after the
dying for them. Blanche remembers how she and her mother sat at
opposite ends of the room while death was so close and yet they
pretended it wasn’t there, acted as if they had never seen...

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