Good Essay Topics For A Streetcar Named Desire

  • 1

    A Streetcar Named Desire is laden with symbolism and metaphor. Pick one of the many recurring symbols – light, flowers, fire, bathing, meat – and trace its occurrence through the play. What does this motif add to the story and characterizations?

    An answer:

    Bathing - Blanche is constantly taking baths in the play, subconsciously trying to cleanse herself of the sins of her past. She never succeeds, however, and must return to the bath again and again. Similarly, Stanley showers after he beats his wife, and unlike Blanche he is able to come out cleansed and remorseful.

  • 2

    Elia Kazan's 1951 film adaptation of Streetcar is much lauded, but due to the Hayes Code in effect at the time a film faced much stricter censorship than a stage play. Compare the depiction of Blanche's memory of her husband in the play and in the film adaptation – how does Kazan imply Allan's homosexuality without overtly stating it? Does the film effectively convey the story of Blanche's marriage, and how does it differ from the stage script in this interpretation?

    An answer:

    The screenplay has Blanche express disgust at her husband not for being gay, but for being a poet. However, Vivien Leigh's performance makes it clear that "poet" is euphemistic, and the point gets across. It just requires a little more attention to the subtext than in the original play, which is straightforward with its account of Allan's sexuality.

  • 3

    At points throughout the play, Blanche hears the music of a polka, the song that was playing the night her husband died. Trace the occurrences of this tune and note what conclusions can be drawn about her mental state when she is hearing this music. How does it compare to the occurrences of the "blue piano" in the stage directions?

    An answer:

    The Varsouviana was the music playing at the moment of Blanche's loss of innocence, and it has been haunting her ever since. It first appears when she is actively thinking about her dead husband, but as the play progresses the tune's increased presence highlights her slipping grip on reality.

  • 4

    Two of Williams most popular plays, Streetcar and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, have characters who are preoccupied with the memory of a loved one who committed suicide after being confronted about their homosexuality – the "dead gay man" who haunts so many of Williams' plays. Compare Blanche's recollections of Allan with Brick's of Skipper. Can a connection be drawn between the gunshot that always ends the Varsouviana and the "click" that brings Brick peace when he drinks?

    An answer:

    Williams utilizes a similar device in Blanche's gunshot and Brick's click - both of these serve to dramatize characters' internal thoughts and conflicts in a way that is appropriate to the stage. They also serve as motivators for the characters - Brick is drinking his memories into oblivion, and Blanche's memories are crowing constantly into her consciousness, relieved only by death.

  • 5

    The truth is a mutating, subjective figure in Streetcar, with each of the principals having a different relationship with the idea of "truth." How does Williams express these relationships, and what role do they have on the narrative?

    An answer:

    In sum, Stanley seeks truth, Stella hides from truth, and Blanche manipulates truth. Blanche covers the truth in paper lanterns, dressing it up into what she wants it to be, and honestly believing that she has the power to bend reality to her will. Stanley's role is to peel away Blanche's layers of illusion, and Stella is caught in between, aware of lies but choosing to pick up her sister's method of dealing with reality by changing it to suit her life.

  • 6

    Streetcar is a very "New Orleans" play, closely tied to its location in space and time, while tackling universal themes and relationships. What role does New Orleans play in the work? How do the characters interact with the city, and how does the city impact the narrative? Can you imagine a production set in a different time and place? How would that change the play?

    An answer:

    You could put Streetcar in another environment of weakened economic conditions and mutating social standards, but it would be a fundamentally different play outside the Old South, and specifically New Orleans. New Orleans occupies a unique place as a bastion of old wealth and gentility while also being home to jazz, Mardi Gras, and Bourbon Street. Like Blanche, New Orleans is a faded rose fallen into hard times and cheap thrills, and this is vital to the play.

  • 7

    "I couldn't believe her story and go on living with Stanley," Stella says at the end of the play. Examine this statement – is Stella showing a remarkable self-awareness? Or perhaps self-justification? Compare Stella's behavior in the final scene to that of Stanley and Mitch.

    An answer:

    Depending on the performance, Stella can be either heartlessly condemning her sister to save her own way of life, or showing that she honestly loves Stanley so much that she is incapable of disbelieving him. Her statement is wonderfully ambiguous and layered; meanwhile, Stanley sees Blanche off with good riddance, and Mitch bemoans the situation but is powerless to change it.

  • 8

    Stella and Stanley's conversation in scene seven is punctuated by Blanche singing "Paper Moon" in the bathroom. What function does the song play in the scene? What significance does this particular song have to the characters? Why do you think Williams chose to underscore this scene in the way he did?

    An answer:

    Paper Moon serves as a constant reminder to the Kowalskis of Blanche's presence in the apartment and in their lives. While living with them, she has completely invaded their existence, even punctuating their private conversations. It also adds poignance and contrast, as Stanley describes Blanche's downfall while she, unsuspecting, continues to carries on with her daily routine. The song itself is also well chosen. The chorus of "it's only a paper moon, sailing over a cardboard sea, but it wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me" expresses Blanche's fundamental world-view that what's fake can be made real if you just pretend hard enough.

  • 9

    Clearly, a main theme of Streetcar is "desire." But does this key word refer only to physical desire, lust? What other desires are present in the story and characterizations?

    An answer:

    Although lust is the dominant form of desire in Streetcar, it is not the only one. Blanche is motivated by sexual desire but also by a rejection of the same, desiring stability and a fresh start instead. She is a character full of needs and wants, unlike Stanley and Stella who were perfectly content with their lot in life until Blanche came to town.

  • 10

    What is the relationship between sexuality and death in the play, and how does it factor into Blanche's nymphomania and fear of aging?

    An answer:

    Starting with Blanche's transfer from the Streetcar Named Desire to the Streetcar Named Cemeteries, sexuality and death are connected in the play. Those cars and the themes they symbolize run together to Blanche's final destination and ruination. Blanche's loss of innocence arose out of a death, and more deaths led to her sexual experimentation - for her, death and desire go hand in hand.

  • STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE ESSAY TOPICS

    Streetcar Named Desire essay topics. Too long and unclear from the first sight, but, indeed, all you have to do is to read the play "Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams, and to write a kind of a review on it.

    Composing a review on this piece of literature is an interesting and thrilling thing, as while reading a novel, a play, or a story, you become so much absorbed in the lives of major characters, plot, and main idea of it that it costs you but a trifle to describe everything you've understood and felt about this piece. While reading the book, you glue to it inseparably, you turn out to be a book addict, aiming at reading the book as soon as possible, and to get to know the ending of it.

    The main point is to read thoughtfully, pondering over each line of what you are reading. When you read a book from cover to cover a feeling of the conquered and subdued peak comes to you. When you're approaching to the end of the book, on the one hand, you fell overwhelmed with new ideas and interesting insights, but, on the other hand, you pity for giving up the reading.

    To facilitate the process of writing a review on the book, imagine yourself being a critic, and look on this piece of literature from the side of a person, who should give the critical evaluation of the given literary work. It let you accompany reading with its critical appraisal, and unbiased assessment.

    Writing an essay, based on the play "Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams won't be a laborious work for you, because this play raises so many fathomable, evident, and controversial topics that you are surely find the one, concerning which you'll have a way with words. The play is really worthy to read. As it is a slice of life, which depicts a subtle net of relationship between a man and a woman, and vents such society scourges as rape, homosexuality, and alcoholisms.

    You are welcome to choose one of the Streetcar Named Desire essay topics which are represented below.

    Streetcar Named Desire Essay Topics

    • "Desire" is used throughout the play, both literally and figuratively. At the end of Act II, Blanche tells Mitch that Desire is the opposite of death. Explain her use of desire.
    • What does Williams's depiction of Blanche and Stanley's lives say about desire?
    • Traditionalism versus defiance in the Streetcar Named Desire.
    • Morality and Immorality in the Streetcar Named Desire and in the Picture of Dorian Gray.
    • Are there symbolic meanings suggested by the names of places (e.g. Desire, Elysian, Cemeteries) in the play? If so, explain the symbolic meaning.
    • The plot of A Streetcar Named Desire is driven by the dueling personalities of Blanche and Stanley. What are the sources of their animosity toward one another?
    • Blanche's "world" is often contrasted to the world of Stanley's and Stella's. Blanche firmly states the kind of world she wants: "I don't want realism. I want - magic!" In what way is Blanche's world an illusion? Is it any less real than Stanley or Stella? What defines reality in A Streetcar Named Desire? What defines illusion?
    • A Streetcar Named Desire can be described as an elegy, or poetic expression of mourning, for an Old South that died in the first part of the twentieth century. Expand on this description.
    • At the end of the play, Blanche is taken away to an asylum. Do you believe she is insane? If she isn't, what defines her sanity? Do you think she is responsible for her circumstances?
    • Describe the use of light in the play. What does its presence or absence indicate?
    • How does Blanche's fascination with teenage boys relate to her decline and fall?
    • Compare and contrast Mitch to the other men in the play.
    • Compare and contrast Blanche and Stella.
    • Describe the relationship between Stanley and Stella. Since Blanche and Stella are sisters and share the same background, why do you think one sister is so attracted to Stanley and the other so repulsed by him? Can you find out a pattern in their marriage? Why is the word "animal" used on them?
    • From the beginning of the play to the end it presents a sexual tension. Describe the presence and influence of sexual desire that you see in the first three scenes. Does the attraction between Mitch and Blanche seem different from the attraction between Stanley and Stella?
    • The play includes many stage directions referring to music. What music and songs are present in the first three scenes (e.g. "the blue piano" and polka)? What is the significance of that music? In what ways is it symbolic? How does the music relate to the characters
    • Blanche drinking problems. Why does she drink? What is she nervous about?
    • Can you explain the dynamics of Blanche's encounter with the newspaper boy? Why does Blanche flirt with him?
    • What does Blanche want from Mitch? Is she honest with him? Describe their relationship. Is Mitch an aristocratic southern gentleman? If not, provide examples to support your answer. Do they love each other? How is their relationship different from the relationship between Stanley and Stella?
    • Music is as much a part of A Streetcar Named Desire as the dialogue. It is often argued that music acts as a second dialogue within a play. Blanche explains her relationship with her husband. What does she unexpectedly learn about him? How does she respond to this? What does her husband do? How does Blanche respond to his death? Does this explain why the polka music repeats in her mind? What does this music symbolize for Blanche?
    • Why did Blanche have so many "intimacies with strangers" (118)?
    • Blanche and Stanley are alone in the apartment. Why is Stella not present? Blanche again mentions Shep Huntleigh. He, too, has taken on a symbolic meaning for Blanche. What does he represent to her? Why does she tell Stanley a lie about Shep Huntleigh? What does Stanley mean when he asks Blanche, "Shall we bury the hatchet and make it a loving-cup"? Why does Blanche say no?
    • At the end of the play, Blanche is taken away to an asylum. Do you believe she is insane? If she isn't, what defines her sanity? Do you think she is responsible for her circumstances?
    • What do you think is the symbolic meaning of the Mexican woman selling flowers for the dead in scene nine?

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