The Role Of Sexuality in Tennessee Williams´ "A Streetcar Named Desire"

Term Paper, 2009

6 Pages, Grade: 2,3


1. Introduction

In the play "A Streetcar Named Desire", written by Tennessee Williams, the protagonist Blanche DuBois comes to New Orleans to visit her sister Stella, who is married to the Pole Stanley Kowalski. Blanche´s life has collapsed after the suicide of her husband Allan and the loss of the family estate Belle Reve. Blanche is not able to have a sexual relationship anymore and cannot understand the sexual connection between Stella and Stanley. She begins a romance with Mitch, one of Stanley´s friends, but only with the aim of marrying him. But when he gets to know that she had affairs with strangers and with one of her students in the past, he is not willing to marry her anymore. At the end of the play, Blanche is raped by Stanley which leads to Blanche´s final psychic collapse. This term- paper deals with the role of sexuality in "A Streetcar named Desire".

2. The Character´s Attitudes towards Sexuality

After Blanche´s husband Allan committed suicide, Blanche is traumatized and is not able to have a relationship anymore. When she visits her sister Stella, she decides that she would like to marry Mitch, but not because she feels attracted by him. She is of the opinion that it is time that she finds someone with whom she can live until the end of her life and who looks after her. So she rather wants so marry Mitch because of rational instead of emotional reasons. By contrast, in Stella´s and Stanley´s relationship sexuality plays a big role because sex is very important for Stanley. Stella is really in love with Stanley and explains Blanche that "there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark- that sort of make everything else seem- unimportant" (p. 2363). Blanche is "shocked by instinct or animal feelings and searche[s] for the finer things in life" (p. 23). She is not able to understand this strong physical connection between Stella and Stanley and calls it "brutal desire" (p. 2363). For Blanche “desire is just a bad and inferior animalistic feeling, something that is beneath human dignity” (p. 57). In contrast her desire is not the sexual satisfaction but finding a man to marry and to live with until the end of her life. She assumes to find the right husband in Mitch but he does not want to have something to do with her when he finds out about her affairs in the past.

2.1 The Role of Sexuality in Blanche´s life

Although Allan´s death is over 15 years ago, Blanche is still traumatized by his suicide and feels guilty for his death. "She avoids adult sexual relationships but actively seeks affairs with adolescents" (p. 52). Furthermore, Blanche only decides to marry Mitch because of rational reasons. Finally, Blanche collapses psychologically after she is raped by Stanley.

2.1.1 The Traumatic Experience of Allan´s suicide

"Her love was so focused on Allan

that when he died, her love died too" (p. 53).

Blanche makes the discovery of love at the age of 16. She falls in love with a boy called Allan Grey, with whom she runs away and gets married. He is described as good looking and talented because he writes poetry. She explains that love came to her “at once and much, much too completely. It was like you suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been half in shadow” (p. 2375). Stella, Blanche´s sister, explains that Blanche "didn’t just love him but worshipped the ground he walked on! Adored him and thought him almost too fine to be human!" (p. 2379). But Blanche notices that there is something different about him: she describes a "nervousness, a softness and tenderness which wasn´t like a man´s" (p. 2375). Then one evening Blanche finds out about Allan´s secret by entering a room which she assumed to be empty. The room wasn´t empty "but had two people in it... the boy I married and an older man who had been his friend for years..." (p. 2375). Blanche cannot accept Allan´s homosexuality and so, later that evening, after preventing that nothing has happened, Blanche tells her husband that she is disgusted by him, which leads to the directly suicide of Allan. Allan´s death is such a traumatic experience in Blanche´s life, that Blanche is not able to have a serious relationship again. But she has a lot of affairs: "After the death of Allan- intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my heart with..." (p. 2386). Blanche is also not able to accept the process of getting older which shows that she still wants to live in the past. She tries to avoid standing in the light so that people are not able to see her and get to know her real age. That Blanche is not capable of overcoming Allan´s suicide is shown in the fact, that Blanche feels attracted to young boys. She has an affair with one of her students, which leads to the loss of her job, and later she kisses a young paper boy spontaneously on his mouth. Additionally, Blanche always hears the music of a polka tune, the "Varsouviana", in her mind. The polka was played when Allan killed himself and is the leitmotif of the play. So one can see that the death of her husband and her guilt is omnipresent . Blanche is of the opinion that it is her fault that Allan killed himself and she is not able to overcome the pain. The facts that she is always dressed in white clothes and that she is often bathering herself lead to the assumption that she wants to get rid of the guilt but is not able to.


Excerpt out of 6 pages


The Role Of Sexuality in Tennessee Williams´ "A Streetcar Named Desire"
University of Wuppertal
American Literature
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ISBN (Book)
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role, sexuality, tennessee, williams´, streetcar, named, desire
Quote paper
Kira Wieler (Author), 2009, The Role Of Sexuality in Tennessee Williams´ "A Streetcar Named Desire", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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