The Use of Literary Devices in "A Streetcar Named Desire"

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From a desire to death, A Streetcar Named Desire is plausibly Tennessee Williams’ most acclaimed play. It won the New York Critics’ Award and the Pulitzer Prize with over 850 performances and 12 Academy Award nominations. The play deals with a variety of different social issues, topics, and feelings as well as exploring issues of sexuality and psychology which makes A Streetcar Named Desire being such an award-winning play. Williams shows the reality of people’s lives, which is a distressing concern of his throughout his writing career. He wrote this play believing he was about to die, so he wrote about what he felt needed to be said. When it was first shown, the play was considered appalling because of its accurate presentation of sexual issues. This play has many social conflict undertones which give it relevance, depth, and meaning and relates to more than just the English subject. 

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Despite the age of his work, Tennessee Williams and his play, A Streetcar Named Desire, continue to be relevant due to the lessons being taught, which makes it a play worth studying in grade 12 English classrooms. In the play, A Streetcar Named Desire, there are some important topics such as drugs and alcoholism, abuse, loneliness, and cruelty that makes the play not only suitable for grade 12 students but for everyone. Moreover, due to the fact that teens nowadays are doing drugs and drinking alcohol, Tennessee digs into the theme of alcohol dependence. Throughout the play, Blanche and Stanley rely profoundly on drinking. Alcohol is used as both an aid and an excuse for poor behavior in the play. Teens could learn a valuable lesson from abusing alcohol the way Blanche does as she uses alcohol as a way to distract herself from reality and to create a world of illusion. “I told you already I don’t want none of his liquor, and I mean it.” In the play, Mitch shouts “You ought to lay off his liquor. He says you been lapping it up all summer like a wild-cat.” this quote is meant to be offensive to Blanche because her drinking habits are not equal to her delicacy.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among adolescents in America and drinking by teens increases health and safety risks. In 2011, about 188,000 people under the age of 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries. Loneliness is another important theme in the play and is also something teens experience throughout their lives. A loneliness experiment was conducted by BBC News, in the survey, 40% of 16 to 24-year-olds reported feeling lonely often. In Scene 1 in A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche cries to Stella that she cannot be left alone. She wants and needs to be near her sister. Blanche is one of the loneliest characters in the entire play due to the fact that she lost her suicidal husband because she confronted him when she found out he was homosexual. “I loved someone, too, and the person I love, I lost” Blanche dealt with the loss of her husband by sleeping with multiple men, but they all ended up using her. By showing this film to Grade 12 students, they can understand how the character is feeling and, therefore, understand the importance of companionship, as well as the negative effects of alcoholism. Watching movies based on experiences, it makes one feel less alone because the characters are feeling the same way. Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior in humans, which includes thoughts and feelings. The play A Streetcar Named Desire explores issues sexuality, as well as psychology. According to the National College of Ireland, Psychology can help you understand human behavior and mental processes and allow you to better understand how we think, act and feel. 

Tennessee Williams uses a psychoanalytical approach to explain the behaviors and feelings of the three main characters Blanche, Stanley, and Stella. In the play, the characters tie into each other creating a great web of drama and suspense which comes very close to Sigmund Freud’s discussion of id, ego, and superego. Like the id, Stanley expects instant pleasure for all his desires, and he pays little attention to the consequences of his actions. When his needs are not met, he turns to physical aggression and violence to get what he wants. In the words of Blanche DuBois, “this morning he gave me ten dollars to smooth things over” tells a lot about Stanley’s blackmailing. Teens can learn about the dangers of physical aggression by Stanley's acts. Stella is the ego, she serves as a mediator between Stanley and Blanche. She spends most of her time mediating Stanley and Blanche due to the fact that Stanley uses his primal aggression on Blanche, a woman with moral superiority. Like the superego, Blanche uses a sense of morality based on social standards and feels guilty when she does not have those standards. A Streetcar Named Desire should be taught in Grade 12 English classrooms. Additionally, with Tennessee Williams being such an influential and inspirational playwright, his plays had depth and emotion to them. The play had earned a plethora of awards and nominations because of the quality, and the important themes such as loneliness, that Grade 12 students can all relate to in their lives, as well as alcoholism. The psychoanalytic approach Tennessee used makes the play interesting to Grade 12 English students with the twist of sexuality to spark their minds.  

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