Symbolism in “Streetcar Named Desire”

Explaining the use of symbols in the book “Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams.

“Blanche – I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action.” (55, Williams). There are many symbols in the book Streetcar Named Desire. Some examples may include the paper lantern, the outcome of the poker games, and the music in the background. These symbols add to the meaning of the story and help foreshadow upcoming events.

The music in the background symbolized Blanche’s past. “Polka music sounds, in a minor key, faint with distance.” (96, Williams). The polka music symbolized Blanche’s last dance with her husband. The polka music stops when she mentions the gunshot because that is how her husband died and the dance ended. The polka music plays throughout the play whenever Blanche is behaving in a way that was affected by the death of her husband.

The poker game is used to symbolize the way Stanley’s life is going. In the first poker game Stanley is losing, this symbolized the coming of Blanche and the hard times to come with her in the house. During the second game, Stanley has very good luck; this symbolizes the leaving of Blanche from his home. These poker games are also used by Blanche to symbolize Stanley’s apish gatherings of his friends.

The paper lantern was a very large symbol in the book. The paper lantern represented Blanche’s wish to hide her past. Mitch was suitable to put the lantern on because Blanche was hiding her past from him and starting a new life. It was also great symbolism for Stanley to rip the paper lantern off at the very end of the book because he was the one who revealed Blanche’s past.

There are many more symbols in the book as well, but would take much too long to place them all in a five-paragraph essay. The book has many symbols that attribute to it’s meaning and its plot. The symbols bring greater meaning to the characters’ actions and to their feeling and emotions. The symbols bring more emotion into the play as well. The symbols explained in this essay are very strong symbols in the play and easy to recognize. Though, there are a few symbols in the book that may be difficult to recognize, they are still there.

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18 Comments
  1. Pseudonym
    Posted August 11, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Don’t forget the watermelon and the Southern Comfort!

  2. Anonymous
    Posted May 27, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Stanley never ripped off the paper latern, it was Mitch.

  3. Maggy
    Posted September 24, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    no he did rip off the paper lantern. In the last scene when Blanche says that she forgot something in the house to stall. But the Matron grabs her anyway

  4. Boris
    Posted January 23, 2009 at 3:30 am

    this play is great. It was a huge contribution to my life, it made me think more about the way women act, and what they want. Slags

  5. Tennessee Williams
    Posted January 23, 2009 at 3:32 am

    I did not mean this play to cause so much controversy. Its only a play. Read it/ watch it. Get over it!

  6. dion
    Posted February 13, 2009 at 10:50 am

    i hate this play!!!!!!

  7. dion
    Posted February 13, 2009 at 10:51 am

    akeda loves dion

  8. unbuttonme
    Posted February 13, 2009 at 10:56 am

    this play sucks ass!!

  9. unbuttonme
    Posted February 13, 2009 at 10:57 am

    sike i love this play!!!!!!!!!!

  10. JohnDoe-Smith
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Yep couldn’t agree more. Stupid whingeing play. Get a life, Tennesse “I’m such an artsy tragic” Williams. Oh, sorry, you’re dead!

  11. IAMGOD
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    it was alright but ur conclusion is terrible

  12. me
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 10:44 am

    stanley does rip the paper lantern off when the doctor comes, cause he asks her if shes forgotton anything & so he rips it off.
    the play is a work of genius.

  13. Posted November 24, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    yup yup very good

  14. ME
    Posted January 2, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    im gonna use some of those points in my essay
    overall that would get crap marks tho

  15. Posted January 21, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    such a good play
    its soo cool

  16. America
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 1:20 am

    What are some other examples of symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire? Websites are also helpful.

  17. Jenner
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Geeze, what’s with all this negativity around this play hrmm?? I doubt any of you guys could write something better. Just be glad you have such an easy play to write on. The symbols and themes pretty much slap you in the face (metaphorically speaking)

  18. Squinn
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    lmao, viva la boris!

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