Streetcar Named Desire Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire is considered by many critics to be what is called a flawed masterpiece. This is because Williams work utilizes and wonderfully blends both tragic and comic elements that serve to shroud the true nature of the hero and heroine thereby not allowing the reader to judge them on solid actuality. Hence, Williams has been compared to writers such as Shakespeare who in literature have created a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty in finding a sole view or aspect in their works. Because of the highly tragic elements encountered in Streetcar, many immediately label it tragedy. Nevertheless, the immense comical circumstances encountered in the play contradict the sole role of tragedy and leaves the reader pondering the true nature of the work, that being whether it is a tragedy with accidental comic incidences or a comedy with weak melodramatic occurrences. It has been said that the double mask of tragicomedy reveals the polarity of the human condition.
The contrariety of forces in the work serves to enforce a sense of both reality and drama that are present in everyday human life. The comic elements in the play serve as a form of determined self-preservation just as the tragic elements add to the notion of self-destruction. This is the true nature of a tragicomedy. By juxtaposing two irreconcilable positions, ambiguity is produced in the judgement of the main characters, most notably Stanley Kowalski and Blanche Dubois. Ambivalence in the play is largely caused by the relationship between Stanley and Blanche.
They concurrently produce both appalling and appealing tendencies. Both characters display elements of the profane and sacred yet on two distinct levels. This is what creates the double entendre. In the social sense, Blanche can be considered the heroine of the play. In a desperate last attempt to preserve her aristocratic values, she must combat everything that Stanley Kowalski is. While she represents everything that is sacred within cultural boundaries, that of which being the love of language, music, art, etcStanley is the brute opposite.
He is highly animalistic and primitive in his ways and serves as the sole destroyer of everything Blanche embodies. The first time I laid eyes on him I thought to myself, that man is my executioner! That man will destroy me This goes to show that since there can be no coexistence between classes, Blanche, the romantic delicate southern belle, will meet her doom at the hands of the crude and savage Stanley. However, on a psychological level, Stanley emerges as the Hero. The sexually healthy and sacred marriage he shares with his wife is in staunch contrast to the perverted and debauched sexual exploits of Blanche. In the role as the psychological profaner, Blanche is just as much to blame for her rape as Stanley is. Blanche is a profane and perverted intruder into his sacred yet crude domain.
Thus, he reacts violently when he feels that his household is being threatened. Stanley seeks above all, to retain order and symmetry within his created existence. Stanley and Blanche on their respective levels, serve as the classic heroes struggling for self-preservation. One must deal with both the social and psychological elements simultaneously in order to fully see the ambiguous duality of these two characters. The comic aspect of the tragicomedy is displayed through irreconcilability.
Through the character Mitch, Williams successfully juxtaposes the comic with tragic elements, which are central to the tragicomic genre. While Blanches world is increasingly closing in on her becoming more tragic in implications, hence her wanting a husband, Mitch is almost completely blind to her overtures and sexual advances. For example, while Blanche is virtually dying inside and looking for someone to confide in and share herself with, Mitch totally misses this and instead thinks that Blanche wants to have a conversation concerning weight. This instance of comedy is positioned between two highly dramatic and potentially tragic confidences in which Blanche shares with Mitch. Namely, her belief that Stanley will ultimately destroy her and the sense of guilt for destroying Allan Grey. The conflict between Stanley and Blanche throughout the novel is permeated with humorous incidents counterpointing the dramatic action.
Another example of this would be when Stanley initially feels slighted and put down by Blanches infringement into he and Stellas abode, than after finding out that she has let the Belle Reve estate get away goes into justifying his claim to it according to the Napoleonic code. In most drama, comedy serves as a relief from too much tragedy. In the Elizabethan era, mostly transfigured through Shakespeare, there were points in a play where jesters, fools, etcwould make appearances during the play or between intermission, simply to make the audience laugh so they would not be too emotionally drained. However, Williams comic reversals are too methodical and copious to be only forms of relief. Instead the comic elements always seem to gear towards self-conservation while the tragic elements gear towards self-annihilation. As mentioned earlier, when such irreconcilable difficulties are put together, uncertainty is the heart of the tragicomic mode. Ambivalence serves as the keynote for Williams judgements on both Blanche and Stanley.
For all of the flaws apparent in these two characters, it seems as if Williams is romanticizing them for various reasons despite their sordid acts. For example, it is clear that he has empathy for Blanches fragile vulnerability and the destruction of her class at the hands of savage Neanderthal-like Stanley. Thus from the very beginning of the play, Blanche has her destiny forged. She is to get on a Streetcar named desire, pass through the cemeteries, and end up in the Elysian fields. Initially, this is a literal journey but it later develops into a spiritual journey.
Blanche wants to reconcile for her past perverted deeds. She also feels guilty for the deaths that she has either caused or witnessed. Her strong idealism and sense of illusion fuels her desire. She realizes that in some way, she must pass through the cemeteries, which represents death. This is the only way that she can arrive at the Elysian fields, which symbolizes a sort of heaven or peaceful state. Where Williams sympathies are quite clear, he avoids making any moral statement.
Instead, he allows Blanche to be damned for the sin of being idealistic. Blanche is allowed into the Elysian fields because she has come from the Tarantula arms, representative of debauched living, to wearing the Della Robbia Blue of the Madonna, which symbolizes her epiphany and rebirth as a new soul now reconciled for her past deeds. Concerning Stanley, Williams does not condemn him for his harsh yet necessary actions against Blanche. Instead, Stanley has won a sort of victory in that he has maintained his domain. He is now the sole cock of the roost and can no longer be threatened. However, in the end Stella is left debating with herself the rightness of her actions thus creating yet another sense of incongruity.
One can see that A Streetcar Named Desire though its magnificent ambivalence truly embodies the tragicomedy. Through Tennessee Williams vision, he permits something that everyone craves and desires, reality.