How are generations depicted in A Streetcar Named Desire?(This is the question one of my students picked up from the prompts given for 2 books.)

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Much like the grinning photograph of the father in The Glass Menagerie, Belle Reve looms ominously over the lives of the characters of A Streetcar Named Desire.  Prior to the arrival of her sister, Stella Kowalski lives a satisfied life with her husband Stanley.  However, when Blanche DuBois arrives, she disrupts their lives by bringing into it the past and its unfulfilled dreams.

In her delusionary state, Blanche recalls the life that she and Stella once lived as daughters of the Old South with its mansions and frivolity. Blanche recalls her old beaux, acts and dresses like a Southern belle.  However, Stanley is suspicious of her charades and investigates Blanche's past.  And, just as the plantation home has degenerated to little more than a memory, so, too, does Blanche degenerate both morally and psychologically, living in illusions that she has created.  Thus, the practical and earthy Stanley, who has brought Stella "down from them columns" of Belle Reve is repulsed by all the pretensions of Blanche and advises Stella of her sister's shadowy past. Symbolically, the dreams and illusions of Blanche that come crashing to an end are represented by the Mexican woman selling flowers for the dead and her recall of life at Belle Reve:

"Flores para lost muertos.

Corones para los muertos. Corones...."

To which Blanche replies,

"Legacies!  Huh....And other things such as bloodstained pillow-slips--: 'Her linen needs changing'--Yes, Mother, but couldn't we get a colored girl to do it?' No, of couldn't of course. Everything gone but the---"

Indeed, the memory of the past is but a "beautiful dream" in a life of disillusionment tied inextricably to this memory.


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