To develop a thesis for your essay, an important first step is deciding what you think the author’s intentions are in the play. Blanche DuBois is the main character, and she undergoes some major changes through the course of the play. Blanche is often identified as a tragic hero, but others feel that her flaws are so numerous that she does not constitute a hero figure. The other characters view her in different ways depending on their relationship with her. Stella, her sister, has deep affection for her, but Stella’s husband despises and disrespects his sister-in-law. Forming your own opinion of Blanche is a key step toward writing an effective essay. The strong contrast between purity and physicality is an important element of her characterization.
Among the devices that Tennessee Williams uses, symbolism stands out. You can identify a large number of symbols, such as the name of the streetcar, which connects with the frequent references to “desire,” often in connection with sexuality. This symbol also uses the literary device of the metaphor: explicit comparison of unlike things. One relevant quote occurs early in the play, when Blanche arrives and tells how she traveled: “they told me to take a streetcar named Desire.” In a later conversation, when Stella tries to explain her passionate relations with her husband, Blanche dismisses carnality:
What you are talking about is brutal desire—just—Desire!—the name of that rattle-trap streetcar that bangs through the Quarter.
Another symbol is light and whiteness, beginning with Blanche’s name. Regardless of her sexual activity, Williams associates her with purity and fragility. Associated quotes come from the stage directions, as he compares her to a moth. When she arrives at Stella’s apartment,
She is daintily dressed in a white suit…Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light. There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggests a moth.