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A Streetcar Named Desire

by Tennessee Williams
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How does the play A Streetcar Named Desire use its themes to reflect the social context in which it was written?

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In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams conveys the themes of the mid-twentieth-century restructuring of American society and the problematic relationships between the genders through the contrasting stories of the two sisters, Blanche and Stella Dubois. Blanche has become unmoored as traditional, small-town, rural society loses its importance. The...

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In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams conveys the themes of the mid-twentieth-century restructuring of American society and the problematic relationships between the genders through the contrasting stories of the two sisters, Blanche and Stella Dubois. Blanche has become unmoored as traditional, small-town, rural society loses its importance. The ascent of the urban working class as the new standard is represented through Stanley Kowalski and his marriage to Stella. The lack of viability of a Southern way of life based in plantation agriculture is further shown through Blanche’s fruitless marriage. At the other extreme is the promising future of the union of traditional and modern perspectives, which is represented by Stella’s pregnancy.

Blanche’s inability to cope is manifested by her constant exaggeration, embellishment of the truth, and outright lies. Williams implies that Southern society did not merely focus on the past, but promoted a view of the past that whitewashed its negative components. However, Williams’s presentation of modern times is equally unflattering, as he portrays Stanley as not merely materialistic and uncultured but misogynist and violent. Stanley’s inability to accept women as equals represents broader challenges to gender relations.

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