What is symbolic of the streetcars' names, Desire and Cemeteries, in A Streetcar Named Desire?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It's tragically clear from the start of the play that Blanche Dubois' sexual history will be the cause of her downfall. And the names of the streetcars which she's ridden to find her way to Stella and Stanley's place have deeply symbolic meanings which reflect the trajectory of Blanche's unhappy life.

First of all, Blanche hops aboard a streetcar headed for Desire. This is entirely appropriate, as Blanche's sexual desire is the governing emotion in her life, an emotion that has got her into serious trouble in the past. It was Blanche's headlong pursuit of sexual desire that led to her being kicked out of Belle Reve, the Dubois family home. It also trashed her reputation in town, where she was ostracized due to her scandalous sexual escapades.

After alighting from the streetcar named Desire, Blanche gets onboard another one—only this one's called Cemeteries and drops her off at a street called Elysian Fields. The symbolism here is hard to miss. Blanche's desires have already led her to a kind of social death, and she will become even more dead to society after her bruising experiences of life at the Kowalskis'.

In ancient mythology, the Elysian Fields were the final resting place of the souls of dead heroes. And although Blanche may not be a heroine as such, and whatever we may think of her behavior, there's no doubt that she's shown a great deal of tenacity in facing up to her many problems.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial