Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements / paper topics on A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in Streetcar Named Desire and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements from Streetcar Named Desire offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay prompts below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from A Streetcar Named Desire at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper. Before you begin, however, please get some useful tips and hints abouthow to use PaperStarter.comin the brief User's Guide…you'll be glad you did.Thesis Statement /Essay Topic #1: The Nature of Performance in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
One thing that appears constant in the character Blanche Dubois is her struggle to keep up a certain appearance, that being a character of pure and delicate femininity. Because of specific examples that Williams gives us—particularly how Blanche behaves when she is alone vs. her behavior around men—allows us to see her character’s “range" and the contradictions. Among examples we see are how she keeps her drinking habits hidden, and her refusal to be seen in bright light or daylight. Another is the way her dialogue expresses an ultra-melodramatic femininity (her bizarre treatment of the Young Man at the end of scene five is a great example). This being said, is Blanche the only character who performs? A strong argument can be made that Stanley too, has begun to convey and demonstrate more masculine behavior since Blanche’s arrival in New Orleans. Breaking radios and plates, making lewd demands of his wife, raping Blanche; these all point to the notion that he is acting out the common man (“I was common as dirt.") as a sort of retaliatory gesture. You could argue about some other characters performing as well, though Stanley and Blanche might be enough.Thesis Statement /Essay Topic #2: The Character of Sound in A Streetcar Named Desire
Observe Tennessee Williams’ incredible attention to sounds in the descriptions and stage directions all throughout the text. You can go through and figure out how exactly the author uses these to achieve different dramatic effects. Most obvious and prevalent is the sound of the “Blue Piano" being played “perpetually" as it is once described. But others include the sound of street urchins like the tamale man, the “Negro Musicians", and the Mexican Woman (“Flores para los muertes?"), as well as the intertwining noises and conversations coming from the upstairs couple Eunice and Steve. The most provocative use of sound is perhaps the polka music and “distant revolver" shot that is described in scene nine, which might be intended to be what Blanche is hearing in her mind/what she is remembering. The music and noise could reflect the dramatic tension and release of tension, as well as being present as an ironic counterpoint to the actual mood of the characters or situation. Consider Blanche’s light singing of the song “Paper Moon" in the bathroom while Stanley and Stella have an argument.
Thesis Statement /Essay Topic #3 Desire or Death Are the Only Choices
Scene Nine of Streetcar is essentially the climactic point between Blanch and Mitch. In it, the two characters appear to have confused and mixed emotions, certainly around how to treat Blanche’s lifestyle of the past—one we are never quite clear about. Blanche claims, “The opposite [of death] is desire". Consider these two elements death and desire as binaries in opposition to each other (and one not being able to exist without the other), and show how this is manifested through the four main characters. Make an argument about what these characters want: Mitch, a wife and companion to fill a void of loneliness; Stella, wishes to keep the status quo, and seems to feel a strange sense of security in Stanley; The hyper-sexualized Stanley, who desires women and a prideful sense of property/owning things; and Blanche, whose main desire is perhaps to always be desired. There are many good examples of these throughout the play so you could write a few paragraphs for each individual character. Your discussion could also include how the degree to which Blanche and Stanley’s desires are so extreme, that it is the reason why the one is so antithetical to the other.
Thesis Statement /Essay Topic #4: The Significance of Color in Streetcar Named Desire
When reading the text, pay close attention to Williams’ use of colors, exactly when and where do they appear, and in connection to which characters. Blanche’s first appearance is in all white, and her name Blanche DuBois (we are told) means white woods. The aura of Stella and Stanley’s New Orleans apartment seems to be primarily blue, with a few scenes where red becomes dominant. In the depiction of the Poker Night in scene three, Williams describes the kitchen as having “… lurid, nocturnal brilliance, the raw colors of childhood’s spectrum." Make an argument about how the author uses colors to reflect states of mind, to make further commentary on particular characters, and what sorts of things specific colors represent or evoke that the text picks up on and plays with: Whiteness, maybe associated with virginity/purity; Blue being sadness and night; Red, as anger and promiscuity. Also take notice that these three prominent colors in the text are also represented in the flag of a country that Williams might be commenting on.
Thesis Statement /Essay Topic #5: The Crucial Questions of Staging A Streetcar Named Desire
Examine Tennessee Williams’ stage directions closely and try to envision what this play would look like, were it realized on the stage or screen. What are some of the points where the text limits what can be done? Conversely, and more importantly, what are some apparent places where the text leaves things more open for interpretation? Furthermore, where and how could different interpretations radically change the texts impact or meaning? Go through and pick out two or three scenes in which multiple interpretations can be made. Slight variations—for instance, what Stella does at the very end of the play, and Stanley carrying Blanche to the bed in scene ten—could have a strong impact on an audience in terms of what information is really being communicated, possibly altering the implication that Blanche is raped by Stanley, and the implication that Stella will remain with Stanley after the curtain has fallen.
This list of important quotations A Streetcar Named Desire will help you work with the essay ideasand thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from the play by Tennessee Williams listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes from A Streetcar Named Desire contain scene numbers so you can find the quotes easily.
“This ‘Blue Piano’ expresses the spirit of the life which goes on here." (Scene One)
“Blanche… is incongruous to this setting. She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district" (scene one).
Stanley: “In the state of Louisiana we have the Napoleonic code according to which what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband and vice versa" (scene two)
“The kitchen now suggests that sort of lurid nocturnal brilliance, the raw colors of childhood’s spectrum… the poker players—Stanley, Steve, Mitch and Pablo—wear colored shirts, solid blues, a purple, a red-and-white check, a light green, and they are men at the peak of their physical manhood, as coarse and direct and powerful as the primary colors" (scene three).
Blanche: “show me a person who hasn’t known any sorrow and I’ll show you a shuperficial—Listen to me! My tongue is a little—thick! … I’m not accustomed to having more than one drink. Two is the limit—and three! Tonight I had three" (scene three).
Stella: “I said I am not in anything that I have a desire to get out of… People have got to tolerate each other’s habits I guess" (scene four).
Blanche: “He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! There’s even something—sub-human—something not quite to the stage of humanity yet!" (scene four).
Blanche: “I never was hard or self-sufficient enough. When people are soft—soft people have got to shimmer and glow—they’ve got to put on soft colors, the colors of butterfly wings, and put a—paper lantern over the light" (scene five).
Blanche: “Because of my hard knocks my vanity’s been given. What I mean is—he thinks I’m sort of—prim and proper, you know! [she laughs out sharply] I want to deceive him enough to make him—want me . . ." (scene five).
Blanche: “Young man! Young, young, young man! Has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Prince out of the Arabian Nights?… Well, you do, honey lamb! Come here. I want to kiss you, just once, softly and sweetly on your mouth!" (scene five).
Blanche: “[singing]: ‘It’s a Barnum and Bailey world, Just as phony as it can be– but it wouldn’t be make-believe If you believed in me!" (scene seven)."
Stanley: “Tiger—tiger! Drop the bottle top! Drop it! We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning!" [She moans. The bottle top falls. She sinks to her knees. He picks up her inert figure and carries her to the bed. The hot trumpet and drums from the Four Deuces sound loudly]
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
Fantasy’s Inability to Overcome Reality
Although Williams’s protagonist in A Streetcar Named Desire is the romantic Blanche DuBois, the play is a work of social realism. Blanche explains to Mitch that she fibs because she refuses to accept the hand fate has dealt her. Lying to herself and to others allows her to make life appear as it should be rather than as it is. Stanley, a practical man firmly grounded in the physical world, disdains Blanche’s fabrications and does everything he can to unravel them. The antagonistic relationship between Blanche and Stanley is a struggle between appearances and reality. It propels the play’s plot and creates an overarching tension. Ultimately, Blanche’s attempts to remake her own and Stella’s existences—to rejuvenate her life and to save Stella from a life with Stanley—fail.
One of the main ways Williams dramatizes fantasy’s inability to overcome reality is through an exploration of the boundary between exterior and interior. The set of the play consists of the two-room Kowalski apartment and the surrounding street. Williams’s use of a flexible set that allows the street to be seen at the same time as the interior of the home expresses the notion that the home is not a domestic sanctuary. The Kowalskis’ apartment cannot be a self-defined world that is impermeable to greater reality. The characters leave and enter the apartment throughout the play, often bringing with them the problems they encounter in the larger environment. For example, Blanche refuses to leave her prejudices against the working class behind her at the door. The most notable instance of this effect occurs just before Stanley rapes Blanche, when the back wall of the apartment becomes transparent to show the struggles occurring on the street, foreshadowing the violation that is about to take place in the Kowalskis’ home.
Though reality triumphs over fantasy in A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams suggests that fantasy is an important and useful tool. At the end of the play, Blanche’s retreat into her own private fantasies enables her to partially shield herself from reality’s harsh blows. Blanche’s insanity emerges as she retreats fully into herself, leaving the objective world behind in order to avoid accepting reality. In order to escape fully, however, Blanche must come to perceive the exterior world as that which she imagines in her head. Thus, objective reality is not an antidote to Blanche’s fantasy world; rather, Blanche adapts the exterior world to fit her delusions. In both the physical and the psychological realms, the boundary between fantasy and reality is permeable. Blanche’s final, deluded happiness suggests that, to some extent, fantasy is a vital force at play in every individual’s experience, despite reality’s inevitable triumph.
The Relationship between Sex and Death
Blanche’s fear of death manifests itself in her fears of aging and of lost beauty. She refuses to tell anyone her true age or to appear in harsh light that will reveal her faded looks. She seems to believe that by continually asserting her sexuality, especially toward men younger than herself, she will be able to avoid death and return to the world of teenage bliss she experienced before her husband’s suicide.
However, beginning in Scene One, Williams suggests that Blanche’s sexual history is in fact a cause of her downfall. When she first arrives at the Kowalskis’, Blanche says she rode a streetcar named Desire, then transferred to a streetcar named Cemeteries, which brought her to a street named Elysian Fields. This journey, the precursor to the play, allegorically represents the trajectory of Blanche’s life. The Elysian Fields are the land of the dead in Greek mythology. Blanche’s lifelong pursuit of her sexual desires has led to her eviction from Belle Reve, her ostracism from Laurel, and, at the end of the play, her expulsion from society at large.
Sex leads to death for others Blanche knows as well. Throughout the play, Blanche is haunted by the deaths of her ancestors, which she attributes to their “epic fornications.” Her husband’s suicide results from her disapproval of his homosexuality. The message is that indulging one’s desire in the form of unrestrained promiscuity leads to forced departures and unwanted ends. In Scene Nine, when the Mexican woman appears selling “flowers for the dead,” Blanche reacts with horror because the woman announces Blanche’s fate. Her fall into madness can be read as the ending brought about by her dual flaws—her inability to act appropriately on her desire and her desperate fear of human mortality. Sex and death are intricately and fatally linked in Blanche’s experience.
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