Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview
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The Cards Indicate a Voyage
on A Streetcar Named Desire
Leonard Quirino

'Art is made out of symbols the way your body is made out of vital tissue.'

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS

' "They are the souls," answered his [Aeneas'] father Anchises,
"Whose destiny it is a second time
To live in the flesh and there by the waters of Lethe
They drink the draught that sets them free from care
And blots out memory." '

Description of the inhabitants of Elysian Fields
in Book 6 of the Aeneid

So much has been written about A Streetcar Named Desire in terms of its theatrical presentation as interpreted by a specific director and set of actors and so much concern has been lavished on the social attitudes and psychological constitution of its characters that the author's primary intention as revealed in his use of mythic symbolism and archetypal imagery to create a dialectic between soul and body to depict universally significant problems such as the conflict and mutual attraction between desire and death has been generally obscured or denigrated as pretentious. My own intention in this essay is to consider the play neither as interpreted in any specific production nor as it may embody a study of satyriasis, nymphomania, or reconstruction in the South, but, rather, as it constitutes what an examination of its symbolism reveals to be Tennessee Williams's intention:

____________________
From Tennessee Williams: A Tribute, edited by Jac Tharpe. © 1977 by the University Press of Mississippi.

-61-

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