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Streetcar Named Desire: Symbolism and Themes in Playwriting

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Many playwriters use Symbolism as of technique in their plays to obtain a dramatic affect and allow playwrights to give their audience a more meaningful understanding of the play on a different extent; this makes the play more fascinating. Symbolism can be used to add tension to a scene, to foreshadow certain events in a play or even to give us a deeper understanding of a character. In Shakespeare “Hamlet” and in Tennessee Williams “A Streetcar Named Desire” the use of symbolism is extensive. In both plays, two major themes of death and appearance versus reality are pertinent. Both Blanche and Hamlet use the symbols of graveyards to showcase death from both characters experiences and use the symbols of colour and style of clothing to reveal their true selves.

To begin with, Both Blanche and Hamlet experience death through the usage of graveyard and streetcar named desires. When it comes to Blanche her riding on the streetcar names and Cemeteries symbolizes her downhill with mental health. Blanche is aware of her desires taking over her mid as she states” what you are talking about is brutal desire-just-desire!, the name of the rattle-trap streetcar that bangs through the quarter”(William,70) she is conscious of how infuriating the streetcar named Desire is, yet she is not in control of her own desires. Although she ends up leaving this streetcar for another one, she still carries emotional baggage with her onto the cemeteries Her desires are only kept for being with a man, but blanch is trying to uphold as she is damaged and driving towards madness. Blanche is full of desires which is leading her to insanity, the concept of desire is leading her to her death which is briefly introduced when Blanche makes her way to her sister Stella’s home and states” they told me to take a streetcar named desire and then transfer to one call cemeteries.”(William 15). The name of these streetcars are symbolic due to the journey Blanche must go through. She seeks love and craves attention so desperately that it ends up beating her down. The cemeteries represent death, Blanche’s immoral acts from the past and desire for love lead to her giving up and infuriating herself. When she takes the streetcar named Desire, she comes across all the inner scuffles with her aspirations in life. Nevertheless, as she moves o to the Streetcar names Cemeteries, I symbolize her death and although Blanche does not actually die, her loss of reality becomes lamented to those surrounding her. Hamlet’s encounter with death is relevant throughout the play. When he goes to the graveyard of where Ophelia was buried, the gravedigger states that “Faith, if” a be not rotten before’ a die-as we have many pocky courses nowadays that will scarce hold the laying in–‘a will last you some eight years or nine years” (5.1.151-153). The gravedigger tells Hamlet that people who are noxious within themselves are basically dead, this saying foreshadows Hamlet’s death which infuriates him cause him to deteriorate. Moreover, his insanity takes a toll on him which leads him to physical death.The graveyard is a representation of Hamlet’s place of burial where he does end up being, However, the theme of death as he is dead internally so it only makes sense that he dies physically and be buried in the graveyard like Ophelia due to her insanity taking an effect on her life. (Comparison)

In addition, both Hamlet and Blanche represent their true hidden selves through the clothing and style that they wear. As for Hamlet he wears dark, black clothing to showcase his misery over his father’s death and his choice in clothing infuriates his mother because she believes that he as she did must move on from that tragic event =,but as normal Hamlet can get his fathers death past him as he states “’Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother, Nor customary suits of solemn black, Nor windy suspiration of forc’d breath, No, nor the fruitful river in the eye, Nor the dejected havior of the visage, Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief, That can denote me truly. These indeed seem for they are actions that a man might play; But I have that within which passes show, These but the trappings and the suits of woe” (1.2 77-86). Hamlet snaps his famous repudiation of theatricality the clothing he decides to wear displays feelings. The darkness in his clothing is just a way of expressing himself because he is dismissing the notion that he could act out his true self. This being, Hamlet is very upset over his father’s death and cannot help it but is scared to express his feeling to those around him due to the judgment hi is scared to encounter especially his own mother Gertrude. In reference to the theme of appearance s reality, Hamlet expresses his inner dark feelings through his clothing, that darkness represents the grief and sadness he encounters from dealing with his own father’s death, Later Ophelia end up breaking Hamlet when she brings up his Father’s passing which leads to Hamlet’s insanity. Ophelia describes Hamlet’s madness through his clothing stating “’My lord, as I was sewing in my closet, Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbrac’d No hat upon his head, his stockings fouled Ungarter’d and down-gyved to his ankle, Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other, And if he had been loosed out of hell To speaks of horrors, he comes before me,'(2.1 77-84) The colours of Hamlet’s changes from white to black. The white is an expression of Ophelia describing Hamlet turning pale. The white symbolizes a ghost. Ophelia is scared of Hamlet’s becoming and is becoming insane. the white clothing symbolizes Hamlet’s madness as he was attempting to withhold his internal feeling because of the pressure around him, especially from his own mother. Moreover, hamlets choice in clothing showcases his inner true feeling that he was resenting to show. Hamlet uses these to show the theme of appearance versus reality. As he demonstrates that withholding inner feelings does nothing because the truth eventually comes out.

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Likewise, Blanche’s choice in clothing is used to hide her true personality from her entourage. Blanche wears white and expensive clothing to make herself seem like of someone of wealth and proper but that is not is not the truth. When Blanche shows up to her sister Stella’s house her sister describes her as being “daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklaces, and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat…” (Williams 15). The colours are a symbolization of her innocence, as she tried to display at the beginning of the play, but being that Blanche is the complete opposite of innocent, she displays herself as innocent so that those around her can accept her instead of judging her immoral past. In order to keep a positive look to herself she fabricates an embodiment of lies through all the luxurious and clean clothing that she presents herself with creating a fake persona of her character. Blanche is able to mask her true self behind her choices of clothing making her seem firmer than she is. Blanche’s past is full of misfortune and she does not want to carry that kind of burden with her into the new life she created for herself . Although attempts to make herself seem stable she reaches a breaking point where she cannot uphold the lie of a lifestyle she is living and reveals more and more of who she truly is She has decked herself out in a somewhat soiled and crumpled white satin evening gown and a pair of scuffed silver slippers …”(Williams,122) it is obvious that Blanche’s true character is beginning to be shown. In actual fact, blanch has a weak character and no self-esteem, she begins to break down from her fake persona as he becomes exposed. She is no longer capable of upholding her web of lies and hiding under the white clothing and luxurious items that she wears as her old wrinkled worn-out clothing start to appear as the crippled dress symbolizes her inner crisis, she cannot keep her past hidden forever. Hamlet and Blanche may be two different from two different plays, but both characters use clothing’s as a way of expressing their true inner feeling or secrets in such way that no one find out the truth about them, but the truth always comes out so, their truths are soon revealed. Hamlets showcase himself as one grieving from his father’s death which leads to him being miserable and upset but the change of clothing colours from black to white shows an increase in his insanity. That could be said for Blanche’s character too as she uses very appealing clothing to hide her true identity and makes herself seem very put together but her worn-out clothing later in the play later reveals her true persona. Both Blanche and Hamlet attempt to hide their inner secrets as they fear others will either judge or reject them for their true selves. Although they make themselves seem like something they are not, symbolism can be found in their clothing to represent their true character

Moreover, the symbolism of the streetcar names and graveyard showcase the death both Hamlet and Blanche must undergo. Blanche encounters death when she rides on the streetcars named desires and Cemeteries. The play shows her life falling down towards the end as she loses all the sense she had. The symbolism of Graveyards and cemeteries outline them corresponding to death in such way that Hamlet and Blanche eventually encounter. The symbols showcase unhappiness and darkness that both Blanche and Hamlet express as they are facing the end of time.

To summarize, the two major themes of death and appearance s reality are both seen in both plays. Blanche and Hamlet us the symbols of cemeteries and graveyards to showcase them of death that they must encounter and the symbols of the style of clothes and colour to exude their true identities. In Tennessee Williams’s A streetcar named Desire and Shakespeare’s Hamlet the use of symbolism is used substantially. Both characters use symbols to showcase their characteristics and their time coming giving the audience members some sort of understanding with the symbols used. Symbolism takes something and gives it more significant meaning and as Manly Hall once said “Symbolism is the language of the Mysteries. By symbols, men have ever sought to communicate to each other those thoughts which transcend the limitation of language.”

Work cited

  1. Hall, Manly. Symbolism.

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Streetcar Named Desire: Symbolism and Themes in Playwriting. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
“Streetcar Named Desire: Symbolism and Themes in Playwriting.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022,
Streetcar Named Desire: Symbolism and Themes in Playwriting. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
Streetcar Named Desire: Symbolism and Themes in Playwriting [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from:
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