Tennessee Williams once stated that "symbols are nothing but the natural speech of drama. The purest language of plays" - just by studying 'A streetcar named Desire" the reader can identity the numerous symbols Williams' uses to add depth to the plot as well as unveil his characters' personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Kazan in his interpretation of the play never loses sight of the significance of the major symbols and obviously understood the importance of details such as mannerisms and clothing that shape each character. The significance of the symbols lie in how Williams uses them. Light, animal characteristics, music and the streetcars Desire and Cemeteries are symbols that Kazan puts emphasis on in the film just as Williams does in the play to lead up to the climax of Blanche's disintegration into insanity and Stanley's brutal triumph over her.
From the beginning Williams' establishes the journey that Blanche has taken and what she's going to face. "They told me to take a streetcar named Desire and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian fields" (pg 117). Kazan picked up on the importance of the line and made it the first sentence Blanche spoke in the film. The symbolism lies in the names of the streetcars and how they're represented in Blanche's life. The streetcar Desire describes her relationship with her young husband, her liaisons with the soldiers and her one night stands with strangers. The streetcar Cemeteries highlights her husband's suicide and the slow deaths of her relatives. Both streetcars lead her to her final destination - Elysian Fields which in Greek means heaven in the underworld where troubles, worries and illnesses are forgotten and the deceased live in continuous harmony. Yet the Elysian fields she arrives at is only paradise for the inhabitants there and she doesn't find the peace she was hoping for. It is ironic that it's after Stanley rapes Blanche and she loses her final grip on reality that she finds her Elysian fields in her insanity.