The characters make A Streetcar Named Desire an undeniable landmark in both American literature and film. Sometimes buried in symbolism and yet at other places blatantly explosive, they show a deep level of complexity that is yet to be rivaled. I have no bias towards either medium of expression, but instead feel like the two complement each other and have helped me develop a further understanding of the play. .
The title explains the heart of the piece. By being associated with a streetcar, desire is taken off its pedestal (where people crave it and submit to its demands) and is placed with an unfortunate vulgarity of the world. In the play, Williams works us through the outcomes of giving in to desire. The three main characters have no self-control and sell their souls to have their desires fulfilled. This ultimately leads to their destruction; as it creates, or perhaps merely brings to light an ugliness in them which has previously been masked. .
Blanche is the most explicit example of this. The play is not about the gradual sacrifice of her own character (morals) in order to fulfill her desires, but instead about how this aspect becomes a chaotic revelation that ultimately leads to the paranoic breakdown of her psyche. While Stanley plays a large part in uncovering this, Blanche doomed herself by weaving her disguise back and forth so cheaply that it was inevitably destined to unravel. Her alcoholism is an obvious expression to Stanley and Stella of her desire to drown the destitution that has become her character. .
In the opening scene of the film, Leigh emerges from the train station through a cloud of smoke, representing the mystery from which she hails. The viewer recognizes through this symbol that Blanche wants her old self to remain anonymous. However, it is soon found that Dubois is a time bomb waiting to explode. The desire of denial may delay the explosion, but ultimately serves to only complicate the issue.