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Tennessee Williams? A Streetcar Named Desire is considered by many critics to

be what is called a flawed masterpiece. This is because William?s work

utilizes and wonderfully blends both tragic and comic elements that serve to

shroud the true nature of the hero and heroine thereby not allowing the reader

to judge them on solid actuality. Hence, Williams has been compared to writers

such as Shakespeare who in literature have created a sense of ambiguity and

uncertainty in finding a sole ?view or aspect ? in their works. Because of

the highly tragic elements encountered in Streetcar, many immediately label it

tragedy. Nevertheless, the immense comical circumstances encountered in the play

contradict the sole role of tragedy and leaves the reader pondering the true

nature of the work, that being whether it is a tragedy with accidental comic

incidences or a comedy with weak melodramatic occurrences. It has been said that

the ?double mask of tragicomedy reveals the polarity of the human

condition.? The contrariety of forces in the work serves to enforce a sense of

both reality and drama that are present in everyday human life. The comic

elements in the play serve as a form of determined self-preservation just as the

tragic elements add to the notion of self-destruction. This is the true nature

of a tragicomedy. By juxtaposing two irreconcilable positions, ambiguity is

produced in the judgement of the main characters, most notably Stanley Kowalski

and Blanche Dubois. Ambivalence in the play is largely caused by the

relationship between Stanley and Blanche. They concurrently produce both

appalling and appealing tendencies. Both characters display elements of the

profane and sacred yet on two distinct levels. This is what creates the double

entendre. In the social sense, Blanche can be considered the heroine of the

play. In a desperate last attempt to preserve her aristocratic values, she must

combat everything that Stanley Kowalski is. While she represents everything that

is sacred within cultural boundaries, that of which being the love of language,

music, art, etc?Stanley is the brute opposite. He is highly animalistic and

primitive in his ways and serves as the sole destroyer of everything Blanche

embodies. ?The first time I laid eyes on him I thought to myself, that man is

my executioner! That man will destroy me?? This goes to show that since

there can be no coexistence between classes, Blanche, the romantic delicate

southern belle, will meet her doom at the hands of the crude and savage Stanley.

However, on a psychological level, Stanley emerges as the Hero. The sexually

healthy and ?sacred? marriage he shares with his wife is in staunch contrast

to the perverted and debauched sexual exploits of Blanche. In the role as the

psychological ?profaner,? Blanche is just as much to blame for her rape as

Stanley is. Blanche is a profane and perverted intruder into his sacred yet

crude domain. Thus, he reacts violently when he feels that his household is

being threatened. Stanley seeks above all, to retain order and symmetry within

his created existence. Stanley and Blanche on their respective ?levels,?

serve as the classic heroes struggling for self-preservation. One must deal with

both the social and psychological elements simultaneously in order to fully see

the ambiguous duality of these two characters. The comic aspect of the

tragicomedy is displayed through irreconcilability. Through the character Mitch,

Williams successfully juxtaposes the comic with tragic elements, which are

central to the tragicomic genre. While Blanche?s world is increasingly closing

in on her becoming more tragic in implications, hence her wanting a husband,

Mitch is almost completely blind to her overtures and sexual advances. For

example, while Blanche is virtually dying inside and looking for someone to

confide in and share herself with, Mitch totally misses this and instead thinks

that Blanche wants to have a conversation concerning weight. This instance of

comedy is positioned between two highly dramatic and potentially tragic

confidences in which Blanche shares with Mitch. Namely, her belief that Stanley

will ultimately destroy her and the sense of guilt for destroying Allan Grey.

The conflict between Stanley and Blanche throughout the novel is permeated with

humorous incidents counterpointing the dramatic action. Another example of this

would be when Stanley initially feels slighted and put down by Blanche?s

infringement into he and Stella?s abode, than after finding out that she has

let the Belle Reve estate get away goes into justifying his claim to it

according to the ?Napoleonic code.? In most drama, comedy serves as a relief

from too much tragedy. In the Elizabethan era, mostly transfigured through

Shakespeare, there were points in a play where jesters, fools, etc?would make

appearances during the play or between intermission, simply to make the audience

laugh so they would not be too emotionally drained. However, Williams? comic

reversals are too methodical and copious to be only forms of relief. Instead the

comic elements always seem to gear towards self-conservation while the tragic

elements gear towards self-annihilation. As mentioned earlier, when such

irreconcilable difficulties are put together, uncertainty is the heart of the

tragicomic mode. Ambivalence serves as the keynote for Williams? judgements on

both Blanche and Stanley. For all of the flaws apparent in these two characters,

it seems as if Williams is romanticizing them for various reasons despite their

sordid acts. For example, it is clear that he has empathy for Blanche?s

fragile vulnerability and the destruction of her ?class? at the hands of

savage Neanderthal-like Stanley. Thus from the very beginning of the play,

Blanche has her destiny forged. She is to get on a ?Streetcar named desire,

pass through the cemeteries, and end up in the Elysian fields.? Initially,

this is a literal journey but it later develops into a spiritual journey.

Blanche wants to reconcile for her past perverted deeds. She also feels guilty

for the deaths that she has either ?caused? or witnessed. Her strong

idealism and sense of illusion fuels her desire. She realizes that in some way,

she must pass through the ?cemeteries,? which represents death. This is the

only way that she can arrive at the Elysian fields, which symbolizes a sort of

heaven or peaceful state. Where Williams? sympathies are quite clear, he

avoids making any moral statement. Instead, he allows Blanche to be damned for

the sin of being idealistic. Blanche is allowed into the Elysian fields because

she has come from the Tarantula arms, representative of debauched living, to

wearing the Della Robbia Blue of the Madonna, which symbolizes her epiphany and

rebirth as a new soul now reconciled for her past deeds. Concerning Stanley,

Williams does not condemn him for his harsh yet necessary actions against

Blanche. Instead, Stanley has won a sort of victory in that he has maintained

his domain. He is now the sole ?cock of the roost? and can no longer be

threatened. However, in the end Stella is left debating with herself the

rightness of her actions thus creating yet another sense of incongruity. One can

see that A Streetcar Named Desire though it?s magnificent ambivalence truly

embodies the tragicomedy. Through Tennessee William?s vision, he permits

something that everyone craves and desires, reality.

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