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First performed in 1949, A Streetcar Named Desire sprang from Tennessee Williams' personal beliefs, reflecting his society as he saw it. In the 1920's the American dream of democracy, material prosperity and equality for all had fast disappeared with the Great Depression. This economic crisis began with the 1929 Wall Street Crash, and brought unemployment and great poverty to many. The depression passed, but the idea of such a state of perfection was proved to be unrealistic and unattainable.
The characters represent the jaded American dream, and the kind of lives, standards and tensions within which the immigrant population found themselves living. Whilst not explicitly about race, Williams has developed a setting, culture and characters affected by racial prejudice. Williams believed that people are doomed to suffer from despair and mistrust. He said that 'we are all savages at heart' (Williams, T. (1959), Foreword to A Streetcar Named Desire, Penguin), and he certainly presents this notion through his characters, whose sexual instincts plays large part in their flawed identities and their personal downfalls.
Sexuality plays a key role throughout: Williams' homosexuality perhaps influenced his interpretation of these characters. The tensions of the play centre on a hidden homosexual relationship of the past and its long lasting effects. Within the timescale of the play we see the negativity of certain gender and cultural attitudes, and Williams' concern with gender and sexual identity within society.
These stereotypes, while perhaps seeming over-zealous, are historical and current. Williams was concerned to use strong imagery to investigate human weakness, and Streetcar is certainly laden with obviously stated imagery.
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