A Streetcar Named Fallacy

Tennessee Williams was always the writer I tried to pick apart. A Streetcar Named Desire was one of the first things I had read at Plymouth, and I really do not have a reasonable explanation as to why I enjoyed it as much as I did. The plot of this play was extremely puzzling, and I still cannot quite figure out the meaning within the characters. However, I wanted to connect them with Williams and his life outside writing.

As Williams is known as ‘the true gay icon,’ my last close reading featured the idea of gender roles, and what they really played in Williams’ social life. Stanley is known as a brute force, a manly-man kind of Polack, which is the opposite of how he is. Williams also grew up with an alcoholic of a father, and his family was very middle class. From this, we can assume the logic behind Stanley’s character; drunk, middle class, and the ideal features of a young male.

Wimsatt and Beardsley’s “The Intentional Fallacy.” debunks, in theory, this type of logic. “…Since the past is the realm of the scholar and critic, and the future and present that of the poet and the critical leaders of taste, we may say that the problems arising in literary scholarship from the intentional fallacy are matched by others which arise in the world of progressive experiment” (Wimsatt and Beardsley, p. 7). Critics see into the past. They look for signs that indicate how or why an author wrote the things they did. As we move forward, the present ideals and societal normality affect the way we think, both as people and as critics.

If Williams explained what the meaning of particular scenes in his play actually meant, could we understand his intentions? Wimsatt and Beardsley are convincing in their argument that “[notes] are ought to be judged like any other parts of a composition, and when so judged their reality as parts of the poem, or their imaginative integrations with the rest of the poem, may come into question.” Although there are few interviews (or notes) available where Williams talks about Streetcar, it is fair that what he did say should not be taken as the true intention or meaning of the work itself. Williams was on the set of his production of A Streetcar Named Desire when the initial idea of cutting the rape scene was introduced. Williams defended it here, saying “”The rape of Blanche by Stanley is a pivotal, integral truth in the play, without which the play loses its meaning, which is the ravishment of the tender, the sensitive, the delicate, by the savage and brutal forces of modern society. It is a poetic plea for comprehension…” If we were to believe this, than would the rest of this play not have any meaning? There are so many other scenes that have plenty of meaning to them, ones where the main character isn’t raped. Also, is Stanley supposed to represent modern society, or is he intended to symbolize something else? The Intentional Fallacy helps critics understand that there may never truly be an answer to why a piece of literature was written, but rather tips us off as to what to explore, and how to explore it.