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A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire

by Tennessee Williams

Analysis: What’s Up With the Epigraph?

Epigraphs are like little appetizers to the great entrée of a story. They illuminate important aspects of the story, and they get us headed in the right direction.

And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.

– “The Broken Tower” by Hart Crane

Williams was a great admirer of the poet Hart Crane, and one thing both writers had in common was their love of metaphor. Perhaps “The Broken Tower” acts as a sort of metaphor for the poetic mood and themes of love and loss that Williams wanted to bring out in Streetcar. The start of the epigraph brings to mind Blanche’s journey into New Orleans, to her a “broken world.” It also captures the fleeting nature of love, which for Blanche was only “an instant in the wind” (remember the boy that died?). As for the epigraph’s ending, it’s cryptic, but it certainly seems that desperate choices are made throughout Streetcar, right? So why not lead in with a note of desperation? It’s certainly dramatic.

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