A Streetcar Named Desire

Sexual Rejection and its Repercussions in the Ethics of Tennessee Williams College

In reading through the plays of Tennessee Williams, one may notice the “predominance of sex” as a theme throughout many different works, and more specifically, the theme of sexual rejection (Reid 431). In the interconnected systems of ethics Williams establishes, one of the most dangerous moral sins appears to be the act of rejecting or shunning another character for reasons that are rooted in matters of sex. This rejection can take several different forms, including the rejection of sexual advances, a denunciation of a character’s morality or goodness, or a complete denial and rejection of a character in his or her entirety, all based on judgement of a character’s sexuality or approach to sex. In several different plays and with several different characters, Williams makes it clear that in his plays’ moral systems, to do any of these is wrong, and that any character who rejects another using reasons rooted in sex suffers according misfortune. This dynamic is particularly clear in the cases of Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire, John from Summer and Smoke, and Alma, also from Summer and Smoke. In a particular spurt of tragic irony, the suffering Williams writes for each of these characters is to reverse their situation with...

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