Sorry Pete and everyone, last night when I put up my part of the

It was once written “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/ By any other
name would smell as sweet”. However, in the plays “Sweet Bird of Youth” and “A
Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams this is not the case. The
playwright has put a strong emphasis on the symbolism of names to convey
meaning and create characterisation.
In “Sweet Bird of Youth”, this symbolism can be quite blunt and apparent. With
the character of Chance Wayne, his name reveals his life hitherto: a boy once
brimming with potential and good luck (Chance) has been ravaged by reality and
this good luck is beginning to wane (Wayne). Disillusioned by the lifestyle he has
led – at first a promising actor, later a glorified gigolo – and the detrimental effect
it has on him, he returns to the shining beacon of hope in his misspent youth
Heavenly Finlay. “Heavenly” denotes a purity to this character and, in the eyes of
Chance, is the antithesis to the corruption and filth which has poisoned his youth
– however, there is a cruel irony by Williams here as the connotations of chastity
from “Heavenly” are torn away with the knowledge that Chance gave Heavenly a
venereal disease from the many women he’s slept with, causing her to be
“gutted” from within and removing her ability to bear children. This knowledge of
this barren, hollow women contradicts the positive attributes of “Heavenly” and
mirrors Chance’s ignorance of the damage he has done to her.
From this, is it arguable that Chance’s actions are noble. Despite numerous
warnings and threats throughout, he still pursues Heavenly with the hope he can
recapture the purity and joy she brought him in his youth. He also attempts to
create a secure future for the two of them by trying to manipulate Princess,
however there are strong reasons why he is not a noble character. His pursuit of
Heavenly is mostly for himself: he is trying to claw back some of the youth and
beauty which used to define him, as well as his past actions as a male prostitute
for older women. He sold himself for money for no-one’s gain but his own. He is
often a very narcissistic character, fixated with himself and how he looks.
Additionally the town name of St Cloud gives hints to the makeup of the town. A
cloud, from a distance on the surface looks graceful and beautiful. However, what
is a cloud made of? Water vapour: it’s vacuous, empty, lifeless. This is a
metaphor for the town itself, it appears to epitomise the gracious lifestyle of the
Southern states of America but behind the veneer it is rotten with corruption.
Williams illustrates this with the behaviour of Boss Finley; he comes across as
friendly, earnest politician on his televised speech however he has laundered
large amounts of money from the oil fund as well as injuring the his mistress in
vengeance for her loose tongue.
In “Streetcar Named Desire” the naming is somewhat more subtle. Stanley
Kowalski is the primary male character, a working class man who is steeped in
reality. “Stanley” means stony meadow in Old English, reflecting his no-nonsense
approach to life, and “Kowalski” is a Polish surname equivalent to “Smith” in
English: a very common last name showing Stanley is just as ‘common‘. It also
shows the audience his practical, hard working background and his decadency
from Polish immigrants. This is important in the play as Stanley represents the
‘New South’: the fresh face of post-war America brushing away the pretence of
grace and manners of the ‘Old South’, represented by Blanche DuBois or “White
Woods” in French. The symbolic meaning of “Blanche” is to create an impression
of a white, almost virginal, innocent Southern Belle. However, this is how Blanche
is presented initially. The audience soon learn however that there is more to her
than this first image; there’s more than just the first line of trees in a forest. As
you look in deeper, there is a darker side to Blanche hidden beneath the surface,
the façade she tries to create.
The tendency of Stanley to unearth the brutal truth could be considered a noble
act: he tries to convince Stella of the true nature of Blanche so Stella isn’t fooled
by her but Stanley’s final action to rid Blanche’s façade is grave and despicable.
By raping her, he as a character loses any nobility he had for his cause as it is
revealed he has done it for self-gain — similar to Chance, he acted out of selfsatisfaction.