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A Streetcar Named Desire is a gripping drama, but it does not succeed as tragedy because Blanche never fully engages the sympathy of the audience. How do you respond to this idea?

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Introduction

"A Streetcar Named Desire is a gripping drama, but it does not succeed as tragedy because Blanche never fully engages the sympathy of the audience." How do you respond to this idea? My response is that I do not agree with this statement. Indeed there are points in Williams' theatrical piece where Blanche is perceived negatively by the audience. However, it is through his clever dramatic structure, in which we learn about Blanche step by step, her character revealed as sometimes things are revealed against her will which allow the audience to sympathise with her. Perhaps it can be said that our sympathy as the audience is only fully engaged when Blanche finally meets her tragic fate and that that is where the tragedy lies. As Williams reveals the details of Blanche's life we feel that perhaps the events in her life were not all her own fault, perhaps beyond her control, and making us as the audience feel that even if we do not agree with her way of dealing with these tragedies, she deserves some sympathy. Overall I am of the view that we as the audience do sympathise with Blanche - more and more as the play goes on and fully at the end. To me 'A Streetcar Named Desire' is the ultimate tragedy as it follows Aristotle's conventions, that tragedy should be "an imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of certain length....decorated with artistic embellishments like plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle and song." ...read more.

Middle

We come to realise that Blanche worked very hard to keep her ageing family going until their eventual deaths which she describes as "blows in my face and body". When her relatives died so did Blanche's dreams and her way of life. The word "blows" suggests the great extent of the pressure Blanche has suffered from the tough times she has been through. The audience starts to feel some pity here as we see that Blanche has worked hard for others not just herself. They also may find her slightly melodramatic and self-pitying with the length of her outburst. Blanche's constant struggle to keep her form of society going, the white-ruled gentile Southern society means she gains support from the audience as they can now see why she struggles to fit in to this new, harsher American society full of 'Stanley's' with materialistic views and aims. This struggle is shown by Williams through her reactions to events around her and her attitudes to the other characters in the play. Even more sympathy for Blanche comes when her short lived early marriage is brought up. Stanley feels he has been tricked out of getting the money he feels Belle Reve should have brought him and so begins searching Blanche's belongings. The tearing apart of Blanche's trunk and destruction of her privacy is symbolic of the rape which occurs later on. Stanley finds the old love letters from her previous husband and grabs them. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is where instinct wins over romantic notions. Blanche is a victim of society and that is how she gains the audience's sympathy. In the final scene sympathy for Blanche is great. Here the most tragic ending possible occurs when Stella ignores Blanche's pleas of rape and watches her transported away to a mental institution. This sympathy is made even greater by the fact that Stella most probably did believe what Blanche said but realises she "... couldn't believe her story and go on living with Stanley". She sacrifices her sister's life to preserve her own. Here Williams is showing the importance of illusions to keep people going, Stella's about her husband's fidelity and Blanche's about Shep Huntleigh. In conclusion I feel Tennesse Williams makes the audience prejudge Blanche as a way of highlighting the theme of illusions. It is when the illusions are destroyed that Blanche too is destroyed. This makes us understand Blanche as a character in a tragic play which leads to us sympathizing with her and fulfilling the play's role as a tragedy. As well as seeing that the audiences will almost certainly symapthise with Blanche at some point I must also give space to the idea that the audience, due to circumstances and character development of the other characters, may perceive her very negatively. This is a deliberate strategy of Williams' which makes the play all the more engaging, as the play is most successful when the audience moves from being irritated and repelled by Blanche to having nothing but deep sympathy for her. ?? ?? ?? ?? Isobel Talks ...read more.

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