• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

In what ways can 'A Streetcar Named Desire' be seen as a modern tragedy?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

In what ways can 'A Streetcar Named Desire' be seen as a modern tragedy? The ways in which 'A Streetcar Named Desire' by Tennessee Williams can be seen as a modern tragedy, or indeed as any tragedy is a subject of much contention. The answer lies in one's interpretation of the characters in the context of the genre; the tragedy is made or discarded depending on whether the audience's sympathy lies with Blanche or Stanley. In order to explore these interpretations one must define the features of modern tragedy as opposed to the ancient Aristotelian definition. The two share some features, such as the violation of the 'natural order' of social or personal relationships (i.e. Oedipus' incestuous relationship with his mother), and the focus on a tragic hero's fall from status, respect, and in classical tragedies from power and wealth. However, there are also stark differences in modern tragedy where (especially in Williams' plays) the hero is more likely to be feminine. Although this is not exclusive to modern tragedies - in Sophocles' 'Antigone' the protagonist is female - it is certainly a feature. Social issues are also treated more personally as the epic scale of civil unrest present in most Aristotelian tragedies is discarded in favor of a focus on a single family unit as a microcosm of social behaviour. ...read more.

Middle

She certainly bears a striking surface resemblance to the ancient tragic heroes in her evident fall from high to low, from Belle Reve to the Elysian Fields. This is made evident in her first entrance; her appearance is described as 'incongruous' and techniques such as the repetition of "Stella, oh Stella, Stella!" stress her hysterical inability to cope with her new surroundings. However even this is punctuated in the stage directions with "feverish vivacity" - suggesting a desperate or false behaviour at odds with the ancient definition of the tragic hero as an essentially noble character. This is emphasised later in the scene by the first suggestion of Blanche's alcoholism as she "rushes" to the liquor closet "panting for breath", and corroborated as evidence of her sordid affairs at the Hotel Flamingo is revealed. Indeed Blanche herself talks about the "rattle-trap streetcar" called Desire that "brought me here", indicating that her downfall was caused by her own "brutal desire". Yet if we do accept that Blanche has already completely fallen into poverty and alcoholism, then the play itself becomes the mere aftermath of a tragedy; the effect of a destroyed character upon her surroundings. Some critics would agree completely with this standpoint - indeed the director of the stage debut, Elia Kazan, portrayed Blanche as a "phony, corrupt, sick, destructive woman"� wrecking Stanley's home who deserved - indeed needed - to be driven out. ...read more.

Conclusion

Unlike in Shakespearian tragedies such as 'Othello' where the enemy is clearly portrayed, Williams blurs the distinctions between right and wrong until the play more resembles the tragedies of Sophocles, which are essentially concerned with the crisis of right versus right leading to an outcome in which no-one wins. So, although critics such as Joseph Wood Krutch state that "Tragedy must have a hero if it is not to be merely an accusation against, instead of a justification of the world in which it occurs"4 this is not necessarily true. 'A Streetcar Named Desire', along with many other Tennessee Williams' plays such as 'The Glass Menagerie' is tragic not because it details the fall of a hero, but precisely because it contains no hero at all. Modern tragedy is itself an accusation against a grey, mundane world of ordinary people, for whom the only escape is through self-delusion, alcohol, sex or madness. In this respect 'A Streetcar Named Desire' becomes the ultimate example of modern tragedy as, after Blanche's entire existence is shattered, the others merely resume their poker game. The entire play is built around this tragic indifference, both with the detached ending "This game is seven-card stud" and the very preface, where Williams foreshadows Blanche's inevitable destruction with the words of Hart Crane, "And so it was that I entered the broken world. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level A Street Car Named Desire section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level A Street Car Named Desire essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    TO WHAT EXTENT CAN A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE BE CALLED A TRAGEDY?

    5 star(s)

    Stanley Kowalski - survivor of the Stone Age!", "Don't hang back with the brutes!") outweighs the respective incorrectness of his retaliatory actions ("Come to think of it - maybe you wouldn't be bad to - interfere with..."). As such, Kazan's direction dictated that Stanley be the victim of Blanche's actions.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    To what extent can Blanche Dubois be considered a tragic hero?

    5 star(s)

    clinging to the past, Blanche is forced because of circumstances to interact with the modern, urban age but is powerless to control the force with which this new, materialistic world is impacting on the once cherished lifestyle of Southern refinement and culture that she was used to.

  1. Marked by a teacher

    How much is Desire a force for destruction in the play 'A Streetcar Named ...

    3 star(s)

    She ends up letting her valuable and old, if sometimes awkward relationship with her sister be destroyed, and at the same time ends up damaging, but not destroying her relationship with her husband. Whether this can end up being made whole again is unsaid, but the audience would get the

  2. Peer reviewed

    To what extent can Blanche Dubois be described as a tragic victim in A ...

    4 star(s)

    It shows that it is male dominated and only the strongest can win. From this alone the audience can see that Blanche has fallen victim of society, she does not stand a chance. Life revolves around skill, no matter what cards you hold; as long as you are skilful enough,

  1. A Steercar Named Desire - Blanche's Psychological Breakdown.

    Sailing over the cardboard sea- But it wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me! It's a Barnum and Bailey world. Just as phony as it could be-But it wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me!" (Corrigan 53) The louder Stanley gets on insisting on the undeniable facts about Blanche, the louder Blanche sings (Corrigan 53).

  2. A Streetcar Named Desire - scenes 2 and 3 reviewed.

    This is an animalistic thing , i.e. to mark somebody. * Blanche; 'What's in the back of that little boy's mind of yours?'- This phrase is part of her being coquettish and playful in order to flirt with him. * Stanley invades her privacy by touching her letters etc and later by entering her.

  1. What part does fantasy play in the lives of the characters in A Streetcar ...

    stand the "raw nakedness of light" as it shows through her illusions. When Mitch "tears the paper lantern off the light bulb" and "turns on the light", the audience too feels the harsh light of the "electric bulb", as he exposes her to the one thing that Blanche is desperately trying to escape from- reality.

  2. Language in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'.

    (page 91) referring to his inner happiness. A key metaphor in the play is - "...Colours of butterfly wings". By referring to the butterfly, we can see how this relates to herself. She uses clothes as a way of escapism; she tries to change her image so she can hide behind it.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work