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Tennessee Williams wrote in a letter that It (Streetcar) is a tragedy with the classic aim of producing a catharsis of pity and terror and in order to do that, Blanche must finally have the understanding and compass

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Tennessee Williams wrote in a letter that "It ('Streetcar') is a tragedy with the classic aim of producing a catharsis of pity and terror and in order to do that, Blanche must finally have the understanding and compassion of the audience. This without creating a black-dyed villain in Stanley. It is a thing (misunderstanding) not a person (Stanley) that destroys her in the end." In your opinion, to what extent has Williams succeeded in his aims. Although there are many different viewpoints on a conventional tragic heroine, Aristotle made his views clear that a hero must fall from fortune and power, due to a tragic flaw, allowing an audience to feel catharsis at the end of the play. It can be argued that Stanley causes Blanche's downfall, however, it is clear that Blanche had brought this upon herself by creating a conflict between them and ensures her own downfall by other means such as her promiscuity and flux into fantasies. Williams makes it clear that a misunderstanding destroys Blanche in the end. This misjudgement can be seen in her aggressive teasing of Stanley and her uncomfortable belonging in multi-cultural New Orleans. From the beginning of the play, Williams makes it clear that 'the Kowalski and the DuBois have different notions' with Blanche withholding the Southern Belle attitude of 'Belle Reve'. ...read more.


By Williams doing this, we can only empathise for Stanley as we realise he only wants to live happily with Stella and their baby, without Blanche. Therefore Williams evidently doesn't display Stanley as a villain by showing his honest sexual nature as a product of the changing society; he also makes it clear that Stella, who shares Blanche's privileged background, loves him for this personality, whereas Blanche cannot see past her clouded opinions. Williams creates a catharsis of terror by showing how Blanche's hamartia is her sexual promiscuity, with the conflict between Stanley seeming inevitable throughout the play. We immediately learn that Blanche believes 'the only way to live with such a man is to - go to bed with him' showing that her only way to resolve an issue is to act sexually. This is exposed by the reoccurrence of the 'blue piano' to symbolise her and Stanley's sexual natures; it emphasises her sexual needs as she explains 'I want to kiss you' to an apparent stranger as the 'Young Man laughs uncomfortably' whilst the 'blue piano' plays. Williams uses the blue piano as the audience easily understands the motif and it clearly represents the nature of jazz music and New Orleans society, highlighting Blanche and Stanley's sexual personalities. Williams creates a tragic inevitability between Stanley and Blanche as his first impressions are that 'if you weren't my wife's sister I'd get ideas about you' signalling to the audience something is going to happen. ...read more.


Williams also has the audience feel compassion for Blanche by having life carry on in Elysian Fields, constructing a repetition of the poker night, as Matron, the 'peculiarly sinister figure' takes her away. This is emphasised by Steve's repetition of 'this game is seven-card stud' as the last line of the play to show nothing will change. Williams has Blanche explain 'I have always depended on the kindness of strangers' as her poignant last line to epitomise her fantasies, yet the audience are clearly aware the Doctor approaches with 'threatening whispers'. Blanche has brought this downfall upon herself; however it is evident that Williams also wants the audience to feel compassionate towards her after Stella sobs 'Blanche! Blanche!' allowing the audience to empathise with Blanche's dismal future. Therefore Williams undoubtedly allows the audience to feel compassion towards her by displaying her abhorrence for light and realism as a whole, allowing life to carry on as normal in scene eleven. In conclusion, it is clear that Williams has succeeded in his aims to display Blanche as a conventional tragic protagonist, yet without creating Stanley as the villain. He may have chosen to do this to display the changing society in America, supporting the fast racial movement in New Orleans during the 1920s, whilst still creating a popular tragedy whereby Blanche, the tragic hero falls from grace to her eventual insanity. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

5 star(s)

A very effective essay which addresses the question in detail and shows a balanced appraisal of the key characters.

Marked by teacher Karen Reader 22/02/2012

Here's what a star student thought of this essay

5 star(s)

Response to the question

This essay engages superbly with the task. Although the question seems quite cryptic, this essay is able to pose a strong argument saying that Blanche's tragedy is caused by her misunderstanding and not Stanley. A clear definition of tragedy is ...

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Response to the question

This essay engages superbly with the task. Although the question seems quite cryptic, this essay is able to pose a strong argument saying that Blanche's tragedy is caused by her misunderstanding and not Stanley. A clear definition of tragedy is used in the introduction, allowing for an argument which is focused on these qualities. I liked how there is a sustained focus on audience response, as is vital when writing about a play as it shows an understanding of the context of reception. The conclusion is slightly weak, in contrast to the rest of the essay, as it simply summarises the points made rather than making a perceptive insight.

Level of analysis

The analysis here is superb. Language is always analysed closely, looking at meanings beyond feature spotting. It is key at A-Level to look at the significance of meanings, rather than simply pointing out techniques. This essay does this well, for example "Williams uses this motif to symbolise her escape from reality" shows an understanding of the technique, and then explains its significance to the play. I liked how there is a focus on Blanche's appearance on stage, as many people simply ignore stage directions and appearance. This comes under context of reception, and such analysis will gain credit. I particularly liked the style here, with a constant reference to Williams' aims. Phrases such as "Williams uses" or "Williams makes" shows a clear understanding of the importance of his constructs, and doesn't talk about the characters as if they make their own decisions! Such style allows for a convincing argument, as there is a clear focus on the audience response beyond the analysis. Technical terms regarding tragedy are used fluently such as "catharsis of terror", and this paragraph in particular is very sophisticated. The progression of tragedy is tracked, and the audience's response to Blanche's tragic fall. Being able to show a clear awareness of the play's purpose beyond specific extracts will gain credit.

Quality of writing

The structure here is very strong. The introduction is cogent, and there is a clear conclusion. Each paragraph has a clear signpost which relates back to the question, allowing for a set of focused points which do not overlap or repeat anything. Technical and literary terms are used fluently in the analysis, and spelling, punctuation and grammar are flawless. The style is sophisticated, and shows a strong ability to craft an argument. This essay is superb!

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Reviewed by groat 23/03/2012

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