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To what extent can Blanche Dubois be described as a tragic victim in A Streetcar named Desire

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Introduction

To what extent can Blanche Dubois be described as a tragic victim in A Streetcar named Desire In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams presents the 'daintily dressed' Blanche Dubois as a tragic victim. Williams achieves this through his use of language, stage directions in the play and other dramatic techniques to emphasise Blanche's mental state and her dependence on alcohol and men. These factors cumulate and shape her tragic flaw, which is giving in to desire. She allows her desire to take control and manifest itself into drama and tragedy. When Blanche arrives, she has fallen, her fate is sealed and there is no way back for her now. The play presents a version of slum life that is romanticised, butreflects the typical characters of New Orleans. The area around Elysian Fields is historically different from the rest of the south as blacks mingle with whites, and members of different ethnic groups play poker and bowl together. Members of the lower class fight, but drink to the tune of an old bluesy piano, which allows them to forget the harshness of poverty. Blanche's 'appearance is incongruous' against the backdrop of New Orleans, which gives the audience a sense of vulnerability.The manner in which Blanche is dressed shows that she comes from an upper class background, and that she cares for her appearance. However she only wears costume jewellery, showing the audience how cheap and fake she is. ...read more.

Middle

The music is a constant reminder of death, which she can never escape, as it haunts her for the rest of the play. We first hear the tune when Stanley and Blanche first meet. The varsouviana is a tool used to foreshadow death; it was being played leading up to Allan's suicide, meaning that it will also lead to Blanche's death as well. The tune is establishes the mood of the play and is heard increasingly towards the end, which makes both Blanche and the audience uneasy. Blanche hears it whenever she panics or loses grip on reality, and it can only be stopped when she hears 'the shot'. The character of the Mexican flower seller is important, because she is closely linked with the music. The polka rises in her entrance and goes away when she leaves. She is a constant reminder of death and embodies Blanche's conscience. Her cry of 'florespara los muertos' accompany Blanche's description of the death at Belle Reve. The blue piano is played during the coda, which gives a sense of finality to the play. The combination of music and the fact of Blanche being the victim of desire and left with nothing, creates a sense of catharsis. There are two forms of language that is used in the play. They comprise of the speech that is used by the characters and the stage directions. ...read more.

Conclusion

It ultimately shows that she had made a wrong choice, which has led to her downfall. In this violent act, Stanley has taken everything away from Blanche that she regarded as a comfort to her. Blanche is a victim of desire and has lost the game. Stanley has taken it all away from her and has skilfully won. Some people may say that Blanche is not a victim, because she is in control of her actions and is aware of what will result. Her excessive drinking and provocative sexual intentions lead her into a world of desire, where she feels comfortable, but becomes distressed when she is not in control. She cannot expect sympathy when she brings it all on herself. Blanche does not fit the Aristotelian view of being a tragic hero. It could be said that she is more of an anti - hero as she followed her heart throughout life rather than letting herself be guided by reason. Blanche's fatal flaw of giving in to desire is infused with death, love, sex and violence. After watching the play the audience are overwhelmed with a sense of catharsis. Blanche DuBois is a tragic victim, because she cannot face in reality, which resulted from an action out of her control. She contributed to Allan's death, but was not the cause. From this point she became emotionally and mentally unstable relying on 'the kindness of strangers' for the rest of her life. ...read more.

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Response to the question

This essay responds well to the task, and with a few tweaks there is potential for a strong essay. There is a clear focus on the play being tragedy, however I would've liked to have seen some engagement with the ...

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Response to the question

This essay responds well to the task, and with a few tweaks there is potential for a strong essay. There is a clear focus on the play being tragedy, however I would've liked to have seen some engagement with the word "victim" from the question. A discussion around Stanley's influence on Blanche would've been relevant here. The essay does well to define tragedy in the introduction, but this could be strengthened by more technical language. When mentioning "her fate is sealed and there is no way back for her now." I would be eager to discuss the inevitability of a tragic downfall.

Level of analysis

The analysis here is good, and there are some good ideas shown. I would note that there is slightly too much focus on symbolism here . Examiners want to see a range of techniques analysed, and great essays will explore language, form and structure. Sometimes this essay spends too long discussing their idea of the symbol rather than exploring the effect it has on the narrative and the audience. For example "The lantern relates to a moth being drawn to the flame of desire. Each time the lantern is taken down Blanche has to confront her fears, affecting her mental stability." This essay would benefit from discussing Williams' constructions rather than stating things as fact. For example "Blanche is a victim of desire, which will haunt her forever" could be better written as "Williams constructs Blanche as a victim of her desire" which then allows a natural progression into the techniques used to display this, and the dramatic response by the audience.

Quality of writing

The structure of this essay could be improved. It seems to me that they have taken a chronological approach, going through the play and picking a variety of techniques in each paragraph. At A-Level, the most sophisticated students are able to gather a collection of techniques and focus on detailed analysis. For this essay, I would be considering the main characteristics of a tragic victim, and address each characteristic separately per paragraph. Phrases such as "Some people may say that Blanche is not a victim" could be improved to "Some critics may argue" to strengthen the critical voice. Being able to appreciate the alternative interpretations is a great skill to have, however, and I would note this is highly rewarded by examiners. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are strong. This is a fluently written essay, there just needs to be more focus on literary techniques.


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Reviewed by groat 28/06/2012

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