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GCSE: A Streetcar Named Desire

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The staging of 'A Streetcar Named Desire'

  1. 1 It is a good idea to to include details of staging and stage direction when answering questions on any play. This reinforces the fact that you know the play is being performed to an audience and the visuals/sounds/rhythm and pace will all contribute to the meanings.
  2. 2 Williams intended the stage set for the play to be expressionistic. This means that boundaries can dissolve and reform, whilst lighting and darkness all serve to accentuate characters’ feelings and relationships.
  3. 3 Some critics think that the boundary between home and street is deliberately made uncertain by Williams. Stanley and Stella’s residence is merged with their street community unlike Belle Reve, isolated and protected in the deep south.
  4. 4 Some others believe that sound (jungle cries, Varsouvian Polka etc) is used to represent the inner state of Blanche Dubois and invite our sympathies as her madness grows.
  5. 5 Some critics see Williams’ references to light in the play as symbolising ‘truth’ or ‘reality’. Blanche avoids the light not only to preserve her lost youth but also to avoid confronting the reality of her past.

'A streetcar named desire' could be said to use many of the conventions of a modern domestic tragedy

  1. 1 Consider the ways in which Williams criticises the ‘new’ family of Stanley, Stella and their baby.
  2. 2 Williams also shows the ways in which the ‘old’ family of Blanche and Stella at ‘Belle Reve’ was based on corrupt morals and can no longer exist in modern times.
  3. 3 Modern tragedy also looks at the importance of the past, which can haunt the present. This can be seen in Blanche’s past, Belle Reve, etc.
  4. 4 Modern tragedy looks at the growing importance of female characters. How far does Williams portray the fates of both sisters being in the hands of men? Do our sympathies lie with the female or male characters?
  5. 5 Like many other 20th century American playwrights (notable Miller and later, Albee) Williams uses the play in order to consider the confrontation between two worlds: the fading relic of the Old South and the rising urban working class.

Consider the theme of madness in the play

  1. 1 Blanche’s ‘dream’ is a lie which leads to madness. Can this be related to the failure of the 'American Dream'?
  2. 2 Madness is presented as both escape and refuge, hinted at by Blanche’s need for but dishonesty about alcohol.
  3. 3 Other 20th century tragedies, such as Death of a Salesman and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? have also commented on the clinging onto and worshipping of the past as a sort of madness madness and death.
  4. 4 The relationship between the 'American Dream' and madness in the play and more widely in the context of the USA.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 3
  • Peer Reviewed essays 14
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    Scene V, Blanche: "Come in"-"Ahhh Merciii" Discuss this extract in relation to the rest of the text paying attention to structure, form and use of language.

    4 star(s)

    During the exchange between Blanche and the young man she is portrayed as seductive and dominant "I want to kiss you" making it clear that she is the one initiating the situation, this is a dramatic contrast to her normal persona around other men such as Mitch and Stanley where she makes herself out to be both innocent and pure. This extract is one of the places where her illusion starts to slip and her past actions are hinted at to the audience.

    • Word count: 1243
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss the role of music and other sound effects in A Streetcar Named Desire

    3 star(s)

    Thought the stage directions do not only evoke the tones of the play, they also foreshadow events ahead through describing symbolic happenings such as music and sound effects. 'Tennessee Williams' use of stage directions is one of the many keys to the great success of this play; even the first paragraph is a tribute to that. The first paragraph describes a peaceful image, "Two women, one white the other coloured" talking, which for its time would have seen as being taboo in most areas of the country.

    • Word count: 1022
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss the role of Mitch in 'street car named desire' Tennessee Williams first introduces Mitch's character in the poker scene as one of the players with the other three

    3 star(s)

    Blanche describes him as having 'a great capacity for devotion' because of the love for his mother. Tennessee Williams shows Mitch's emotions through his actions when he is talking about his mother dying soon 'his voice is horse and he clears his throat twice, shuffling nervously around with his hands .....'This description clearly shows his love and concern for his mother which is not shown in the other male characters. Mitch's character is minor however his role is used as a contrast by Tennessee to Stanley's character who is one of the major characters.

    • Word count: 1041
  4. Peer reviewed

    To what extent does Williams portray Blanche as a tragic heroine in Scene 1?

    5 star(s)

    Williams does this to encourage the audience to question her belonging in society, wondering why the main character has so little in common with the setting of the play. This lack of power makes it clear to the audience that Blanche is not a tragic heroine, with her reversal of fortune being hard to foresee. Therefore Williams uses Blanche's strange entrance to New Orleans to emphasise her lack of heroic qualities. Williams uses Blanche's hypocritical actions about alcohol to remove any pity the audience may have for her addiction.

    • Word count: 707
  5. Peer reviewed

    How and Why does Williams dramatise the influence of the past on the present?

    4 star(s)

    It also seems that Blanche is trying to lay claim to Stella by reminding her that she is the younger sister and that Blanche should be able to control her. It also becomes apparent that Blanche is reluctant to relinquish her high class past, as she is secretive about the loss of Belle Reve, as it is a key part of her past and she is very reluctant to shed any light on her background, shown by her state of nervousness and her tendencies towards alcohol.

    • Word count: 1271
  6. Peer reviewed

    Discuss the way Williams Presents the relationship between Blanche and Stanley explaining what you think is at stake in the conflict between them.

    4 star(s)

    The imagery, which best describes the relationship between Blanche and Stanley is that of "the moth versus light", with Blanche being the moth and Stanley being the light. Williams achieves this effect by likening Blanche to a moth by constantly portraying her as being frail. For example, "her white clothes that suggest a moth" and "her delicate beauty must avoid strong light" are in the stage directions of scene I. Additionally, Blanche's frailty, her nervous and uncertain manner indeed make her appear weak and moth-like.

    • Word count: 1151
  7. Peer reviewed

    A Street Car Named Desire The Kowalskis and Du Bois have different notions

    3 star(s)

    As a 'Lady' Blanche expects that the men will stand, however as to seem almost modest or overly flattered she asks them "please don't get up". To this Stanley replies, in an almost scornful manner, "no body's going to get up so don't be worried". From this point in the play it is clear that the two are as different as chalk and cheese, at least when it comes to character traits, culture and psyche. One way that some of their differences could be explained is that the two are coming from entirely different backgrounds.

    • Word count: 1822
  8. Peer reviewed

    In A Street Car Named Desire Tennessee Williams uses music and sound to help symbolise certain themes

    3 star(s)

    This also helps to create tension. The 'blue piano' can also be heard along side the trumpets. At the end of scene two they are playing together, this shows that something is building up. This also helps create a sense of tension and suspense because it makes us want to know what it is building up to. Then at the end of scene four the piano, trumpet and rums are all playing together, it is building up to something big. This adds to the sense of tension and suspense.

    • Word count: 1048
  9. Peer reviewed

    How important are illusion and fantasy as themes in A Streetcar Named Desire?

    3 star(s)

    In the first place, when men are drinking and playing poker anything can happen.' Stella has psychologically made herself get used to this behaviour from Stanley, 'why, on our wedding - soon as we came in here - he snatched off one of my slippers and rushed about the place, smashing the light bulbs with it.' She has made it seem normal because she is illusioned by the thought that what they have is too strong to let go. Stanley is like an addictive drug to her, for example, in scene 4, Stella is in 'narcotised tranquillity'.

    • Word count: 1162
  10. Peer reviewed

    Commentary on Scene Eleven focusing on the speech in A Streetcar Named Desire.

    3 star(s)

    This would be evident through her mental disorder from the rape. It is also depicted that all the characters have knowledge of her mental asylum although Blanche is not aware of it and that she presumes she is going on holiday. The speech depicts the theme of death which is also present in Blanche's speech in Scene One "I, I, I took the blows in my face and my body..." The depiction, however, contrasts the one earlier, in that the speech in Scene One represents something gruesome and dreadful: "So big with it, it couldn't be put in a coffin!

    • Word count: 755
  11. Peer reviewed

    How much sympathy do we feel for Blanche in the opening scenes of the play and why is this?

    3 star(s)

    Blanche's speech near the beginning of the play does not make the reader feel empathy or sympathy for her, though perhaps pity. Her desperation to attract men is revealed in her trying conversation with the other characters. In the first scene, when Blanche in talking to Eunice, the stage direction "with faintly hysterical humour", gives her the deceitful air of trying to appear na�ve and innocent as she describes where she is going. Even in the first scene she already seems an irritating type of person, though her constant effort to be liked and attractive means the audience does feel some pity for her.

    • Word count: 680
  12. Peer reviewed

    What do you believe Tennessee Williamsis saying about human sexuality in A Street Car Named Desire?

    3 star(s)

    go wild" Stella appears to be fully dependant on her husband financially as she is a housewife and therefore relies on Stanley's income as her means of living. When Blanche advises Stella that she could be happier without a physically abusive husband, Stella chooses to remain with Stanley. Stanley is the man she relies on, loves and strongly believes, as he is the only man between his friends who is "likely to get anywhere". Stella knows Stanley is common and aggressive but she explains to her sister that she is "thrilled" by his actions on their wedding night and allows her abuse to be the price of what they "do in the dark".

    • Word count: 653
  13. Peer reviewed

    Was Stanley Kowalski the reason for Blanche's downfall?

    3 star(s)

    "There is something about her uncertain manner", and the way she drinks as soon as she reaches the apartment shows that she is extremely nervous and uncomfortable. "Her white that suggest a moth." There is an irony about the clothes Blanche wears and the way she dresses. She is glamorous and always appears wearing light, and white clothes although it is a desire to be pure, which we learn she is definitely not. What's more she bathes constantly throughout the play.

    • Word count: 1785
  14. Peer reviewed

    Discuss the deterioration of Blanche's state of mind in the play A Streetcar Named Desire.

    3 star(s)

    In bed with your Polak!' Blanche is already starting to lose herself. Stanley and Blanche meet and to start with everyone is quite pleasant, this though will not continue. Stanley offers Blanche a drink and she says, 'No I rarely touch it', Stanley shows a sign of things to come with, 'Some people rarely touch it, but it touches them often.' This is another insight to the dishonesty and misguided facts that Blanche gives throughout the play. Next we get the first reference to the boy Blanche married, who later died, she says that she is going to be sick just because he was mentioned.

    • Word count: 957
  15. Peer reviewed

    First Perceptions of Blanche Dubois - “What are your early perceptions of Blanche?” In what ways has Tennessee Williams created this response?

    3 star(s)

    moth that is attracted to the light or flame, which will undoubtedly burn it, she too could be attracted to something that could hurt her in some way. The white that she is wearing also suggests purity and innocence, possibly reflecting her arrival to the alien world. Throughout the first scene, Blanche is constantly interacting with the different characters of the play, including Eunice, Stella and Stanley. She also only talks to these characters singularly, which allows for dramatic irony to develop and also concentrates the interaction between her and another character, which allows her to express her different views to the three characters in the opening scene.

    • Word count: 917
  16. Streetcar Named Desire - Key Incident Essay

    Another example of desire in Stella's life is that scene 4 takes place the morning after she was hit by Stanley. Stella explains that she is "thrilled" by Stanley's passionate anger. She is honest about why she likes Stanley and what excites her, unlike Blanche who troubles herself with hiding her promiscuity. She admits that the violence is the attraction. Stella's bluntness is surprising because she comes from the North where it is unusual for women to be so open about their desires and needs.

    • Word count: 851
  17. A Streetcar Named Desire - What do we learn about Blanche's character?

    That's a fact!" Blanche's only way to evade talking about her physical appearance and, eventually, her age, is to answer with a short and artificial "Is it?", pretending not to understand him. As a response, Mitch then tears the Chinese paper lantern off the light bulb and switches on the light. She is portrayed as a woman afraid of aging and light. She is always shown trying to hide from any type of thing which is likely to give a clue about what is her real age.

    • Word count: 779
  18. A Streetcar Named Desire

    She indulges in this deception not only to attract Mitch, but for her own sake. Despite Blanche putting on the mask of innocence and purity, she is really a fraud who cannot stand up to the light in fear that she will be exposed for the person she really is. Blanche continually lies in order to portray herself as a true 'lady' and she feels that she must trick and deceive in order to survive in a world where she is "fading now!"

    • Word count: 3264
  19. Williams Vs Albee

    His love for his wife is unconditional even though he sometimes treats her with a little less respect than she deserves. His view is that women were put on this planet to serve the needs of men, to cook, clean and provide a womb for a man's child. His love is only matched by his anger when pushed to a limit where he will explode, he sees no issue with occasionally striking his wife in order to "put her in her place" and even though by today's standards that would be considered domestic abuse, during the time period and environment

    • Word count: 1439
  20. language in scene 4 and how the past affects the present notes

    It is apparent of her expected upper class living conditions she received back in Belle Reve. ? Williams also includes moth-like imagery to portray Blanche as "delicate" and "white" which again highlights her high-class status but also her fragility and how the past may have caused her to become so delicate. Belle Reve ? One of the tragic themes in A Streetcar Named Desire is death. Blanche blames Stella abandoning her at Belle Reve with her dying relatives. ? Blanches previous experience in all the deaths she has experience would explain her alcoholic nature and need to cover up her delusion with fantasy and deception.

    • Word count: 637
  21. How successfully has Williams introduced the main characters and ideas of A Streetcar named Desire in the first two scenes?

    His character is also constructed through the language he uses in the first scene; in a conversation with Stella he answers "Catch!" "Meat!" "Bowling!" "Come on" all very short to the point plain answers showing again he is working class with primitive speech. Throughout the play Williams builds on his character and we see a more violent and equally passionate side of Stanley as he becomes more and more angry towards Blanche finally raping her and then with Stella, as we see the violence he shows towards her suddenly change into a raw, animal like passion.

    • Word count: 2334
  22. A Streetcar Named Desire

    A distant revolver shot is heard, Blanche seems relieved. There now, the shot! It always stops after that. The polka music dies out again." Here Williams shows that the music she keeps hearing is the music that was playing just before her husband shot himself, which is why it stops after she hears a gunshot. This seems to imply that her life started to go wrong and her madness came from when her husband died. This also shows that she is still living in that time and everything she does is connected to that time; she can't forget about it.

    • Word count: 1782
  23. How Does Tennessee Williams Dramatize the Differences Between Stanley and Blanche in Scenes I and II?

    This gives the appearance of innocence, youth and beauty. The fact that she looks dressed for a garden party means that that is the sort of society she is used to and she was not expecting to arrive in a place so far from what she expected. The next part is; "She is about five years older than Stella." The page before says that Stella is about twenty-five, so that means that Blanche is about thirty, however, by the way she is dressed she appears like she is younger by wearing only white which usually symbolises virginity. Next the text says; "Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light."

    • Word count: 960
  24. Discuss the parallels between Mitch and Blanche that seem to draw them together

    The symbol of the moth in the play is used to represent Blanche's, and her class', vulnerability in the modern world of New Orleans. From the first stage directions, Williams presents us with this image, of 'white clothes that suggest a moth'. Her 'delicate beauty' must avoid 'strong light'. This is referring to both her age and again reinforces the moth like imagery. Another symbol depicting blanches nature is that of the paper lantern and how she cannot 'stand a naked light bulb'.

    • Word count: 587
  25. Scene description of A streetcar named desire

    They share cigarettes and talkto each other about life and lost loves. They find that they have quite a bit in common. After this, Blanche and Stanley quarrel about silly things, and Stanley being drunk, makes more of a big deal out of the quarrelling than it really is. Stella is angry and tells all of the men to leave. Stanley is in a foul mood and starts to hit Stella. Blanche is in shock, and astounded, especially as Stella is pregnant Blanche takes Stella to Eunices'. Stanley screams for Stella to come back, and Stella hesitantly goes back down the stairs.

    • Word count: 536

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • To what extent does Williams portray Blanche as a tragic heroine in Scene 1?

    "In conclusion, it is clear that Williams is not presenting Blanche as a tragic hero in scene one. He makes sure that any qualities the audience may be fond of, such as her fancy clothes or well-off upbringing, are quickly dismissed as he focuses on her alcoholism, naivety and struggles to form structured sentences. These problems that Blanche has are far from heroic qualities. Although there is a sense of a tragic flaw starting to develop, it is hard to determine in scene one whether these problems will have any affect on her later actions. Sam Franklin Mr Skinner"

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