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AS and A Level: A Street Car Named Desire

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Staging and symbolism

  1. 1 The stage set for the play tends towards the expressionistic. Boundaries can dissolve and reform, lighting and darkness all serve to accentuate characters’ states.
  2. 2 Some critics suggest that the boundary between home and street is deliberately made uncertain by Williams. Stanley and Stella’s residence is encroached on by the urban life/street community unlike Belle Reve which is isolated and protected in the deep south.
  3. 3 Sound is used to represent symbolically the inner state of Blanche Dubois and align the audience with her experience, demonstrating her growing madness.
  4. 4 This type of staging has been used or referred to by many 20th century American playwrights. Arthur Miller originally wanted to depict the events of Death of a Salesman inside a large head onstage; Albee originally intended the realistic living room (box set) for the characters of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to resemble a womb or cave.
  5. 5 Consider the symbolism of light and the ways in which the play aligns it with ‘truth’ or ‘reality’. Blanche shuns the light not only to preserve her lost youth but also to avoid confronting the reality of her situation.

Adherence to The American Dream and Madness

  1. 1 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.
  2. 2 Other 20th century tragedies, such as Death of a Salesman and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? have also aligned the clinging onto the past as well as the mythologising of it with madness and death.
  3. 3 Blanche’s ‘dream’ is a self-delusion, which ultimately leads to madness. Can this be applied symbolically to the corruption of the pastoral American Dream by the new 20th century dream of industrialism and capitalism?
  4. 4 Madness is presented as both escape and refuge, hinted at by Blanche’s dependence on and dishonesty about her alcoholism.
  5. 5 Some critics believe that Blanche was based on Williams’ sister, Rose, who was lobotomised due to her mental instability. [She has also been referenced, perhaps more autobiographically in The Glass Menagerie]. Williams is reputed to have claimed, controversially, that he based Blanche on himself.

Adherence to Modern Domestic Tragedy

  1. 1 The dysfunctional family – Consider the ways in which Williams undermines Stanley/Stella/Baby ideal; also the dissipation of Blanche and Stella’s family.
  2. 2 The dominance of the past – This progressively encroaches on the present: Blanche’s past, Belle Reve, etc.
  3. 3 The growing importance of female protagonists – How far does Williams portray the fates of both sisters being in the hands of men? How does the play address this? Do our sympathies lie with the female or male characters?

  • Marked by Teachers essays 13
  • Peer Reviewed essays 6
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    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

    5 star(s)

    However, it is clear that Blanche cannot cope with the stark contrast in backgrounds, aggressively teasing Stanley and calling him a 'dirty Polack' describing something 'ape-like about him'. Williams has Blanche use animalistic imagery on stage to enhance the audience's negative perception of her use of derogative terms as her weapon against Stanley. The audience can thus sympathise for Stanley, who has not done anything to offend Blanche as he attempts to build a rapport saying 'Well, take it easy' after her travels to New Orleans; Williams does this to allow the audience to question Blanche's misjudgement of 'deliberate cruelty' towards him.

    • Word count: 1760
  2. Marked by a teacher

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

    5 star(s)

    The outcome of the tragedy might yield an increase in self-awareness or discovery and even a reversal of fortune so although the ending is not a happy one, there is a degree of closure - not only is the experience cathartic for the tragic hero but also for the audience. So how far does Tennessee Williams' character Blanche DuBois meet Aristotle's criteria? In Williams' essay 'On a Streetcar Named Success' in The New York Times on the 30th November 1947, he comments "You cannot arbitrarily say to yourself, I will now continue my life as it was before this thing."

    • Word count: 1887
  3. Marked by a teacher

    How does Williams use dramatic devices in A Streetcar Named Desire to heighten the tragic aspects of the play?

    4 star(s)

    This sense of foreshadowing intensifies the tragedy from the very beginning, suggesting no matter what Blanche does, or how hopeful things are the outcome will not be pleasant. Blanches journey on the streetcar is an important metaphor. ?They told me to take a street- car named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at ? Elysian Fields? This journey represents her life, used therefore is a type of foreshadowing, highlighting the inevitability of her descent into madness.

    • Word count: 1780
  4. Marked by a teacher

    To what extent do you think William wants his Audience to perceive Blanche as a victim ?

    4 star(s)

    Because of William's use of foreshadowing events throughout the play we are able to understand that Blanche is deceptive, egotistical and seductive. Blanche gives further weight to the idea because she deceives and tricks people. She lies consistently and pretends to be a very 'classy' and cultured when in reality she is neither. Williams tries to present her true character at the beginning of the play when she states, "I can't stand a naked light bulb". This statement is seen as Blanche hiding her true looks so that she can get away with the deception of being an 'young southern belle'.

    • Word count: 1216
  5. Marked by a teacher

    Compare and contrast Williams treatment of the concept of mental instability in A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie in light of the opinion that Williams presents more hope in his presentation of Laura Wingfield than Blanche Dubois.

    4 star(s)

    Conversely, the character Laura's means of escape is through an altogether more innocent medium in Glass Menagerie. She withdraws from reality and obsesses over her glass figurines, a representation of her own 'exquisitely fragile' identity. Williams' decision to present Laura as more childlike in her form of escape than Blanche encourages the audience to feel more sympathy towards Laura as she appears more vulnerable and innocent. Her escapism stands in stark contrast to the socially scorned drinking problem Blanche displays.

    • Word count: 1717
  6. Marked by a teacher

    A Modern Domestic Tragedy Is Tragic Because The Protagonist Is Working Against A Tide Of Unstoppable Changes Discuss This In Relation To A Streetcar Named Desire

    4 star(s)

    However this as a sole interpretation fails to understand the meaning of this 'merciless glare' she is witnessing. This merciless nature of the light seemingly represents the nature of this unstoppable change, overpowering and dominant, and in this sense the development as Blanche as the tragic victim of this erosion of the Old South starts to be become increasingly evident. What this inability to face light is to exploit one of her fatal flaws; her inability to face reality, and thus in this respect it shows that these changes are not an unstoppable external force, but something exacerbated by her own flaws.

    • Word count: 1486
  7. Marked by a teacher

    How does Williams present the character of Blanche in scenes 1-3 of A Streetcar Named Desire

    4 star(s)

    Her appearance 'suggests a moth' and this adumbrates her tragic fate in the play. Williams then exposes Blanche's high standards as a result of growing up in Belle Reve, a 'great big place with white columns'. He does this through her reaction to Stella's apartment: 'This-can this be-her home?' She cannot believe that the residence she has arrived at is where Stella is living, and this shows the audience that she is from a different class to the people of New Orleans, furthermore, the world that she has been forced to enter.

    • Word count: 1878
  8. Marked by a teacher

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

    3 star(s)

    In this point of time, and primarily in this location (since one cannot definitively say this was the overall mood towards desire when one only reads about what is accepted in New Orleans), desire from men was widely accepted, but the same from women was scorned. However, in Londr�'s1 opinion, nowadays audiences would sympathise with Stanley in many cases, for being the protagonist. Common opinion would suggest that he would be the more loathed character now, unlike then when such behaviour, albeit acceptable, was not liked by women.

    • Word count: 1815
  9. Marked by a teacher

    Explore how Tennessee Williams uses symbols and expressionistic stage devices in the play.

    3 star(s)

    This reminds us of Blanche's past, and hints that the relationship with Mitch will not succeed in allowing her to escape it. It is from her past of desire & death that she come to Elysian Fields. The inhabitants of this place are described in Book six of the Aenied: "'They are the souls,' answered Anchises, 'Whose destiny it is a second time To live in the flesh and there by the waters of Lethe They drink the draught that sets them free from care And blots out their memory.'"

    • Word count: 1406
  10. Peer reviewed

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

    4 star(s)

    However she only wears costume jewellery, showing the audience how cheap and fake she is. Blanche is likened to 'a moth', highlighting her delicate state. This is negative, because she is not a beautiful butterfly, but lives for the darkness instead. Even without this, the used speech by Blanche expresses how much of a victim she is. We learn early in the play that Blanche is a heavy drinker as 'she pours half a tumbler of whisky and tosses it down'. She drinks in order to forget about her guilt in contributing to her husband's suicide.

    • Word count: 1503
  11. A Streetcar Named Desire. Explore the methods used by Williams in the first two scenes of the play to introduce his audience to the main themes of the play.

    This shows a Theme of decay, which could link to the decaying of families, and societies, which Blanche struggles to grasp and understand. In the first scene both sister become reunited as Blanche is supposedly visiting her younger sister Stella. "They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at-Elysian Fields!" Elysian Fields has two meanings firstly the street that Stanley and Stella live on and also known within Greek mythology as the land of the dead, these then link together because Elysian Fields is not Blanche's idea of heaven.

    • Word count: 1111
  12. Assess the view that Tennessee Williams use of symbolism in "A Street Car Named Desire" enhances the audiences understanding of the characters and themes in the play.

    Stanley shows animalistic characteristics in his animal-like behaviour that he produces, he eats like an animal at the table and refers to himself as a 'king' in his own home. Male dependency is a definitive key element during the 1960's where the story was written and women are seen to always depend on a man and in the case of Blanche 'the kindness of a stranger' which is her downfall as she relies on others to look after her. The attention and power Stanley has over the women in his life namely Stella and sometimes Blanche is a tragic element

    • Word count: 1371
  13. How far do the Kowalskis and the DuBois different notions lead to a tragic downfall?

    Williams detailed description of Blanches' appearance in Scene One portrays the difference in social background. Blanche's first appearance is her "daintly dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party". The description of her clothing represents her affluent background, but also gives an impression of delicacy and gentility. As stated by Hana Sambrook in York Notes this shows her "social pariah", which is further emphasised when William explains her as "incongruous to this setting."

    • Word count: 1826
  14. In what ways can 'A Streetcar Named Desire' be seen as a modern tragedy?

    As a result, the characters themselves become far more complex - a far cry from Aristotle's theory that characters should merely serve to advance the tragic plot. Broadly speaking then, 'A Streetcar Named Desire' certainly fits the prescriptions of a modern tragedy, not least as it contains several complex themes such as alienation, entrapment and the struggle between fantasy and reality. Written in 1947 soon after the Great Depression and a period of prohibition when the borders between social classes were becoming more blurred, these play on the very real threats of alcoholism and social decline.

    • Word count: 1909
  15. Scene VI in Tennessee Williams A Streetcar named Desire is very important to the view that the audience have of Blanche DuBois.

    play where sympathy for her is limited due to the spoilt manner in which she behaves, especially towards Stella; "Run to the drug store and get me a lemon coke with plenty of chipped ice in it!" This perhaps catches the audience's attention to make them take note of what she is about to say. The use and mention of light in the account of her husband's death is also effective in causing the audience to feel more sympathy for Blanche.

    • Word count: 1549
  16. How do you respond to the view that Williams uses both music and stage directions to create an appropriate atmosphere and to reinforce his major themes in the play?

    to when Stanley rapes Blanche, and as this 'act' is not seen by and audience, the passion and sexuality of the music informs them of the terrible incident about to take place. This music is exclusive to the scene, along with a few other motifs, to set it apart from the rest of the play. After Blanche has been deserted by everyone, including the phone operator ('No wait!... Hold on, please!'8), Williams' incorporates a squalid event which forms a parallel to the main incident between Stanley and Blanche.

    • Word count: 1858
  17. 'Discuss A Streetcar Named Desire' as a portrayal of a broken world.

    There is not, as the question suggests, a deep and deliberate flaw spanning the world of A Streetcar Named Desire. Indeed, such an assertion entirely misses the point. Perhaps it is a semantic difference, but the world depicted in the play is an entirely functional one; it is a world in which all the coherent parts play off each other, with both friction and cooperation. It is entirely incorrect to state that the lives of Stanley, Stella, Eunice, and Steve don't continue from day-to-day with regularity and a certain degree of contentedness.

    • Word count: 1079
  18. Free essay

    Mitch says to Blanche at the end of Scene Six, You need somebody and I need somebody too. Could it be you and me Blanche?(TM) With an examination of this scene as your starting point, explore the ways in which Williams presents and u

    The music of the 'Varsouviana' that plays in the background during Blanche's explanation of her husband's death and the same music that was playing on the night of his death is symbolic. Blanche mentions that the Varsouviana was playing as she told her husband that he disgusted her, 'I suddenly said - I know! I know! You disgust me...' The music signifies Blanche's recollection of her husband's suicide, we danced the Varsouviana! Suddenly in the middle of the dance the boy I had married broke away from me and ran out of the casino, a few moments later, a shot!'

    • Word count: 1200
  19. Free essay

    Consider how Williams presents differing aspects of desire(TM) in the play.

    I don't think that I can marry you anymore'. The relationship between Stanley and Blanche is mainly one of dominance; each one is fighting over Stella as their 'territory', where Stanley views Blanche as a "potentially dangerous invader of his territory" (1), (Stella). So Stanley wants Blanche gone and does not show any acceptance towards her in his life. However Stanley and Blanche have an underlying desire for one another, 'Come to think of it, you wouldn't be bad to interfere with'. By using Blanche's forbidden desire and sexual exploits which were unspeakable at the time and therefore she wasn't accepted in society, Williams could be portraying himself through her character as his homosexuality was unspeakable in those days and he also wasn't accepted.

    • Word count: 1221
  20. Consider the effectiveness of this extract from 'A Streetcar Named Desire' with particular reference to what it adds to the play as a whole.

    She begins to ramble on, because she is so nervous of what he will say, since she would have picked up the feeling from him, from the moment that he walked through the door, that he was not best pleased with her. '[She offers him her lips. He ignores it and pushes past her into the flat. She looks fearfully after him...]' You can tell by the way she is said as looking 'fearfully' after him that she does in her heart know that he has been told about her past, and that soon he will not want to be anywhere near her, ever again (which almost causes a breakdown before his very eyes), but she prefers to delude herself.

    • Word count: 1500
  21. How do you respond to the view that Williams uses both, music and stage directions,

    The stage directions help to create a relaxed and carefree feeling to the scene. The Blue piano is a central element to the play, as it often assists characters in important moments and helps the audience to associate better with them. The use of blue piano is also heard later in scene one when Blanche tells Stella about the loss of Belle Reve. To emphasise the intensity of the moment Williams describes the "music of the blue piano grow[ing] louder".

    • Word count: 1273
  22. Streetcar Coursework 2

    This becomes evident in the way that she lies about her age in scene VIII when she tells Stanley, "when you reach twenty seven!" Blanche's fascination with being clean also comes into the play when we hear her singing a song about her "make believe world" when she is in the bath during scene VI. This shows that her fantasy world becomes more real to her when she is bathing. Bathing is a way of Williams showing Blanche trying to wash away all the bad history in her life, as well as the corruption in her life such as her addiction to alcohol.

    • Word count: 1587
  23. Streetcar Named Desire Coursework

    We get a sense of this when Stella tells Stanley to "Hush!" And also when she says "Not sold - lost, lost!" The one syllable takes us back to the beginning of the play when Stella and Stanley had their monosyllabic exchange of meat, and reminds us of how Stanley pushed her around. With this in mind, this conversation is a contrast to Stella's tone and attitude toward Stanley. The commanding tone of Stella's words, show the audience that she is standing up to Stanley even though he is already agitated.

    • Word count: 1084
  24. Explore Williams use of dramatic symbolism in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'- English Lit

    Her appearance contrasts with the surroundings of New Orleans, "The houses are white frame...with rickety outside stairs", which immediately makes it clear that she is an outcast, and does not belong. Colour is also used to highlight Stanley's character. "...Solid blues, a purple, a red and white check... as coarse and direct and powerful as the primary colours" In the stage directions at the beginning of scene three, Williams uses strong, bold, primary colours in order to reinforce the Stanley's masculinity.

    • Word count: 1533
  25. Blanche's world is often contrasted to the world of Stanley and Stella. Blanche firmly states the kind of world she wants: "I don't want realism...I'll tell you what i want. Magic!" In what way is Blanche's world an illusion?

    - could do it justice!) Stella has adapted to the new way of life in New Orleans. She has lowered her standards and married "a different species" and in doing so she has maintained a grasp on reality. Blanche, by contrast, stayed in Belle Reve amidst the pretence that all was well, living in an ignorant bliss started generations back, of which she was the last survivor. She is one in a long line of people lost in illusion; her ancestors let Belle Reve get lost while they ignored the state of the deep South and their diminishing finances, instead favouring "epic fornications".

    • Word count: 1064

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?
  • "Stanley has little option but to destroy Blanche" With close reference to the characters and their motives, to what extent do you agree with this statement?

    "In conclusion I believe that Stanley has little choice but to eliminate Blanche from his life. They are at polar opposites to each other and one could say that Blanche is a threat to his lifestyle as she attempts to bring in new ideals to his world, so Stanley needed to detach her from his life. However it is obvious that Blanche didn't deserve such brutal treatment and her being a threat to Stanley's lifestyle is no reason for him to destroy her life."

  • Compare and contrast Williams treatment of the concept of mental instability in A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie in light of the opinion that Williams presents more hope in his presentation of Laura Wingfield than Blanche Dubois.

    "In conclusion, drawing on the similarities between Blanche, Laura and Williams' sister, it is credible that both characters are representations of Rose. The narrative technique in Glass Menagerie draws the audience to reflect Williams' hope that Laura will escape the darkness of mental instability. On the other hand, the dramatic devices employed by Williams in Streetcar emphasize Blanche's mental instability and her character is portrayed as much more detached from reality. Most importantly, we can see that Williams presents more hope in his presentation of Laura than Blanche due to the contrasting endings of these plays. Laura's fate is left more open in comparison to Blanche's total breakdown and destruction. In this aspect it could be said that Streetcar is a metaphorical representation of mental instability with the intent to raise awareness, whereas Glass Menagerie is a more personal, reflective work, highlighting Williams' regret and hope."

  • To what extent do you think William wants his Audience to perceive Blanche as a victim ?

    "To draw a conclusion, I believe that to some extent within the play Williams wished for his audience to see Blanche as a victim but he also foreshadows the true explanation of why Blanche has become this way. An Explanation of Blanches behaviour could be because within her youth she watched the older generation of her family die out and the loss of Belle Reve and lastly the suicide of her young homosexual husband, could be seen as the reason why Blanche's emotions died and her sense of reality. Desire and death became linked in her life, which then allowed her to lead a loose and increasingly careless life. I believe that Williams wants the audience to see Blanche as a victim but to also understand why she is, allowing her to receive a form of sympathy and bringing the audience to question whether she truly is a victim."

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