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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?

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  1. How do the characters attitudes to sex and sexuality create dramatic conflict in 'A Streetcar Named Desire?'

    Williams establishes throughout the play that Stanley is cruel and domineering, not only to the two principle women in the play but also to his best friend Mitch, who he informs of Blanches sexual misdeeds as well as the other men, who he forces to obey him. Stanley's desire to dominate everyone around him finds its ultimate expression in his conflicting relationship with Blanche. That desire is frustrated in scene 1, firstly when he attempts to frighten Blanche by exhibiting his physical prowess as a result of Blanche's flirting, and secondly when he finds that physically intimidating Stella causes Blanche to try to take her away from him.

    • Word count: 1738
  2. Explore What a Streetcar Named Desire has to Say About Male and Female Roles in the Society the Play Depicts?

    William's uses both Stella's and Blanches dependence on the men in their lives to expose the treatment of women and the fact that these women see male companionship as their only means to achieve happiness, Blanche for example thinks that her relationship with Mitch will allow her '...to rest! I want to breathe quietly again!' which shows the reader that Blanche's only interest in Mitch is to try and achieve happiness, consequently with any man she can. Not only does Blanche look for men as her support but also as reassurance, her constant seeking for compliments shows how insecure she and her need to feel beautiful.

    • Word count: 1122
  3. "Some critics suggest that Williams takes no sides in the conflict between Blanche & Stanley." Do you agree?

    "[Drawing involuntarily back from his stare]: You must be Stanley. I'm Blanche." Blanche is the visitor and yet is the one to start the conversation. She has introduced herself to Stanley in his own house. The audience would expect him to be a bit more welcoming and instead he is quite hostile towards her, Stanley has no respect from women and sees them as either sex objects or someone to clean up after him his lack of respect is also shown when he begins making conversation with her whilst removing his clothes, has also has absolutely no respect for what others think or if they would be uncomfortable with a half naked man around.

    • Word count: 1405
  4. Do Tennessee Williams and F Scott Fitzgerald celebrate or condemn the American Way?

    This re-highlights the meritocracy in the American Way, were everyone achieves their place in society through their own merit. The American Romanticism of self-reliance lead to the introduction of new technological advances such as cars, telephone and electricity. The president of America during the 1920s said: "The business of America is business." This stressed out the significance of the industrialisation that was taking place during the time, which lead to the introduction of new technological apparatus that made living easier.

    • Word count: 1309
  5. Compare and contrast Higgins' speech in Pygmalion (1912) with Blanche's speech in A Streetcar Named Desire (1947). How does the context of each speech and the gender of the speakers affect our understanding of each speech?

    "A Streetcar Named Desire" was set in the post-war America. This indicates that the influences on the play were the World Wars, the Atomic Bomb and the United States of America becoming the superpower and victorious country and economically a giant. For this reason, Blanche is proud of her American identity and despises the fact that Stanley is an American. She makes derogatory and ignorant remarks about Stanley's Polish ethnicity throughout the play, implying that it makes him stupid and coarse.

    • Word count: 1405
  6. "Each of these two characters is fundamentally incomplete." Examine the contrasting personalities of Blanche Dubois and Stanley Kowalski in the light of this comment.

    Blanche, although she portrays quite a self-controlled character, has endured some tough situations. She mentions in the play how while trying to hang on to Belle Reve and her childhood, she, "stayed and fought for it, bled for it, almost died for it." She also mentions her dead husband and how the music, especially the Varsouviana makes her reminisce on him and the homosexual situation. She tries to escape from the reality of these things by "misrepresenting things" to people and she does not "tell the truth." One place that she finds this magic that she seeks for, is in the bedroom.

    • Word count: 1028
  7. A Street Car Named Desire - Plot review.

    This scene shows the relationships between the central characters. There is a sexual tension between Blanche and Stanley, whilst his relationship with Stella is mainly sexual; Stella is a strong support for Blanche. Scene 3, when the sisters return (at 2am) the poker game is still going strong and the men are rather drunk. In the bedroom, Blanche undresses in the light pretending not to notice that the men would be able to see her. When Mitch comes out of the bathroom, Blanche teases him in a very flirtatious manor.

    • Word count: 1229
  8. Compare and contrast the writers' use of language in 'A dolls House' and 'A Streetcar Named Desire'.

    It is more strikingly obvious through his use of 'I' when talking, and "my" when discussing Nora. Torvald is a possessive person and this reflects the patriarchal and constraining society that Ibsen wrote his play in. Torvald is typical of the male in nineteenth century Norway. Williams displays the great change that America has undergone in the twentieth century. He does this through the spoken language of the characters. Blanche is a woman of the old society, where people were well spoken and women were respected; in contrast, Stanley and Stella use slang and simple language- in comparison to Blanche.

    • Word count: 1254
  9. Tennessee Williams as the Playwright of the American Family.

    For instance, after the fight, Blanche exclaims, "What were you thinking of.... How could you come back in this place last night?.... You're married to a madman" (63-64). Like the meddler she is, Blanche serves as the common in-law that serves to tear a family impart. Though with good intentions, she nonetheless portrays the concept that families are not perfect in their unity. Williams further exemplifies this notion through Blanche and Stanley's symbolic collision of life philosophies. When Blanche sings, "It's Only a Paper Moon," a song symbolizing her life of idealism, Stanley is simultaneously trying to convince Stella of her sister's sordid past using evidence he has gathered, alluding to his realist approach to life.

    • Word count: 1322
  10. An Interpretation of a Streetcar Named Desire.

    The first incident in which Stanley shows his brutality was at poker night. Poor Blanche turns on the radio in the other room; Stanley then hears the music and demands her to turn it off. When Blanche refuses he comes into the room and turns off the radio in bad manner. Then one of Stanley's friends named Mitch goes into the room and joins Blanche in a conversation. Blanche once again turns the radio on and this time she starts prancing around the room, Stanley again hears the radio and he breaks into a rage rushes to the room with fury and throws the radio out the window.

    • Word count: 1120
  11. In scene IV explain how Stanley is seen from opposite perspectives in this scene from Stella's and Blanche's view points.

    Stella on the other hand loves her husband and stands by his side though feels torn between her sister and husband in their senseless contempt of each other, though ultimately she chooses her husband over Blanche. Scene four opens with Stella laying in bed, having spent the night with Stanley. She is described to be glowing and has an aura of serenity and in an almost meditative state of mind. "Her face is serene....Her eyes and lips have that almost narcotised tranquillity that is in the faces of eastern idols."

    • Word count: 1324
  12. How does Williams establish and developthe tensions between Blanche and Stanley in the first three scenes? Where do your sympathies lie?

    Their first encounter all but confirms this. At first, Blanche seems to make the effort to make a good first impression with Stanley while all he does is practically ignore her; (drawing involuntarily back from his stare): "You must be Stanley. I'm Blanche" "Stella's sister?" "Yes" "H'lo. Where's the little woman?" The stage direction already give the meeting a sense of uneasiness. Blanche now seems to be thrown of balance by his unfriendly speech and he dialogue shows her hesitating in every sentence; "I - uh -" Where do you live, Blanche?"

    • Word count: 1057
  13. Discuss the theme of illusion and reality in A Streetcar Named Desire.

    Blanche's singing is juxtaposed with Stanley's exposition of the lies she has told; it suggests that subconsciously Blanche is admitting that she is aware that underneath her fantasies are half-truths and lies. Blanche's caprices often show that in her subconscious she is always cognisant of her past behaviour. She calls Mitch "Samson" and this makes her Delilah, showing her to be capable of betraying and destroying men. In addition, when she tells Mitch that she has "old-fashioned ideals" she "rolls her eyes, knowing he cannot see her face".

    • Word count: 1050
  14. Use of language - 'A Streetcar named Desire'.

    He also shows himself to be higher in status than other characters by calling himself a 'king'. When Blanche calls Stanley a 'Polack' he is shot down to reality again and it becomes clear to him that he is no better than anyone else to anyone except himself and possibly Stella. Blanche uses insulting words towards Stanley, as she knows that he doesn't like being referred to as a 'pig' or a 'Polack'. This is what he is however, and by acting the way he does he simply backs up Blanche's claims! The adverbs used with Stanley's speeches also give emphasis to his character I.E.

    • Word count: 1165
  15. A good piece of travel writing aims to entertain and educate. How far do you think Mongolian Wedding by StanleyStewart is successful in this?

    You can tell that they respect him because on Ln1-6 they warn him about themselves. They say that the following day would be difficult, Weddings are boisterous occasions. People can become unpredictable. He was advised to get away early before anything got out of hand. This is the beginning of the story and already it has humour involved in it. A Mongolian wedding is much different to a wedding in the west. "Biscuits, slabs of white cheese and boiled sweets had been arrayed on every surface"....... "Plate of sheep's parts, cut with the favoured cut, the great fatty tail, like a grey glacier on a summit" In a Mongolian wedding they pick up their bride from a Ger their equivalent to a house and drive then in a hired Russian truck for the occasion.

    • Word count: 1006
  16. Discuss the significance of imagery and symbolism in developing setting, character and theme in the opening scene of A Streetcar Named Desire.

    Music affects the play in the sense that Negro Blues is played at the beginning, when Blanche arrives at the Elysian Fields. This type of music symbolizes what will come later; the word Blues means pain, so this music may predict the pain that the future will produce on the characters. The other music present is the polka inside Blanche's head, which starts to be played when Stanley asks her about her marriage. This may give some reference about Blanche's husband being Russian, since polka is Russian music.

    • Word count: 1425
  17. The six texts represented and compared here are Macbeth, A Streetcar Named Desire, 'Enter Without So Much As Knocking,' 'Katrina,' The Collector and The Great Gatsby.

    As Lady Macbeth drives her husband toward committing Duncan's murder, she indicates her desire to lose feminine qualities and adopt masculine ones as quoted in, "Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts! Unsex me here, / And fill me from the crown to the toe top full / Of direst cruelty." This implies men are more capable of cruelty than women but ironically, Lady Macbeth is more suited to murder than her husband. The reader feels more sympathy towards Macbeth who is tormented between his ambition and knowledge of right and wrong.

    • Word count: 1726
  18. 'We've had this date from the beginning'. How true is this statement? In A Street Car named desire.

    Tension between Stanley and Blanche is revealing itself even before the two have met. After Williams leaves a brief yet strong impression of Stanley on the reader he then leads us into the introduction of Blanche. The stage directions Williams uses, describe her appearance as 'Upper Class' or viewed by Blanche as 'Upper Class'. '...daintily dressed in a white suit...fluffy bodice, necklace...earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat...' Maybe as the reader we are being a little presumptuous but again we sense the tension building due to this 'clash of classes'.

    • Word count: 1550
  19. How relevant are the stage directions in the first scene of 'A Streetcar Named Desire'?

    This positive imagery ties in with the atmosphere New Orleans has. One reason New Orleans has this atmosphere is due to the 'intermingling of races'. Another key aspect that affects New Orleans is Jazz music. 'This "Blue Piano" expresses the spirit of life that goes on here'. Williams is making it clear to the reader that there is a great contrast between the atmosphere New Orleans holds and its actual surroundings. A character in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' that certainly isn't in contrast with his surroundings is Stanley. When Williams first introduces us to him, it is easy to form an opinion quite quickly due the stage directions, as they are very revealing.

    • Word count: 1057
  20. Blanche and Mitch's relationship in "A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams.

    Instead of becoming a lonely spinster, she would rather put up with Mitch. Because of these reasons, I think that the something they see in each other is loneliness. Loneliness is what brings Blanche and Mitch together and loneliness is the main reason they would have been a good couple - to keep each other company. To understand them as a couple, you have to look at each of them and analyse them in turn. Blanche represents what ought to be. When we see her first in the play, she appears to be the essence of purity, seeming delicate and innocent.

    • Word count: 1669
  21. Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire.

    wild lifestyle of the wealthy during the 1920s was followed by the reality of the stock market crash and the great depression of the 1930s. Where there is great wealth, sadness and waste always seen to follow. The end product is always a valley of ashes. America had become the 'Promised Land', where people could live out the American Dream, which was to work, and make lots of money. In The Great Gatsby, Scott Fitzgerald includes a comparison of the corrupting influence of wealth to the purity of a dream as a central theme.

    • Word count: 1163
  22. How is Blanche Dubois rendered a sympathetic character? 'A Streetcar named Desire'

    "There now, the shot! It always stops after that!" Blanche has authorial narrative, she realises the symbolism of the candle and the train illustrating her tragic background and uses it to dramatise her story in order to deceive Mitch. "Never for one moment...kitchen candle." Alan deceived Blanche and now Blanche is deceiving Mitch. The victim becomes the perpetrator, yet this cycle of deception is set to end in tragedy. One disaster follows another leading to the dark future that Blanche talks about, and which Stanley represents.

    • Word count: 1082
  23. The in-depth analysis of Meg and of the dialogues used by Harold Pinter in 'The Birthday Party'.

    In this scene, Stanley has just come downstairs to have breakfast: 'So he's come down at last, has he? He's come down at last for his breakfast. But he doesn't deserve any, doe he, Petey? (STANLEY stares at his cornflakes.) Did you sleep well?' 'STANLEY. I didn't sleep at all' 'MEG. You didn't sleep at all? Did you hear that, Petey? Too tired to eat your breakfast, I suppose? Now you eat up those cornflakes like a good boy. Go on.' This is a typical example of what a mother would tell her sixteen year old son who partied all night long and is too exhausted to eat his breakfast.

    • Word count: 1194
  24. How effective is the ending of Streetcar as a resolution to the conflict between Stella, Stanley and Blanche?

    Williams strips away her pretence gradually through her at times puzzling speech "...that candles burn out in little boys' and girls' eyes, or wind blows them out and after that happens, electric bulbs go on." And reinforces this through other characters perception of her, "you're not clean enough to bring into the house with my mother," until she is left totally exposed, leaving her with no other possibility except to retreat into a dream world. This steady ruin of an otherwise beautiful and intelligent young woman is witnessed entirely by the audience as well as factors behind her demise, therefore

    • Word count: 1665
  25. Describe the set, music, costume and lighting in Streetcar and explain the effects that they produce

    Tennessee uses this to enforce the theme of deception and how nothing is what it may seem to be. Inside the Kowalski's flat the confinement for Blanche is a feeling that she has no privacy within the house. Williams uses this so blanche cannot escape the truth that she is hiding. The symbolism of then curtain that is used to separate Stella and Stanley from blanche is that Blanche can never escape Stanley and the truth he finds out. Blanche often uses the only room in the house, which is separated with walls to escape from everything; the bathroom also is a place where Blanche can purify herself.

    • Word count: 1125

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