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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 does Tennessee Williams show conflict between Blanche and Stanley?

    Giving the impression that somehow Blanche has a sense of superiority over its inhabitants. However despite her appearance, Blanche is already a fallen woman in society's eyes as she avoids reality, preferring to live in her own imagination instead of reality, due to the many misfortunes that occurred in her life; She claims to have lost Belle Reve, the DuBois family home, however maintains no proof of the happening, lost her job as a teacher, lost her young husband to suicide years earlier, also has been known to have had many lovers to satisfy her strong sexual urges and needs for survival, her restless drinking addiction, poorly hidden and finally her persecuting vanity which deprives her to be exposed to bright lights due to her obsession of fading beauty.

    • Word count: 1787
  2. Escapism in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

    In order to escape from the truth she yet again reaches for alcohol: "Open your pretty mouth and talk while I look around for some liquor! I know you must have some liquor in the place!" [page 7] This enables Blanche to escape from the truth momentarily and thus stalls the process of giving her reasons for being there - reasons she does not want to admit even to herself. In scene five, we see Blanche's dismissive attitude towards the offer of a simple coke, minus any alcohol: "Well, honey, a shot never does a coke any harm!"[page 61] Proceeding this she: "finds a glass and pours a shot of whiskey into it."

    • Word count: 1274
  3. A streetcar named Desire

    The area Stella and her husband, Stanley, live in is a relatively poor, deprived one, and it becomes no surprise when we discover Stanley is determined to rid of it and instead fulfil the American dream. So when he receives the news that Blanche 'lost' Belle Reve he obviously becomes furious, as it may have been one of the only opportunities he gets to leave the appalling life he has and thus the tension between the characters commence. The story of lies, betrayal and deceiving begins to unravel from there and countless amounts of conflicts occur throughout the whole play.

    • Word count: 1028
  4. 'Right from the start of the play, Williams draws the audience in by his presentation of tension and potential conflict between the sisters.' Do you agree?

    Her speech in the opening scene is full of hints of potential conflict within herself. She is defending herself when there is no need to, Stella has not accused her of anything and yet she persists in defending herself. She has run over these 'conflicts' in her mind, and all these pent up emotions are let loose in this speech. 'As if you were able to stop them' or 'Where were you? In bed with your - Polack!' show us how much she has been thinking over this moment, and accusing Stella of not being around to share the blows to save Belle Reve.

    • Word count: 891
  5. How successfully has Williams introduced the main characters and ideas of "A Streetcar named Desire" in the first two scenes

    The idea of Blanche travelling from death (Cemeteries) to Desire is symbolic of her relationship with her husband, who committed suicide after he admitted to Blanche that he was a homosexual. His lack of desire for her led to his death, which in turn resulted in Blanche's overwhelming and self-destructive desire for other men. Blanche constantly tries to escape death and loss through her desire, and it is gradually revealed to us that this is what led to her ruin and the death of her old life.

    • Word count: 3372
  6. Blanche and Stanley represent a struggle between new and old world values

    The contrast of characters is shown when Blanche says, "I believe in magic," this is completely opposite to Stanley who is a down to earth guy, he believes in facts and known truths. He believes in reality which is a message of Williams, the old world is like the illusions and magic that Blanche believes in, for there is no truth that people like Blanche are superior. The contrasting characters of Blanche and Stanley show why there is a struggle between them and the two worlds.

    • Word count: 1456
  7. How does Williams' use of theatrical devices contribute to the dramatic impact of the play? A Streetcar Named Desire was written by Tennessee Williams, which was first performed in 1947

    These actions show how uncomfortable Blanche is feeling, which gives the audience a view of Blanche's inner-anxiety. Also the playwright immediately reveals a side to Blanche that the audience would not expect, when she "tosses" down the drink of whisky. The line "I've got to keep hold of myself!" suggests to the audience that Blanche has done this on previous occasions, and is perhaps an alcoholic. This side of Blanche's character that Williams' revealed, would not have been expected prior to this moment, as the audience at that time would have expected a "Southern Belle" such as Blanche to compose herself in a much different manner than this.

    • Word count: 2423
  8. "A Streetcar Named Desire" written in 1944 by Thomas Lanier Williams.

    of the soul. So the whole play is centred on Blanche. With her perfect fluent speech she reminds us of her past, of being an English teacher meanwhile Stanley with his slang speech gives us an idea of caveman like, so the scene when he rapes her is aspect. Blanche firstly fells superior to Stanley, secondly she represents the old America, a fragile, old minded and ready to the decay, thirdly she is going away with the age such as the old fashioned America, leaving place to the new America represented by Stanley, a big healthy well integrated, forward looking, and proud.

    • Word count: 1372
  9. Can we view Stanley sympathetically in scene 3?

    He is brutal and determined to destroy that which is not his. His animal-like actions reinforce this idea, he eats like an animal and grunts his approval or disapproval. When aroused to anger, he strikes back throwing things, such as the radio in scene three, "with a shouted oath, he tosses the instrument out of the window". or he strikes his wife, "there is a sound of a blow, Stella cries out". Stanley is a man of physical action. However I consider Stanley to have more feelings than Blanche cares to admit or even consider.

    • Word count: 1642
  10. Analyse how Tennessee Williams uses language and dramatic techniques to explore attitudes to identity in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'. Make close reference

    This is an important scene in presenting the character's attitudes. We are given further insight into the relationship that Stanley and Stella share and also that of Stella and Blanche; showing us how Stella is sometimes torn between her husband and her sister. Here, Stanley and Stella have a disagreement which shows us how the other characters perceive Stanley and how he sees himself. We also see a lot about Blanche's character and her doubts about her own identity. Ideas around the identity of Stanley's character are explored in scene eight.

    • Word count: 1655
  11. Holes-Why is it a good novel for teenagers?

    These trainers weren't any ordinary trainers; they had belonged to the most famous baseball player in history, Clyde Livingstone. Stanley isn't too disheartened when he is sent away from his family to a juvenile delinquent's camp (Camp Green Lake) for a crime he did not commit, due to his family's long known history of bad luck. Stanley doesn't blame the judge for falsely convicting him, but he blames the whole misadventure on his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather". For Stanley, his troubles are just a natural part of being a Yelnats, which is a factor of life that he has become accustomed to.

    • Word count: 1322
  12. Explore the varied dramatic uses Williams makes of death and dying in the play. Refer to at least two extracts from the play in your answer.

    She talks of the quiet funerals and the "gorgeous boxes" that were the coffins, with bitter, black humour. The deaths of Blanche and Stella's family are important to the play as they highlight the desperation of Blanche's situation through the fact that she has no other relative to turn to. This makes Stella's decision at the end of the play seem even harsher than if Blanche had just simply shown up on her doorstep instead of going elsewhere. Stella states that Blanche's life has been heavily affected by the death of her husband, Allan.

    • Word count: 1152
  13. Scene Analysis of Scene Seven of "A Streetcar Named Desire" by

    In Scene Seven, Tennessee Williams, the playwright of the play, delicately renders the shift of dominating power from Blanche to Stanley through the Stella's response about the "stories". At first, Stella reacts strongly to the stories about Blanche's past life, stating them as "contemptible lies" (187); however, her strong defence of Blanche is gradually defeated by Stanley's powerful statements and reliable evidences - she feels sick when she knows that Blanche "[gets] mixed up with a seventeen-year-old boy" (188), and even walks in a "dazed way" (189)

    • Word count: 537
  14. How does Blanche DuBois represent the faded grandeur of the American past?

    She also expects a certain prudery. Those were principles which were representative of the Old South (everyone has heard of the legendary southern gentlemen). Blanche wants men to know about decency, family and tradition, as men did during the old times. The traditional southerners were decent, prudent, religious, honest and gentle - attitudes that are no longer present in the society of the 20th century. Blanche has an agricultural background, and her family lived on a plantation in Mississippi. The Old South was an agricultural society, with over 80% of its population working in the farming sector.

    • Word count: 763
  15. How important are illusions and fantasy as themes in 'A Streetcar Named Desire?'

    Straight away, we are introduced to Blanche's illusions and the battle between the illusions and the characters begins. We are introduced to Blanche, who immediately reveals to us her deceptive nature, as "she pours herself a half tumbler of whisky... she carefully replaces the bottle and washes out the tumbler at the sink", yet she tells Stanley, regarding the drink: "I - rarely touch it." Already, we see that Blanche is creating illusions about her alcohol and refuses to acknowledge her problem with it. Blanche also creates an illusion about her image and appearance, and the symbol of a paper lantern used to cover the light, creates this illusion to the audience, and she even tells Stella "the soft people have got to - shimmer and glow - put a - paper lantern over the light" i.e.

    • Word count: 2375
  16. What is the dramatic significance of scene one of the play 'A Streetcar named Desire'?

    The mix of characters demonstrates the way that New Orleans has changed to other southern American cities. It was originally a catholic settlement while most southern cities were protestant The music of the blue piano is cleverly used in the background to portray to feel of changing life throughout the city, while seemingly also reacting to the changing moods in the play through hate and anger of Blanche's arguments with Stanley to love and forgiveness when Blanche arrives to stay with Stella. I feel it is also used to take the sting out of the feel of poverty.

    • Word count: 1717
  17. Streetcar Named Desire: Visual, Aural and Spatial

    A good example of a use of this changing space is in Scene Ten before Blanche gets raped by Stanley, the scene could start with the space room sized and then as he becomes more dominating over her it shrinks to show how trapped she feels. The scenery in the play needs to be relevant to the era and surroundings of New Orleans, realistic enough so that the audience know where they are and are interesting but not so much that it takes the focus of the play away from the actors, the scenery should be life like, for example

    • Word count: 1273
  18. A Streetcar Named Desire: Contextualising

    The time at which the play was written was very successful for Williams' career, he had won many awards for his work and he had received a large number of good reviews for his works at the time. This may explain Williams new found confidence and how he is now comfortable revealing some of his past in the play. This is a very brave thing to do as it is obvious that Williams is still uncomfortable about these issues yet he still feels comfortable revealing them on such a large scale.

    • Word count: 1194
  19. Examine Williams' use of imagery and symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire

    He describes the music as "a tinny piano being played with the infatuated fluency of brown fingers" (P1). This metaphor expresses the proficiency of the pianist and his devotion to his music. Williams states that the "Blue Piano expresses the spirit of the life which goes on [in Elysian Fields]" (P1) and uses this symbolically throughout the play. "The music of the 'blue piano' grows louder" (P13) as Blanche informs Stella of the loss of Belle Reve. I think this emphasises that life in Elysian Fields is the only option left for Blanche and also "sounds louder" (P29)

    • Word count: 1748
  20. 'Cat on A Hot Tin Roof' and 'A Streetcar Named Desire' are plays in which Tennessee William's explores the notion of men and women who are dispirited by their inadequacies - discuss

    Although the blacks were given the vote, there was still great separation between them and the white race. This segregation between the black and white race was not as compelling in other parts of the country as it was in the South, where the abolition of slavery was strongly resisted. This is because its wealth and way of life was accustomed to and dependent upon it. This resistance to the changes in society is reflected in Blanche, who no longer has the security of Belle Reve to depend upon. The subtraction of her estate, is part of the process of her weakening character, towards ultimate degeneration.

    • Word count: 6114
  21. Explore the ways in which Williams uses the contrast between Blanche and Stanley to represent different aspects of American Society.

    Later on in the play, Blanche's tendency to wear delicate colours and stay in places where there is soft light, clashes with the 'raw colours' of the shirts of the poker playing men and the 'vivid green glass light shade' which lights their game. The men and their game represent New America with tendencies to gamble and drink and clash massively with Blanche and her 'delicate' and formal tendencies of Old America. As a member of Old America, Blanche has certain views; she believes that Stanley is an inferior person to her and says to Stella during a discussion about his Polish nationality, 'they're something like the Irish...only not so- Highbrow.'

    • Word count: 1147
  22. "Stella plays a vital role in helping the audience to understand the characters of Blanche and Stanley" Explore Williams' presentation of Stella in the light of this assertion.

    She highlights the way in which Blanche is completely unable to understand the way relationships work in Stanley and Stella's lives. This becomes apparent in scene four, the morning after Stanley hit Stella, Blanche is frenzied with fear and confusion she "utters a moaning cry and runs into the bedroom, throwing herself down beside Stella in a rush of hysterical tenderness". Stella's behaviour is a complete contrast to Blanche, her "face is serene in the early morning sunlight". By presenting the two sisters to be so divergent in their response Williams' is able to present Blanche as melodramatic and histrionic

    • Word count: 978
  23. "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"

    I'm so sorry". Maggie is sorry for the death of Big Daddy and all the petty arguments surrounding it. "Big Daddy is not going to die" This denial of what the doctors have claimed as inevitable is evidence of her not wanting Big Daddy to die. Mae and Gooper, however, seem to be desperate to get rid of him. "Eventualities have to be considered and now's the time". This is inhumane of Gooper and he is wrong when he claims, "now's the time". Big Mama is still discovering Big Daddy is going to die and Gooper is forcing legalities on her.

    • Word count: 1057
  24. How does Williams use Imagery and Symbolism to good Dramatic Effect

    When Stanley undresses in front of Blanche, Williams suggests sexual intentions and the same happens when Blanche asks Stanley to help her dressing up. This is imagery intended to make the viewers see that there is more behind these simple tasks and actions, and that in fact there is almost always more to read into a Scene (in William's plays) that what is obvious. A very dominant symbol used throughout the play is music. It portrays Blanche's headlong descent into disaster, which is inevitable because of her fragile state.

    • Word count: 1524
  25. A Streetcar Named Desire - Stella, Marriage & Domestic Life.

    He is the stereotypical male within society. He has an almost animalistic notion of a dominant male and this feature is hinted at as soon as the play begins, when Stanley is referred to as "...bestial..." His overall presidency and power are made clear right at the beginning of the text [...She cries out in protest...Her husband and his companion have already started back around the corner.] Instead he continues down the street like a boy with no responsibilities. Stella yells, "Where are you going," and then asks if she could come to watch, he agrees but doesn't stop to wait for her.

    • Word count: 1338

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