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

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

Williams uses many dramatic devices to develop the play as a tragedy including: symbolism, stage directions and sounds.   A Streetcar Named Desire can be seen as a modern domestic tragedy as the characters are not of noble birth and the play has specific focus on a female protagonist and anti-heroine, in this case Blanche. Blanche is often difficult to have an affinity with as she can come across as snobbish and over dramatising however, her fragility leads her to be a truly tragic figure much like that of Ophelia in Hamlet. Both characters are destroyed by the death of their loved ones and both suffer deaths themselves; albeit, in different ways.

Williams uses symbolism to great effect within the play. In scene 1 the stage directions describe Blanche as “a moth”. William’s uses stage directions as a crucial dramatic device, making them highly detailed so when performed on stage it could be exactly as described; they became a signature of his. Instantly, a scene of tragedy is set as a moth is fragile however essentially a creature of self destruction, in its quest towards light it often ends up destroying itself. 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. The ‘street-car name Desire’ signifies her life at Belle Reve, her desire led her to her advances on the seventeen year old student and prostitution which forced her out, her “desire” being her hamartia. ‘Cemeteries’ has obvious connotations of death, of which Blanche has witnessed many: ‘The long parade of the graveyard! Father, mother’, it could perhaps represent the death of her old self.  Elysian Fields is a reference to Greek Mythology; the place where worthy mortals rested after death. Because Blanches ‘old’ self died in Laurel she travels here to find her Elysium, however it is not found.   Fate is also shown in this journey when Stanley says “her future is mapped out for her” suggests that she can’t change paths. This is backed up by Stella “In the first place, Blanche wouldn’t go on a bus” it is implied that whereas a bus is free to go wherever, a Streetcar has one destination. Blanche takes the Streetcar to Elysian Fields and so cements her downfall.

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This idea of inevitability links directly to Aristotle and Hegel’s theories of tragedy in which Aristotle talks about its necessity and Hegel too for the drama to attain tragic status and ‘arouse pity or fear in the spectators’ and by doing so ‘purge those emotions’ at the end, otherwise known as catharsis.

The symbol of “light” is among the most significant aspects of the play.  In Scene 1 Blanche says “Turn that over-light off… I won’t be looked at in this merciless glare”. This idea of shying away from the light is carried on, with Blanche covering a ...

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**** 4 STARS This is a very well written essay which makes some intelligent points and cross references the play throughout with 'Hamlet'. Shows knowledge and understanding of play, some social and historical context, accurate use of terminology and discusses theatrical techniques used. Close analysis of language. Quotes from critics would be useful.