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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
  1. 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
  2. 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 r**e. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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

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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