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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. 1
  2. 2
  1. Marked by a teacher

    Scene V, Blanche: "Come in"-"Ahhh Merciii" Discuss this extract in relation to the rest of the text paying attention to structure, form and use of language.

    4 star(s)

    During the exchange between Blanche and the young man she is portrayed as seductive and dominant "I want to kiss you" making it clear that she is the one initiating the situation, this is a dramatic contrast to her normal persona around other men such as Mitch and Stanley where she makes herself out to be both innocent and pure. This extract is one of the places where her illusion starts to slip and her past actions are hinted at to the audience.

    • Word count: 1243
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss the role of music and other sound effects in A Streetcar Named Desire

    3 star(s)

    Thought the stage directions do not only evoke the tones of the play, they also foreshadow events ahead through describing symbolic happenings such as music and sound effects. 'Tennessee Williams' use of stage directions is one of the many keys to the great success of this play; even the first paragraph is a tribute to that. The first paragraph describes a peaceful image, "Two women, one white the other coloured" talking, which for its time would have seen as being taboo in most areas of the country.

    • Word count: 1022
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss the role of Mitch in 'street car named desire' Tennessee Williams first introduces Mitch's character in the poker scene as one of the players with the other three

    3 star(s)

    Blanche describes him as having 'a great capacity for devotion' because of the love for his mother. Tennessee Williams shows Mitch's emotions through his actions when he is talking about his mother dying soon 'his voice is horse and he clears his throat twice, shuffling nervously around with his hands .....'This description clearly shows his love and concern for his mother which is not shown in the other male characters. Mitch's character is minor however his role is used as a contrast by Tennessee to Stanley's character who is one of the major characters.

    • Word count: 1041
  4. Peer reviewed

    How and Why does Williams dramatise the influence of the past on the present?

    4 star(s)

    It also seems that Blanche is trying to lay claim to Stella by reminding her that she is the younger sister and that Blanche should be able to control her. It also becomes apparent that Blanche is reluctant to relinquish her high class past, as she is secretive about the loss of Belle Reve, as it is a key part of her past and she is very reluctant to shed any light on her background, shown by her state of nervousness and her tendencies towards alcohol.

    • Word count: 1271
  5. Peer reviewed

    Discuss the way Williams Presents the relationship between Blanche and Stanley explaining what you think is at stake in the conflict between them.

    4 star(s)

    The imagery, which best describes the relationship between Blanche and Stanley is that of "the moth versus light", with Blanche being the moth and Stanley being the light. Williams achieves this effect by likening Blanche to a moth by constantly portraying her as being frail. For example, "her white clothes that suggest a moth" and "her delicate beauty must avoid strong light" are in the stage directions of scene I. Additionally, Blanche's frailty, her nervous and uncertain manner indeed make her appear weak and moth-like.

    • Word count: 1151
  6. Peer reviewed

    A Street Car Named Desire The Kowalskis and Du Bois have different notions

    3 star(s)

    As a 'Lady' Blanche expects that the men will stand, however as to seem almost modest or overly flattered she asks them "please don't get up". To this Stanley replies, in an almost scornful manner, "no body's going to get up so don't be worried". From this point in the play it is clear that the two are as different as chalk and cheese, at least when it comes to character traits, culture and psyche. One way that some of their differences could be explained is that the two are coming from entirely different backgrounds.

    • Word count: 1822
  7. Peer reviewed

    In A Street Car Named Desire Tennessee Williams uses music and sound to help symbolise certain themes

    3 star(s)

    This also helps to create tension. The 'blue piano' can also be heard along side the trumpets. At the end of scene two they are playing together, this shows that something is building up. This also helps create a sense of tension and suspense because it makes us want to know what it is building up to. Then at the end of scene four the piano, trumpet and rums are all playing together, it is building up to something big. This adds to the sense of tension and suspense.

    • Word count: 1048
  8. Peer reviewed

    How important are illusion and fantasy as themes in A Streetcar Named Desire?

    3 star(s)

    In the first place, when men are drinking and playing poker anything can happen.' Stella has psychologically made herself get used to this behaviour from Stanley, 'why, on our wedding - soon as we came in here - he snatched off one of my slippers and rushed about the place, smashing the light bulbs with it.' She has made it seem normal because she is illusioned by the thought that what they have is too strong to let go. Stanley is like an addictive drug to her, for example, in scene 4, Stella is in 'narcotised tranquillity'.

    • Word count: 1162
  9. Peer reviewed

    Was Stanley Kowalski the reason for Blanche's downfall?

    3 star(s)

    "There is something about her uncertain manner", and the way she drinks as soon as she reaches the apartment shows that she is extremely nervous and uncomfortable. "Her white that suggest a moth." There is an irony about the clothes Blanche wears and the way she dresses. She is glamorous and always appears wearing light, and white clothes although it is a desire to be pure, which we learn she is definitely not. What's more she bathes constantly throughout the play.

    • Word count: 1785
  10. Williams Vs Albee

    His love for his wife is unconditional even though he sometimes treats her with a little less respect than she deserves. His view is that women were put on this planet to serve the needs of men, to cook, clean and provide a womb for a man's child. His love is only matched by his anger when pushed to a limit where he will explode, he sees no issue with occasionally striking his wife in order to "put her in her place" and even though by today's standards that would be considered domestic abuse, during the time period and environment

    • Word count: 1439
  11. A Streetcar Named Desire

    A distant revolver shot is heard, Blanche seems relieved. There now, the shot! It always stops after that. The polka music dies out again." Here Williams shows that the music she keeps hearing is the music that was playing just before her husband shot himself, which is why it stops after she hears a gunshot. This seems to imply that her life started to go wrong and her madness came from when her husband died. This also shows that she is still living in that time and everything she does is connected to that time; she can't forget about it.

    • Word count: 1782
  12. A Streetcar Named Desire Essay

    A year later he published 'The Vengeance Of Nitocris' in Weird Tales. By 1935 Williams wrote his first publicly performed play Cairo, Shanghai, Bombay! Williams was close to his sister Rose who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, her parents eventually allowed a prefrontal lobotomy in an effort to treat her. Unfortunately the operation went badly and Rose remained incapacitated for the rest of her life. This may have been a factor that led him to alcoholism, this links to Blanche who is also an alcoholic, and is believed to be based on Rose.

    • Word count: 1375
  13. Holes by Louis Sachar

    Stanley is a very bad luck kid. He was mistakenly convicted for stealing a pair of Clyde Livingston shoes. No one believes Stanley that those shoes were falling on top of him out of nowhere. As the result, the judge has given him two choices in which he's either going to jail, or will be sent to a boy's detention center, known as Camp Green Lake. Stanley, of course, decided his decision to Camp Green Lake, where he thought he would make some more new friends and get to do camping like other kids get to do. Stanley learns his vision at the lake was totally different when he finally arrived there.

    • Word count: 1034
  14. The play, 'A street car named desire' was written by an author named Tennessee Williams

    This is because Belle Reve was a very upper-class area where as New Orleans is more average, run down and has a mixed community. Blanche doesn't like New Orleans or where Stella is living. She is very snobbish and thinks it is a dump. "I thought you would never come back to this horrible place." this shows that Blanche does not approve of, or likes where Stella is living. Blanche is also implying that she is more superior by the way she is talking.

    • Word count: 1541
  15. A Streetcar Named Desire

    Stanley is common and rough compared to Blanche who is delicate. Stanley is a very s****l man and s*x is part of what makes him tick. His appraisal of women is frank and straightforward. It becomes obvious that the s****l bond between Stanley and Stella is intense, and that this is what keeps their relationship going. Stella tells Stanley about the loss of 'Belle Reve' and Stanley thinks Blanche has profited from this and goes through her things. When Stanley routes through the letters her husband had written this makes Blanche angry and also brings back memories of her past.

    • Word count: 1160
  16. Street Car Named Desire - scene ten review

    she became a sort of s**t hanging around a hotel waiting for men to pick her up, she stayed with these men for a while and they gave her a lot of expensive gifts and when she got bored she left them and moved on to the next. She also got fired from her school teaching job as an English teacher because of a fling with a student. After all this she moved in temporarily with Stella and Stanley, Stanley always accused blanche of trying to fraud him for all of his money and then she met Mitch a fairly

    • Word count: 1282
  17. A street car named desire - It has been said that Williams deliberately sets up a pattern of tensions and conflicts in the play, which culminate in the ending. Do you agree?

    This is very quickly corrected, and they get back to normal swiftly as if nothing had ever happened. This is one of the main patterns that I see. A fight takes place due to wrong doings, or disagreements, or suspicions and then after a short, abrupt, violent argument, everything is made better bye discussing it, and apologise made. Unfortunately most of these apologise, although legitimate, don't seem to mean an awful lot, because they are forever being made, and still conflicts involving violence and offensive actions are still happening so often. If the apology was meant, and was from the heart, there wouldn't be as many conflicts because they would have learnt a lesson.

    • Word count: 1158
  18. "Death is my best theme, don't you think?" (Williams). Explore the varied uses Tennesse Williams makes of death and dieing in "A Streetcar Names Desire"

    "Blanche: You just came home in time for the funerals, Stella. And funerals are pretty compared to deaths. Funerals are quiet, but deaths-not always." Stella is being associated with the funerals and Blanche with the deaths. This is showing Stella being quiet and Blanche being louder and more highly strung as that is how she has described the difference in her speech. Although on the outside this speech made by Blanche may sound like she is just talking about the deaths of all her family members but it is also relating to the death of Belle Reve and how the two are connected - "Blanche: How in h**l do you think all that sickness and dying was paid for?

    • Word count: 1157
  19. How effectively does the writer/director use the first scene to introduce the main characters and ideas of the play ?

    As soon as Blanche emerges from the streetcar i can immediately can see that she does not fit in because the way she looks is very clean, sleek and posh and compared to where she is in the hustling and bustling city of New Orleans which is full of filth, heavily polluted and a rough place to be. The fact that Blanche does not fit in straight away tells me about her personality and that she has an interesting past which is revealed later in the film.

    • Word count: 1224
  20. How does Tennessee Williams use of symbolism add to the dramatic impact at the beginning and the end of the play;

    She is here to visit her sister Stella, who lives in one of the houses in that area. Blanches description is somewhat different from the rest of the other characters, which makes her stand out more, "There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes which suggest a moth". Blanche is made to symbolise a moth throughout the play. This gives us a deeper insight as to Blanches characteristics; the moth goes towards its death, towards an open candle.

    • Word count: 1652
  21. Lighting, Music and other effects in 'A Streetcar named Desire'.

    New Orleans is the setting to the drama, but the spirit of life which is being referred to is the feeling or spirit between the main characters in the drama. The 'Blue piano' grows louder when the characters' spirits grow. When Stella finds out that Blanche has lost 'Belle Reve' the 'Blue piano' becomes louder. When Blanche finds out from Stanley that Stella is pregnant, the 'Blue piano' again grows louder. At the end of Scene 7, the 'Blue piano' "goes into a hectic breakdown" when Blanche is aware that Stanley and Stella are withholding information from her.

    • Word count: 1805
  22. The Role of the Past in a Streetcar Named Desire

    Her pearls symbolize the sadness she suffers from loss of love and failure. Despite all this, she maintains her "rich-girl'' posture to remain linked to her past in Belle Reve. The plantation in which she and Stella grew up in was lost as their fathers, uncles, and brothers spent all their money drinking, gambling and womanizing. She is haunted by the deaths of her ancestors, which she attributes to their "epic fornications." The sins of the fathers are visited upon their children is a good example of Blanches " hysterical outburst" in page 126, where she says, in an emotionally loaded phrase, "I fought and bled".

    • Word count: 1833
  23. Write about the parts played by women in at least two plays, saying how convincing you have found the playwrights' portrayals of them.

    Stella and Linda are both symbols of the deferential wife and mother, not convincing portraits of women. Stella and Linda are both thought of only in relation to the other characters. They exist to support their husbands and defend them from other characters. Both Stella and Linda attempt to blind themselves to their husbands' flaws, and apologize to other characters for their husbands' actions. When Stanley gets drunk, smashes the radio and window, and hits Stella, Stella must apologize to Blanche for Stanley's behavior: "He's half-drunk!"; "He didn't know what he was doing... He was as good as a lamb when I came back and he's really very, very ashamed of himself."

    • Word count: 1012
  24. Anger oh yes! And envy, yes! But not hate. I think hate is a thing, a feeling that can only exist where there is no understanding said TennesseeWilliams of his work. Do you find any hate in the street car named desire?

    Stanley's actions are largely motivated by his wish to protect his wife and unborn baby, surely a natural reaction for which he should not be judged so harshly. Stanley sees Blanche as a threat, an invasion of territory, something that needs to be dealt with. In my opinion Stanly has nothing personal against Blanche, however he knows her unpleasant past knowing the harsh truth he does not want any influence of her behavior Stanley is continuously described as b*****l by Blanche a fact that he never protests, why then is we shocked even horrified by the r**e of Blanche when Stanley is only in-keeping with a pattern of behavior over which it is obvious he has little or no control.

    • Word count: 1194
  25. How Much Sympathy Does the Audience Feel for Blanche at the End of the Play?

    Williams makes constant reference to 'light' throughout the first five scenes, for example, in scene three she lies about her age when speaking to Mitch and asks him to cover up a light which metaphorically refers to her age. This emphasises Blanches fear of growing old. She is fully aware of her age and death comes to us all. It is something we will all experience in our lives and this builds up sympathy for Blanche as many of the audience can relate to her fears.

    • Word count: 1820

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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