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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. A Streetcar Named Desire

    She indulges in this deception not only to attract Mitch, but for her own sake. Despite Blanche putting on the mask of innocence and purity, she is really a fraud who cannot stand up to the light in fear that she will be exposed for the person she really is. Blanche continually lies in order to portray herself as a true 'lady' and she feels that she must trick and deceive in order to survive in a world where she is "fading now!"

    • Word count: 3264
  2. A Streetcar Named Desire - scene by scene analysis.

    Stanley and Blanche greet each other and they have an awkward conversation. Blanche seems to be unnerved by Stanley's questions but she manages to answer them. Stanley notices the fact that his liquor has gone down and Blanche states how she rarely touches it. Blanche ends the conversation by explaining how she once had a husband when she was very young, but the boy had died. Scene Two It is six o'clock the following evening and Blanche is bathing. Stella tells Stanley that she is taking Blanche out for the evening as Stanley is hosting a poker game.

    • Word count: 3641
  3. Symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire

    The image Blanche creates of Stanley (him being an animal - an ape) is coincidental to the fact that she is actually describing her brother-in-law, throwing red meat to his wife in an unacceptable fashion. We know that Blanche had not been present, at the time of the event. This clearly proves that Stanley's bad actions are so obvious, even other characters in the play can predict his actions. It is just like saying a tiger arrives at his habitat with 'red meat' and feeds his cubs, similar to what any other animal would do.

    • Word count: 3922

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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