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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. 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. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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

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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