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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.

  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

    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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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

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