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

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

‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ is a fascinating and intriguing play. The playwright, Tennessee Williams, uses many sound effects and dramatic devices to emphasize the influence of the past on the present in a mesmerizing and interesting way. It is upon the main character, Blanche, that Williams shows this influence. Many of these effects and devices are expressionistic and give us an insight into what Blanche feels at any one time, as they are a physical representation of Blanche’s mental regression.

Williams also uses a variety of naturalistic effects. These are stage directions which describe the realities of the quarter. The “Blue Piano” music and the cat which screeches in the first scene are both examples of this. On the other hand, expressionistic devices describe Blanche’ psychological progression depending on what the context is. The most important example of this in the play is the Varsouviana, which appears regularly throughout the play.

At the beginning of the play, Blanche appears unexpectedly at her sister's home, the influence of the past begins to appear. The way she treats Stella reflects her desire to return to the past as she calls her "my baby" and "Stella for Star".

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. For example, when she says "I-rarely touch it (alcohol)",) she has actually already had two glasses of whiskey.

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Blanche's nervousness is shown when she panics when a 'cat screeches'. This nervousness is probably caused by her past and makes the audience curious as to what happened in that past to make her so nervous. It becomes obvious that many of the devices that Williams uses are quite subtle and are not immediately obvious. For example, the stage direction for the first scene, in which Williams describes the Quarter as "grubby…poor, but has raffish charm.” This is a complete contrast to the illusion of Belle Reve, which is shown through Blanche's appearance when she first appears in the Quarter, ...

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This essay has a basic structure, and I feel there are too many paragraphs to form a succinct argument. The introduction is good, but the first sentence "‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ is a fascinating and intriguing play." could be omitted completely. I liked how the introduction offered an insight into the techniques, but as mentioned above there was no response to why Williams does so. Paragraphs shouldn't be one or two sentences long, and this shows signs of a candidate who cannot elaborate upon points or form a coherent argument. The style here reads well, with the argument having a logical flow. I feel to reach the top band, this essay needed to begin to link points and refer back to previous techniques and have an overarching argument. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are fine.

The analysis here is good, but there needs to be more focus on the audience's response to techniques. This essay is able to pick up on a breadth of concepts which contribute towards dramatising the past and present, but some are better than others. For example the opening sentence "Blanche's nervousness is shown when she panics when a 'cat screeches'" has no immediate relevance to the question, and the point doesn't seem focused. It is key that you pick the best points and elaborate upon them thoroughly to get the top marks. Examiners won't appreciate lengthy responses which consist of mostly irrelevant points. The comment on Stanley not appreciating being called a "Polack" is a good point, but this could've been explored further. If I were answering this question, I would elaborate on this quote and discuss how Blanche's teasing of Stanley only makes the situation worse - making the tragedy more inevitable. Commenting "showing that she is still bitter about everything that has happened to her" after a quote is good, but it needs to be more detailed. As an examiner, I would be looking for some discussion of how the audience respond to such speech on stage.

This essay responds to the first half of the question strongly, but the second averagely. There is a clear focus on how Williams uses techniques such as the Varsouviana and language to dramatise the presentation of the past and present. However, I don't feel as if this essay gets to the crux of why Williams chooses to do this. I think examiners would be looking for the significance of the past becoming the foundations of Blanche's tragic downfall. This would allow the essay to look further into the genre, reaching the top bands of the assessment objective concerning context of reception and production. It is great to see a GCSE essay which can focus on techniques with fluency, but it's no good to answer a question like this with no argument whatsoever. You must be clear in arguing what Williams is trying to achieve, and with this you can offer insight into other interpretations. Being able to evaluate these interpretations will gain you credit, and I recommend you draw upon strengths of your main argument and weaknesses of the other ideas. Sitting on the fence is not the way forward!