"A streetcar named desire" -Tennessee Williams Flashcards Preview

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When was streetcar written?

in 1947 the final version of the play was published


How was the first version of the play titled?

"The moth"- evidentially the metaphor of Blanche as a delicate doomed moth, waiting for a lover who never comes.

The changes in the title indicates a shift of emphasis in the play.


What is the significance of William's personal context within the play? - how is this reflected within different characters in the play?

HE RELIED ON HIS OWN LIFE FOR INSPIRATION. Both a strength (vividness) and limitation of his writing.

- Dad was a drinker (influenced Blanch and Stanley)
- Dad was abusive towards women. (Stanley)
- Mother had hysterical attacks (influenced Blanch)
- His parent's marriage was unhappy
- He was gay (Allen Blanches old dead boyfriend); he never openly dealt with his homosexuality, not even directly in his writings
- He came from the racist south with discrimination against gay people (why Blanches old boyfriend kills himself)
- He was depressed after his longterm boyfriend committed suicide (Allen)
- Sister is institutionalized for mental illness (Blanch)
- Post World war II and great depression (characters try to rebuild their lives in postwar USA→ describes a broken world) The war made it easier for Stanly to “climb up the social ladder” and marry Stella. Also during the war women became more independent because they had to do all the jobs, which men used to do, before they went to war.
- portrais Stanley as an immigrant ("Polack") who is being marginalised and degraded by the post colonial upper class. This shows that he has somewhat of an understanding for the immigrants. However he does not give the negro women a name which shows to the modern audience that he does have some sort of digressive perspectives of the immigrants of a lower class.
- Williams demonstrates the post WW2 societies inability to adapt to him being gay through the contrasting Stella and Blanche. Stella adapts to her new downfall in social class however Blanche seems unable to do so and continues to live in the past. She looks down on people who are of a supposed lower class than she is and ironically calls Stanley "a survivor of the stone age" when in fact she is the one stuck in the past.
- he suffered nervous breakdowns, success did not seem to bring him happiness and underwent psychotherapy for depression; drug-taking
- his writing deteriorated later on and was indifferent to his failures and finally chocked to death on one of his pills.


How is dependence on men displayed within streetcar? -Stella Specific-

Williams uses Blanche’s and Stella’s dependence on men to expose and critique the treatment of women during the transition from the old to the new South. Both Blanche and Stella see male companions as their only means to achieve happiness, and they depend on men for both their sustenance and their self-image.
Blanche recognizes that Stella could be happier without her physically abusive husband, Stanley. Yet, the alternative Blanche proposes—contacting Shep Huntleigh for financial support—still involves complete dependence on men. When Stella chooses to remain with Stanley, she chooses to rely on, love, and believe in a man instead of her sister. Williams does not necessarily criticize Stella—he makes it quite clear that Stanley represents a much more secure future than Blanche does.


How is dependence on men displayed within streetcar? -Blanche Specific-

For herself, Blanche sees marriage to Mitch as her means of escaping destitution. Men’s exploitation of Blanche’s sexuality has left her with a poor reputation. This reputation makes Blanche an unattractive marriage prospect, but, because she is destitute, Blanche sees marriage as her only possibility for survival. When Mitch rejects Blanche because of Stanley’s gossip about her reputation, Blanche immediately thinks of another man—the millionaire Shep Huntleigh—who might rescue her. Because Blanche cannot see around her dependence on men, she has no realistic conception of how to rescue herself. Blanche does not realize that her dependence on men will lead to her downfall rather than her salvation. *By relying on men, Blanche puts her fate in the hands of others.*


Who is Blanche and specific character traits

- Stella’s older sister, who was a high school English teacher in Laurel, Mississippi, until she was forced to leave her post.
- Blanche is a loquacious and fragile woman around the age of thirty.
- She is promiscuous giving her a poor reputation (slept with Students). She has sex for validations for herself and security.
- She avoids reality, preferring to live in her own imagination
- Blanche’s instability grows along with her misfortune
- She has a disorder (OCD) that she always bathes. This implies the metaphor that she tries to wash herself free form her sins.
- She gives the impression of delicacy and vulnerability, fading beauty
- class snobbery
- carries GUILT for her husband's suicide and about her promiscuity.
- heavy drinker - alcohol offers her temporary amnesia and reassurance
- she takes long baths to wash her guilt off (and it gives other characters the chance to talk in private)
- uses cheap seductive manners (e.g. Mitch)


How does Blanches character traits match the old title ("The Moth") of the play?

- She has self destructive patterns (sleeping with all these men and boys) just like a moth flying towards the light which ultimately means her death/complete loss of sanity.


Who is Stella and specific character traits

- Blanche’s younger sister, about twenty-five years old
- Of a more fragile and mild nature, which visibly sets her apart from her more vulgar neighbours
- Stella comes from the same timeworn aristocratic heritage as Blanche, but she jumped the sinking ship in her late teens and left Mississippi for New Orleans (lower class)
- married lower-class Stanley, with whom she shares a robust sexual relationship.
- After Blanche’s arrival, Stella is torn between her sister and her husband. Eventually, she stands by Stanley, perhaps in part because she gives birth to his child near the play’s end.
- Dismisses Blanche’s claim that Stanley raped her.
- Stella’s denial of reality at the play’s end shows that she has more in common with her sister than she thinks.
- She is very dependent on her Husband (sexually and financially)
- If she were to believe the accusations of Blanche's rape, then that would mean turning against Stanley, which is not possible for her.
- she is quiet, reserved and does noticeably mind that Blanche treats her like a child and "blessed baby", it is no of importance to her because it doesn't revolve around Stanley, the only thing that matters.
- She is deeply in love with her husband, and this love is the corner stone of her existence
- Yet also she cares deeply fore her family: she is distressed when she hears of the loss of Belle Reve, she weeps when Blanche accuses her of indifference to the fate of her family; and she weeps bitterly when Blanche is taken to the mental hospital.
- Stella is likely to carry this as a burden of guilt, as a price to be paid for the preservation of her marriage.


Describe Stellas relationship with Stanley

- Robust and Sexual
- Stella’s union with Stanley is both animal and spiritual, violent but renewing.


Who is Stanley and specific character traits

- The husband of Stella.
- Polish-American immigrant
- Stanley is the epitome of vital force. He is loyal to his friends, passionate to his wife, and heartlessly cruel to Blanche.
- With his Polish ancestry, he represents the new, heterogeneous America.
- He dislikes the idea of a class system and wishes to destroy Blanche’s social pretensions.
!!- He expresses his hostility to Blanche through sexual domination, the only way he feels powerful.
- Around thirty years of age, Stanley, who fought in World War II, now works as an auto-parts salesman.
- Practicality is his forte, and he has no patience for Blanche’s distortions of the truth.
- He lacks ideals and imagination.
- He beats his wife and rapes his sister-in-law. Horrifyingly, he shows no remorse.
- Has a power issue because he feels threatened by Stella.
- Insecure because his wife comes from different (higher) class (she comes from a noble large family).
- His intense masculinity, his awareness of his sexual magnetism, his pride from his ability to attract and satisfy women are the core of his personality.
- His ungrammatical and colloquial speech betrays his LACK OF EDUCATION.


Who is Mitch and specific character traits

- Stanley’s army friend, coworker, and poker buddy.
- Likes Blanche until he finds out that she lied to him about her sordid past.
- Is around thirty years of age.
- Mitch is more sensitive and more gentlemanly than Stanley and his other friends, perhaps because he lives with his mother, who is slowly dying.
- Blanche and Mitch are an unlikely match: Mitch doesn’t fit the bill of the chivalric hero, the man Blanche dreams will come to rescue her. Nevertheless, they bond over their lost loves.
- Mitch's interest in Blanche encourages Stanley to think of her as sexually desirable.
- Stanley needs his admiration and respect, which is why he feels jealous about Blanche and Mitch - his masculine position is threatened.


Who is Eunice and specific character traits

- Stella’s friend, upstairs neighbor, and landlady.
- Eunice and her husband, Steve, represent the low-class, carnal life that Stella has chosen for herself in New Orleans.
- Like Stella, Eunice accepts her husband’s affections despite his physical abuse of her.


What did Allen's death mark for Blanche

Allan’s death, which marked the end of Blanche’s sexual innocence, has haunted her ever since. (Polka song in her head, which always ends with the bang of the gun)


What is significant about the Stage directions in Streetcar in comparison to Doll's House

Are very subjective and include a certain sense of emotions and are very visual.
This is more common for a novel rather than a play. However in a play such as Dolls house, the stage directions are simply descriptive and factual of the physical surrounding.


Symbols in Streetcar (Simple list)

0) Streetcar - the fate is destined by desire
1) Shadows and Cries
2) The Varsouviana Polka
3) “It’s Only a Paper Moon”
4) Meat
5) endless baths - to wash of guilt
6) musical themes - provide a local color but more importantly mark the change of mood, convey a menace, and underline a tragic development
!!7) Stanley - as new America of the immigrants - urban, egalitarian, ruthless, vibrantly alive
!!8) Blanche - the decadent old plantation culture rooted in the slavery system


Shadows and Cries (Symbolic meaning)

As Blanche and Stanley begin to fight in Scene Ten (rape), various oddly shaped shadows begin to appear on the wall behind her.
Discordant noises and jungle cries also occur as Blanche begins to descend into madness. All of these effects combine to dramatize Blanche’s final breakdown and departure from reality in the face of Stanley’s physical threat.
When she loses her sanity in her final struggle against Stanley, Blanche retreats entirely into her own world. Whereas she originally colors her perception of reality according to her wishes, at this point in the play she ignores reality completely.


The Varsouviana Polka (Symbolic meaning)

The Varsouviana is the polka tune to which Blanche and her young husband, Allen Grey, were dancing when she last saw him alive.
The polka music plays at various points in A Streetcar Named Desire, when Blanche is feeling remorse for Allen’s death as it ends with the gun shot.

The polka and the moment it evokes represent Blanche’s loss of innocence. The suicide of the young husband Blanche loved dearly was the event that triggered her mental decline. Since then, Blanche hears the Varsouviana whenever she panics and loses her grip on reality.

The audience can hear the polka but the other actors hear nothing, which amplifies her ISOLATION and the problems that never reach another person outside herself.


“It’s Only a Paper Moon” (Symbolic meaning)

Blanche sings this while she bathes.
The song’s lyrics describe the way love turns the world into a “phony” fantasy. The speaker in the song says that if both lovers believe in their imagined reality, then it’s no longer “make-believe.”
These lyrics sum up Blanche’s approach to life. She believes that her fibbing is only her means of enjoying a better way of life and is therefore essentially harmless.
As Blanche sits in the tub singing Stanley tells Stella the details of Blanche’s sexually corrupt past. Williams ironically juxtaposes Blanche’s fantastical understanding of herself with Stanley’s description of Blanche’s real nature. In reality, Blanche is a scam who feigns propriety and sexual modesty.
Once Mitch learns the truth about Blanche, he can no longer believe in Blanche’s tricks and lies.


Main Motifs of Streetcar?

1) Light
2) Bathing
3) Drunkenness
4) Streetcar


Explain the Motif of light

Light symbolizes the reality of Blanche’s past and her confrontation with it. It is what she has lost—her first love, her purpose in life, her dignity, and her social class status. Her avoidance of life is her decent into her make-believe magic world.
Covers lightbulbs with Paper lanterns and refuses to go out during the day (date with Mitch)
Mitch points out Blanche’s avoidance of light in Scene Nine, when he confronts her with the stories Stanley has told him of her past. Mitch then forces Blanche to stand under the direct light- revealing the reality. Blanche’s inability to tolerate light means that her grasp on reality is also nearing its end. Blanche deliberately keeps herself out of the harsh glare of reality.

Bright light represents Blanche’s youthful sexual innocence, while poor light represents her sexual maturity and disillusionment.
Her love for Mitch filled everything in bright vivid light (tells Mitch on date). Ever since he died the bright light has been missing. Through all of Blanche’s inconsequential sexual affairs with other men, she has experienced only dim light.

The light is also a representation of her journey towards insanity. The bright light is the happier the time. As it was when she was together with her Husband Allen. She was pure and sane. However, as time goes on and she becomes more “dirty” and has more things to hide of her true self. Therefore, as the play goes on she wants more darkness to hide her true self. it ends with complete darkness when she has gone absolutely insane.


Explain the Motif of bathing

The baths represent her efforts to cleanse herself of her odious history. Yet, just as she cannot erase the past, her bathing is never done.

It is also a sign of her extreme selfishness as when she takes a bath she blocks the bathroom for a longtime. She thinks that she is in the perfect privileged to take these long baths because she is of a higher social class.

Stanley also turns to water to undo a misdeed when he showers after beating Stella. The shower serves to soothe his violent temper; afterward, he leaves the bathroom feeling remorseful and calls out longingly for his wife.


Explain the Motif of drunkenness

Stanley and Blanche drink excessively at various points during the play.
Stanley’s drinking is social: he drinks with his friends at the bar, during their poker games, and to celebrate the birth of his child.
Blanche’s drinking, on the other hand, is anti-social, and she tries to keep it a secret. She drinks on the sly in order to withdraw from harsh reality.
For both characters, drinking leads to destructive behavior: Stanley commits domestic violence, and Blanche deludes herself. Yet Stanley is able to rebound from his drunken escapades, whereas alcohol fuels Blanche’s gradual departure from sanity into insanity.


Explain the Motif of the Streetcar

The streetcar named desire embodies destiny and self-destruction because of the passion and sexuality. Destiny is because the streetcars can only go one direction and there is no other option to leave the tracks than to completely crashing.


Define non-diegetic sound (example in play)

If the music comes from off and not from the scene itself. (part of the narrative)

Ex. Polka music Blanche hears, Blue piano


Define diegetic sound (example in play)

If someone puts on music in the play (on stage)

Ex. Blanche turning on the radio


Main themes in Streetcar?

1) Sexual desire
2) Fantasy and delusion
3) Interior and Exterior appearance
4) Masculinity and physicality
5) Felinity and dependence
6) Love in sensuality


Explain the theme of sexual desire for Blanche, Stella and Stanley and how it also leads to destruction.

The power of sexual desire is the engine propelling A Streetcar Named Desire: all of the characters are driven by desire in various ways:

Much of Blanche’s conception of how she operates in the world relies on her perception of herself as an object of male sexual desire. Her interactions with men always begin with flirtation.
Victims of her flirting: Mitch, Mail boy, and Stanley
Blanche clings to her sexuality more and more desperately as the play progresses. Blanche’s desires have led her down paths of sexual promiscuity and alcoholism, and by coming to stay with the Kowalskis, she has reached the end of the line.

Stella’s desire for Stanley pulls her away from Belle Reve and her past. Stella is drawn to Stanley’s brute, animal sexuality, and he is drawn to her traditional, domestic, feminine sexuality. Stella is pregnant: her sexuality is deeply tied to both womanliness and motherhood. Even though Stanley is violent to Stella, their sexual dynamic keeps them together.

Stanley’s sexuality and his masculinity are extremely interconnected: he radiates a raw, violent, brute animal magnetism. Stanley’s sexuality asserts itself violently over both Stella and Blanche. Desire of rape leads to destruction.


Explain the theme of fantasy and delusion

Blanche’s desire to escape the reality causes her to lose touch with the world around her. By the end of the play, Blanche can no longer distinguish between fantasy and real life.
Blanche delusion of what is reality and what is her make-believe world affects her interactions with other characters and her surroundings.
Although Blanch tries to wrap herself in the trappings of her former Southern belle self, she must eventually face facts that she is no longer part of an upper class and the women she always thought she was.


How does desire lead to destruction within Streetcar?

Throughout the play, sexual desire is linked to destruction. Even in supposedly loving relationships, sexual desire and violence are yoked: Stanley hits Stella, and Steve beats Eunice. Also Blanche’s pursuit of sexual desire has led to the loss of Belle Reve, and her eventual removal from society.


Why does Blanche try to keep her fantasy world alive?

Throughout the play, She clings to the false, illusory world of paper lanterns and satin robes: if she can keep up the appearance of being an innocent ingénue, she can continue to see herself in this fashion rather than face her checkered past and destitute present. By maintaining an illusory exterior appearance, Blanche hopes to hide her troubled interior from both herself and the world at large.

The paper lantern hides the ugly realty of light.