A Streetcar Named Desire Tennessee Williams Characters in Streetcar contrasted with Sweet bird. What corrupts/ unites / divides characters? What flaws, strengths, endearing characteristics, neuroses, influences [external/internal] are significant to the action? Characters in Streetcar contrasted with Sweet bird. Exile / outcast? Society: [backdrops, ghosts, gender roles/expectations, morality, corruption.] American Dream American Dream: get-rich-quick, succeed, Nothing Succeeds like success, owed something from society? Setting and society What events shape the character’s psyche, personality, motivation? Reality and illusion How do we create three dimensional characters from stereotypes and stock figures? Melodrama: Plots centred on a moralist conflict in which the main characters were archetypes of good versus evil Melodrama: In melodrama emotions, actions and scenarios are simplified and exaggerated, contrived and 'wild and woolly' as well as implausible. The characters lack depth and are often stock characters, such as the 'damsel in distress' rescued from the clutches of an unspeakably evil tyrant by a dashing young man. Melodrama or Tragedy? melodrama, in Western theatre, sentimental drama with an improbable plot that concerns the vicissitudes suffered by the virtuous at the hands of the villainous but ends happily with virtue triumphant. Featuring stock characters such as the noble hero, the long-suffering heroine, and the cold-blooded villain, the melodrama focuses not on character development but on sensational incidents and spectacular staging. In music, melodrama signifies lines spoken to a musical accompaniment. The melodramatic stage play is generally regarded as having developed in France as a result of the impact of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Pygmalion Contrasting voices: Finding examples from text Sophistication – words used to confuse and belittle Eloquence – poetry, music, arts Deception – past, present future Intelligence Harshness Menace Aggression Violence SURVIVAL Introduction “A Streetcar Named Desire” is a captivating play by Tennessee Williams, which tells the story of a delicate, romantic and emotional woman named Blanche Du Bois. Blanche comes to stay with her sister Stella and her husband Stanley, after she loses the ancestral home, Belle Reve. Blanche’s fragile state of mind and loss of grip on reality becomes gradually apparent throughout the play, which runs alongside the animalistic nature of the love between Stella and Stanley. The relationship between Stanley and Blanche deteriorates as quickly as Blanche’s emotional state, and results in Stanley taking full physical control of her and raping her. There are many motifs, themes and contrasts, which recur frequently throughout “A Streetcar Named Desire,” by Tennessee Williams, which help to craft the play’s structure. These things are important in emphasizing the character’s conflicting personalities and emotional states, as well as presenting the true motives behind the actions of the characters. Themes, Motifs and Contrasts in “A Streetcar Named Desire”: The Relationship between Exterior and Interior The relationship between exterior and interior in “A Streetcar Named Desire” is important in suggesting the boundaries of reality and fantasy. The set consists of two rooms in the apartment of Stanley and Stella, but the street and outside world are always visible. The apartment is not a secure, selfcontained unit, which allows Blanche’s fantasies to flourish, but a place that is unable to stop the blunt reality from entering in. This idea is clearly apparent just before Stanley rapes Blanche, as the back wall becomes transparent; the act itself is juxtaposed with the struggles on the street, emphasizing the harsh reality and suffering. Themes, Motifs and Contrasts in “A Streetcar Named Desire”: The Relationship between Sex and Death In “A Streetcar Named Desire”, the character Blanche often associates sex with death. At the very beginning of the play, Blanche says that she begins her journey to the apartment by taking a streetcar named Desire, and then takes a streetcar named Cemeteries before finally arriving at a street called Elysian Fields (which is the land of the dead in Greek mythology). This journey she takes represents her life; her pursuit of her sexual desires lead to her demise and ultimately the death of her reality, as she is rejected completely from society. In Blanche’s experience, sex inevitably leads to death not only for herself, but also for others. She is repeatedly haunted with memories of her ancestor’s deaths, which she puts down to their “epic fornications”. Her husband’s suicide was the result of Blanche’s disapproval of his homosexuality. The idea presented in the play could be that desire, in the form of unrestricted promiscuity, leads to unwanted departures and fatal conclusions. Themes, Motifs and Contrasts in “A Streetcar Named Desire”: Light and Dark Motifs The motifs of light and dark in “A Streetcar Named Desire” are used to reveal depth and motive in the play. In the sixth scene of the play, Blanche reveals to Mitch that loving her husband was like having the world revealed in “bright, vivid light”. Since his death, she wants darkness and has only experienced dim light during her sexual affairs with other men. Whenever she can, Blanche avoids light. She refuses to go on dates with Mitch in the day or in well-lit places because she is afraid he will see her fading beauty. She also covers the exposed light bulb in the apartment with a paper lantern to make it dimmer. Her intolerance to light and craving for dim light and darkness could represent the deterioration of her emotional state, and also suggests her loss of control of reality. Themes, Motifs and Contrasts in “A Streetcar Named Desire”: The Use of Music and Sound The use of music and sound in “A Streetcar Named Desire” helps to create atmosphere and give the audience a deeper understanding of the characters. Whenever a roaring train is heard in the play, Stanley is not far behind. The motif of a train could represent the destructive, powerful nature of Stanley, which the audience is always aware of before Blanche. Blanche is associated with the motif of a moth, which when contrasted with the motif of a train creates a devastating image. The Varsouviana Polka tune which is heard in Blanche’s head at various moments of the play takes her back to the memory of her husband’s suicide. This piece of music was playing at the dance she and her husband went to, and was still playing when her husband ran outside and shot himself. Blanche tells Mitch that the music does not stop in her head until she hears the sound of a gunshot. The Varsouviana polka could represent the loss of Blanche’s innocence, and contributes to the decline of her mental state and her losing her grip on reality. Themes, motifs and contrasts add depth and interest to “A Streetcar Named Desire”, and are vital to the structure of the play. Analysis can only stretch so far, and it is well worth reading the play or watching it to experience the story yourself.