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Scene 1

A Streetcar Named Desire: Scene 1
How Williams depicts
the nature of New
Orleans with his
detailed stage
Context: why did he
choose to live there in
‘tender blue…invests the scene with a kind of
lyricism…[which] attenuates the atmosphere of decay’affectionate description
‘the music of Negro entertainers’, The ‘blue piano’- signs of
the culture of the period, vibrant
‘cosmopolitan city…easy intermingling of races’
Williams chose to move to New Orleans due to its diversity and
liberal/tolerant attitude towards sexuality/race etc.
Ways in which
Stanley’s swaggering
vitality is suggested.
‘red stained package’ and exclamation ‘Meat!’- Stanley’s
masculinity and sexuality- metaphorical for the way he is sexually
dominant- impact on Stella ‘she laughs breathlessly’
Stanley is ready to assert his manhood now he has returned from
fighting in the war.
Stella describes the impact on her- when he’s away she goes
‘wild’ and when he returns she cries ‘on his lap like a baby’- we
understand her dependence upon him from the beginning.
How Williams
establishes the
character of Blanche
on her first
appearance on stage.
Comment on the name
Blanche DuBois and
its possible
‘incongruous’ to her environment- does not fit in with the society
of New Orleans- represents different values.
‘a moth’- delicate/fragile, but drawn to danger
Blanche- white- purity, innocence- ironic- has been ‘tarnished’ by
her society’s standards
Interaction with Eunice- uncomfortable
Avoidance of the ‘merciless glare’ of the light yet wants the
attention of her sister ‘I want you to look at my figure!’
How the twin themes
of sex and death are
suggested in this
opening scene.
Image of the ‘red stained package’
Recurring ‘Red hots!’- implying passion and desire integral to the
culture here.
Names of the streetcars- Blanche has to travel on
‘Desire…transfer to one called Cemeteries and…get off at
Elysian Fields’- shows the connection between sexual desire and
death- one will lead to the other.
The significance of
references to the
‘A great big place with white columns’- reminder of the past,
links to appearance of plantation homes.
Belle Reve- meaning beautiful dream- a façade, unsustainable,
archaic way of life- times have changed and the wealth and the
dominance if the Old South is changing.
Blanche describes how Belle Reve has been ‘lost’ which
highlights how the world is changing. She describes how the
‘Grim Reaper…put up his tent’ on the ‘doorstep’. This shows
how much Blanche’s home was dominated by death and how it
appeared to be inescapable.
A Streetcar Named Desire: Scene 1
The way Blanche uses
practised deception –
something which
undermines her from
the start with the
Indications of
Blanche’s disturbed
state of mind.
Her deceit about alcohol- drinks but then ‘replaces the bottle and
washes out the tumbler’, hiding her actions. Pretends she
doesn’t know where the alcohol is when Stella arrives.
Covers up the real reason for her learning her job.
‘shaking all over and panting for breath…The bottle nearly
slips from her grasp’- already shown to be extremely anxious.
Presentation of her drinking- dependent upon it.
Dominates the conversation with Stella- erratic behaviour- ‘She
begins to speak with feverish vivacity as if she feared for
either of them to stop and think.’ Uses many exclamations.
‘a wild cry’- seems to be out of control
She explains that she was ‘so exhausted’ and her ‘nerves broke’
Evidence of Blanche’s
and that the high school superintendent (Mr Graves) suggested
reason for losing her
she take a ‘leave of absence’- we discover later on in the play that
this is a lie (Scene 7).
Evidence of Blanche’s
dismissive attitude to
those she sees are not
from the same class or
background as the
DuBois family.
Initial interaction with Eunice- stage direction ‘[Wanting to get
rid of her]’ then dismissive when shown kindness: ‘What I
meant was I'd like to be left alone.’
Blanche is shown to be ignorant of different races and uses the
derogatory term ‘Polack’ to describe Stanley, which offends him.
The significance of
the polka and the
screech of the cat.
The ‘polka’ music is used when Stanley questions Blanche about
her marriage- demonstrates her emotional response and the guilt
she still feels over her husband’s suicide. Highlights how she
cannot move on.
The screech of the cat demonstrates how fragile and anxious
Blanche is- her reactions is exaggerated to emphasise how she is
struggling to maintain a façade of control.
How Expressionism is
used in the opening
Colours- ‘The sky…is a peculiarly tender blue’. Highlights
Williams’ affection for location.
Music- evocative scene created in the opening stage direction;
The ‘blue piano’ recurs throughout the play to highlight way of
life in New Orleans- energy and vibrancy. The recurrence of the
‘polka’ to represent Blanche’s guilt.