Writing Pieces: `A Streetcar Named Desire`

Writing Pieces: ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’
Choose one (1) of these types of essays to complete over the holidays; you will then re-draft it a
number of times prior to the SAC in the second week of Term 3.
Creative 1:
Prompt: ‘We need to hold on to our illusions in order to cope with reality.’
Idea: Write an interior monologue from Stella explaining her decision to stay with her husband.
Her conflicted loyalties to her husband and her sister;
difficult decisions she has to make and has had to make – remember leaving Belle Reve;
her desire to keep the family together for the benefit of the baby;
her lack of options as a single mother;
the reason why she chose to believe Stanley over Blanche;
her opinion of Blanche;
the fact that she will be just as destitute (homeless) as her sister;
the guilt she feels about the way her sister has been treated;
her desire to trust her husband but her lingering doubts;
her attempts to explain why Stanley did what he did;
what her life is like now and what her life will be like in the future;
what Mitch is like now;
what has happened to the poker nights – how do Stanley’s mates see him now?
Whether Stella believes she is under any illusions at all…
How to:
Write in a first person narrative (use the personal pronouns ‘I’, ‘my’, ‘we’, etc).
Write using predominantly past tense verbs (I remembered when Blanche first arrived…)
Weave in some actual quotes from the play (‘I couldn’t continue to live with Stanley if I
believed Blanche’s accusations…’)
Deal with the prompt by showing not only the illusions that Blanche held on to, but the
illusions that Stella continues to hold on to in order to live happily with Stanley. Think also of
the illusions that Stanley and Mitch held/hold on to.
Imagine yourself as Stella and use what you know about her to write from her perspective.
Consider the choices she made in the past and the reasons for these. This should give you an
idea of why she does what she does…
Creative 2:
Prompt: ‘We need to hold on to our illusions in order to cope with reality.’
Idea: Write a psychiatric evaluation of Blanche from the psychiatrist’s perspective.
Clinical language such as repressed memories, delusional fantasies, alcohol abuse, emotional
void, maintaining a façade, pathological liar, predatory behaviour, inability to cope/adapt;
emotional trauma, anxiety, stress, etc…
Discuss what conversations with Blanche have revealed:
her fear of death, ageing, bright lights, of being exposed; the loss of Belle Reve
her thoughts about her deceased husband, Allan Grey, and his homosexuality; the
betrayal that she felt; her love for him; the poetry he wrote for her; her naivety in
falling in love ‘completely’ at the age of 16; the Varsouviana polka tune that haunts
her and ends in a ‘gunshot’
her relations with other men – filling an emotional void
her desire for a husband, to ‘rest easy’ - her opinions about Mitch; his suitability as a
the treatment she endured at the hands of Stanley; her feelings about Stella and the
decisions that Stella made/has made
The illusions that Blanche holds onto - Blanche knows that she consciously maintains
some of these but not all: paper lanterns, intelligence, good breeding, youthfulness,
lies, etc
Her abuse of alcohol as an escape mechanism conflicting with her statement: ‘One’s
my limit’, and other such statements…
Her thoughts on her ability and willingness to return to society?
Hypothesize why she is like this and what you believe, in your professional opinion, she
suffers from (bi-polar disorder; depression; agitation; nervousness; insanity?)
What would you recommend for her by way of treatment? (constant medication; further
psychiatric treatment; institutionalization; frontal lobotomy; imminent release; pursuit of
criminal charges against her brother in law?)
How to:
Write this using ‘detached’ language (remove social distance) by referring to yourself in the
third person (‘it is this doctor’s opinion…’; ‘patient appears to be suffering from…’)
Use subheadings and set this out like a formal report (patient name; date; initial assessment;
observation notes; treatment commenced; recommendations, etc)
Research some of these conditions, the psychological concepts, language and treatments
used by psychiatrists during the late 1940s – early 1950s.
Prompt: ‘Shared experience does not mean that people see things the same way.’
Idea: Agree by arguing that many factors unique to individuals mean that they don’t.
Begin with a short anecdote designed to highlight the fact that no two people see things the
same way – this should be based on something you’ve read about recently in the media.
Make reference to the notion of subjectivity: that although the causes of experience are
thought to be "objective" and available to everyone, (such as the wavelength of a specific
beam of light), experiences themselves are only available to the subject
Include a quote that ties in nicely with both your anecdote, your theory and your impending
This should lead into your contention (see ‘idea’ above) and the outlining of the different
factors that you will focus on in the body of your essay:
o Every individual is unique – it therefore stands to reason that the way they perceive
an event will also be unique to them too
o The way someone experiences something can depend on their current state of mind
and the circumstances they find themselves in
o Differences in conflict are to be expected and are often the cause of conflict
o Despite this, there are universal truths that we all agree on.
Point 1:
Topic sentence: Every individual is unique – it therefore stands to reason that the way they perceive
an event will also be unique to them too.
Elaborate: In this sense, reality is ‘constructed’ according to various beliefs, perceptions, age, etc…
There is an objective reality out there, but we view it through the spectacles of our beliefs, attitudes,
and values. ~ David G. Myers, Social Psychology
External Evidence:
Link to contention:
Point 2:
Topic sentence: The way someone experiences something can depend on their current state of mind
and the circumstances they find themselves in.
Elaborate: Our feelings for someone can cloud our judgment; so too can various other emotions and
mental illnesses.
Textual Evidence: Stanley’s belief that ‘every man is a king’ and that Blanche prevents Stella and
Stanley from living the life they once lived. Stella’s feelings for Stanley and her decision to accept
Stanley’s word are clouded by her attachment to Stanley and their impending family. Blanche’s
mental instability comes as a result of various losses and prevents her from seeing things as they are,
nor does she want to see them as they are…
Link to contention:
Point 3:
Topic sentence: Differences of opinion are to be expected and are often the cause of conflict.
Elaborate: Inability to empathize – to understand something from someone else’s point of view –
often magnifies conflict. But not wanting to see something from another person’s perspective can be
equally dangerous
External Evidence: ‘To kill a mockingbird’; something you’ve come across in the media.
Textual Evidence: Stanley’s view that Blanche ‘had this coming from the start’ and his ‘outing’ of
Blanche to Mitch creates conflict between two mates ; Blanche’s view of Stanley as an ‘ape’ or
‘common’ creates conflict between Blanche and herself.
Link to contention:
Point 4 (the ‘But’):
Topic sentence: Despite this, there are universal truths that we all agree on. We all know that the
boiling point of water is 100 degrees and that the freezing point of water is 0 degrees. We all accept
this as truth – as real/fact. To not accept these facts or fail to recognise things that most others do
can bring us out of contact with reality and have us branded insane.
Elaborate: Francis Bacon argued for ‘the primacy of existence’ – that existence comes first and
consciousness second (i.e. consciousness requires things to exist and is therefore dependent on
existence). He argued that to make changes to one’s conscious state, you must also change reality. If
you only changed your conscious state and not your reality you would invite catastrophe – this is
exactly what happened to Blanche.
Textual Evidence: Blanche fabricates stories about why she left her teaching post and Auriol, and
even fabricates stories about Shep Huntleigh without actually making the ‘adjustments’ in reality.
Blanche doesn’t ‘tell the truth, [she tells] what ought to be the truth’ and her fabrications contradict
the real/truthful version of events. This causes others to label her mad – eventually she is
Link to contention:
Return to your anecdote from your contention and show how it highlights, in light of what you’ve
talked about in your essay, that shared experience does not mean that people see things the same
way. Return to your textual examples in general and explain how they help reinforce your
Summarize points.
Restate contention.
Prompt: ‘It is easier to hold on to illusions in order to cope with reality.’
Idea: An exploration of the types of illusions people maintain to help them cope and the reasons
why they use fantasy. The expository essay will acknowledge that fantasy is a legitimate and useful
means of surviving harsh circumstances or experiences but that there are often consequences
Begin with quote: ‘Humankind cannot bear very much reality.’ ~ T.S. Eliot No one denies that reality
is hard to deal with at times and boring at others. Posit that all of us take frequent ‘breaks’ from
reality by watching television, daydreaming, reading books and magazines, etc, and that this can
actually be beneficial in terms of de-stressing. Similarly the power of positive thinking can help us
achieve our goals and instill us with the confidence to momentarily pull off a different persona. For
those less fortunate who may have experienced great loss or personal trauma, illusions are a
powerful coping mechanism employed by the brain. However, many of us have probably also
‘creatively procrastinated’: cleaned out our wardrobe – a long put-off job – instead of studying, or
immersed ourselves in a newly-bought video game to the detriment of our household chores.
Becoming lost in these and forgetting about or fabricating a new reality can often be disastrous. For
many, this unfortunate and unintended outcome is a reality and while we can empathize with these
people and the reasons why they clung to their illusions, the outcomes are nonetheless damaging
for both themselves and their loved ones.
Point 1:
Everyone’s sat in a classroom and daydreamed while their teacher has banged on about
Shakespeare or chemical formulas, drifting off to an imaginary world where they’re actually enjoying
themselves. Most of us have also snapped back from these and been forced to confront the bleakseeming reality that we’d rather avoid – often by the very same teacher. In fact, an old teacher of
mine who caught me doing this very thing forced me to write out 50 lines as punishment:
‘Daydreams are the gaseous decompositions of true purpose.” After writing it fifty times, my hand
numb and my mind equally so, I think I actually understood what it meant: dreams are a waste of
time and get in the way of doing something useful. On the other hand though – and perhaps
somewhat contradictorily – we’re told by those very same peddlers of education to ‘think big’ and
‘use our imaginations’. I’ll admit, dreams can inspire us and compel us to do great things – they can
even be visionary (Martin Luther King once had a dream…) but some dreams are just ludicrous! This
is because they are so out of touch with reality that they are implausible. How do we find balance
then? What’s grand and yet not off the charts? I’ll readily admit that I’m no expert but in my own
experience I’ve found that the ability to hold on to my dreams and illusions and yet not lose sight of
the various people and responsibilities that comprise my day to day reality is the ticket. Failure to do
the latter is disastrous…
Point 2:
Television, video games and books – popular entertainment that have the ability to transport us to
different worlds or even allow us to release pent-up aggression through identification with their
protagonists and their actions. However, immersion in these can lead us astray. Look at recent
research in regards to the links between violent films/games and violence. Examine also why bullies
bully. This can lead into talking about Stanley’s behavior and the fact that he holds onto the illusion
that he is ‘outing’ Blanche for Mitch’s sake.
Point 3:
“On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” – A famous cartoon. The relative anonymity of the
internet allows users to cultivate an image of themselves that they would ideally like to be. Social
networking sites such as Second Life, ‘A free 3d virtual world where users can socialize, connect and
create’, enable users to craft ‘Avatars’ – ‘graphical representations of the user or the user’s alter
ego’. For many users of this site, the use of an avatar is an attractive and easy way to actively portray
a version of yourself that is not always you. Many relish the opportunity to change gender, add
animal attributes, enhance attributes and so forth – something not always so easily done in real life.
A documentary on SBS recently looking at video game addiction, noted the particularly sad case of a
woman who became so ensconced in her ‘second life’ that she neglected her husband and three
children, who were left to fend for themselves. For this particular woman, the lure of wealth, friends
and even an online lover proved too much but resulted in the breakdown of her marriage.
Point 3:
Goal setting, positive thinking and the benefit for athletes (or even those working up the courage to
ask someone out).
Point 4:
Psychological examination of the coping mechanisms employed by the brain as a result of trauma.
Research a case-study of someone who convinced themselves something didn’t happen. Look at
memory triggers and repressed memories. Explore how Blanche held on to her illusions and how she
lost touch with reality. Explore also the unique case of Raymond Ricketts Scott – a fantasist and
crook. (see focus article)
Expand on these thoughts…The humdrum of life necessitates fantasy. It’s a guilty pleasure we all
engage in and succumb to occasionally. For most of us it’s a fleeting fantasy – a momentary
distraction – and we snap out of it and move on. But for others it’s more than just momentary, it’s a
dangerous practice, not always engaged in consciously, that has severe ramifications for themselves
and others.