AMERICAN LITERATURE A Streetcar Named Desire Discussion Notes CENTRAL CHARACTERS: IMPORTANT CONTRASTS THEIR WORLDS PERSONALITY CHARACTERISTICS ZODIAC SIGNS CONCEPT OF LOVE LIGHT: The key symbol in the play. It represents the reality Stanley lives by and life’s harshness. Blanche feels she must soften the light. Blanche DuBois Stanley Kowalski A Street Car Named Desire—SCENE BY SCENE ANALYSIS For each of the following statements and questions, make comments and find evidence to support your thoughts. SCENE ONE: 1. Note Stanley’s first appearance (note clothing, package, blood stained package, and actions) and the reader’s first impression. 2. What is the implication of Blanche’s statement that she took a “streetcar named Desire, and then . . . one called Cemeteries”? Wherein lies the irony? 3. Note Blanche’s first appearance (note clothing and William’s description of her). What is the significance of this? 4. Note the symbolic names used in the play. 5. In the first meeting between Stella and Blanche, Blanche tells Stella to “turn that over-light off!” This is the first reference to Blanche’s fear of the light. It also fits in with her moth-like appearance and thus becomes one of the controlling motifs of the play. 6. Blanche is introduced as a compulsive liar. 7. Blanche is neurotic. 8. Conflict develops—Stanley, “the gaudy seed-bearer,” takes pride in everything that is his. SCENE TWO: 1. Blanche’s baths symbolize: 2. Blanche flirts with Stanley. Why? 3. Blanche recognizes the fact that Stanley can indeed hurt her (Kowalski world vs. the DuBois world). SCENE THREE: 1. The Poker Night—Stanley is angry. Why? 2. Introduction of Mitch—Characterize. 3. Blanche’s actions. 4. Similarities between Blanche and Mitch. 5. Light motif further developed. 6. Blanche continues to lie. 7. Blanche witnesses Stanley’s animal brutality. 8. Would this scene have taken place if Blanche had not been visiting there? 9. Contrast Mitch and Blanche’s relationship to Stan and Stella’s. SCENE FOUR: 1. Blanche succeeds in alienating herself from Stella. 2. Blanche first comes up with the idea of getting financial backing from Shep Huntleigh, who will later symbolize a potential escape from reality. 3. It is here that Blanche refers to Stanley as a “lone survivor of the Stone Age.” She further calls him a savage and a brute—and all this name calling is done in his own apartment . . . is it no wonder he resents her? SCENE FIVE: 1. Note Blanche’s reaction when Stanley brings up Shaw—this is the beginning of Stanley’s plan to destroy Blanche. 2. At this point in the play, the scene with the young boy might seem out of place; yet it is very important when we find out more about Blanche’s past. SCENE SIX: 1. This scene presents hope for Blanche. 2. Which is the real Blanche DuBois—is she the innocent, naïve girl she presents to Mitch, or is she the depraved woman whose past Stanley uncovers and reveals? (Does she remind you of any other women characters we have read about so far?) 3. When we find out about Blanche’s marriage to Allan, we see the source of all the rest of her problems. You should be able to tie in what happened the night Allan died to Blanche’s fear and aversion to light . . . 4. What is the significance of the Varsouviana music which has been playing in her mind over and over again? The gunshot? SCENE SEVEN: 1. Stanley has done his research well—he is now ready to confront “Dame Blanche.” 2. Stanley’s motivation to expose Blanch stems from several sources: 3. Did Stanley have “the right” to tell Mitch about Blanche’s past? 4. Stanley not only tells Mitch about Blanche’s past, what else does he do? 5. It is ironic that while Stanley is about to reveal the past, Blanche is still trying to “wash it all away.” SCENE EIGHT: 1. This is a very violent scene. It begins with a very tense birthday party. 2. Again, this scene would never have occurred between Stanley and Stella if Blanche had not been present. SCENE NINE: 1. Note Blanche’s appearance at the beginning of this scene and her actions. 2. Note Mitch’s appearance also. 3. Note Blanche’s actions when Mitch first appears on the scene. Why does she behave in this way? 4. Mitch’s first confrontation comes when he forces Blanche under the light. What is the significance of this act? 5. In this scene Williams has tried to show how Blanche’s over-sensitive nature was the reason she sought escape from her failures by turning to alcohol and promiscuity. 6. When Mitch accuses Blanche of lying to him, she says that she never lied “inside. I didn’t lie in my heart.” What does she mean by this? 7. Why did Mitch really come back to see Blanche? 8. For a brief moment Mitch had the possibility of saving the delicate Blanche and of being saved by her—but he was unable to perceive the depth of her feelings. SCENE TEN: 1. This scene presents the final confrontation between Stanley and Blanche. Blanche is once again living in her world of illusion and pretense. What motivates Stanley to commit the violent act he does? 2. Why does this act cause Blanche’s final breakdown? 3. Wherein lies the symbolism? SCENE ELEVEN: 1. This scene balances with the poker scene in Scene Three. What causes the difference in Stan’s attitude? 2. Does Stella know what happened the night she had the baby? 3. What advice does Eunice give Blanche? 4. At this point, it is Stanley who tears down the “magic” Chinese lantern. What does this symbolize? 5. Blanche’s last remark in the play echoes pathetically her plight and predicament in life. She goes quietly with the doctor who’s a stranger because he seems like a gentleman. “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Her illusions have no place in the Kowalski world, and once her illusions were destroyed so was she. 6. Note the other men’s reactions to this scene. 7. Note Stanley’s reaction.