A Streetcar Named Desire Scene Five Terminology and Literary Concepts 1. What is the significance of the hand mirror prop Blanche looks into in this scene? What is she confronting by doing so? 2. What are the connotations of Stanley and Blanche’s star signs, Capricorn the goat and Virgo the virgin respectively? What do they add to your understanding of their characters? 3. Interpret the symbolism of the Coca-Cola that spills onto Blanche’s white dress. What could it represent? 4. The Coca-Cola foaming and spilling over foreshadows the same happening to Stanley’s beer in scene ten. What could this action represent, and in scene ten which catastrophic act does it precede? Theme 5. Blanche explains her reliance upon illusion, magic and fantasy to Stella in this scene. Design a mind map explaining how this theme has been portrayed in the play so far with relevant textual evidence. Character 6. Comment on the developing strain in the relationship between Blanche and Stanley. 7. Was Blanche serious in her attempts to seduce the young man? Comment on Blanche’s mood as the young man leaves compared to her actions as Mitch appears. Critical Understanding 8. Structurally, Williams uses repeated actions to foreshadow or restage events. Read through his depiction of Steve and Eunice’s argument in scene five. How does this compare to Stanley and Stella’s argument in scene three? Does this argument and their subsequent reconciliation play a role in Blanche’s attempt to seduce the young man? 9. Consider Blanche’s use of imagery in her speech beginning: “I never was hard or self-sufficient enough.” How many references to light, weather and the skies can you identify? Why do you think Williams chose the semantic field of light for Blanche’s character? 10. In terms of structure, Williams opens and closes this scene with the same thematic emphasis on fantasy. Make a table – on one side list Blanche’s actions which demonstrate the theme of fanstasy and on the other side her language which does so. Socio-Historical Context The psychological theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung had spread to popularity and they exerted an influence over Williams’ writing. Below are some very simplistic explanations of psychoanalysis that could be applied to A Streetcar Named Desire. Freud’s 1920 work Beyond the Pleasure Principle put forward the theory that people are driven by two conflicting desires: that of Eros (the life drive) which governs our desires for survival, hunger and sex and that of Thanatos (the death drive), which represents an unconscious desire to return to a state of calm: in otherwords, an inorganic or dead state. Freud’s 1899 work The Interpretation of Dreams theorised that dreams are attempts by our unconscious to resolve conflict. As such images in dreams are often not what they appear to be and need deeper interpretation. He identified a number of symbols amongst which are those he considered phallic (representative of the penis) and yonic (representative of the vagina). Extension/ Homework Task Prepare a short presentation on how these confliction drives are represented in A Streetcar Named Desire. You may want to prepare a mind map, poster, quote sheet or even brief performances of extract from the play to illustrate your ideas. Does Williams use Freudian symbolism in A Streetcar Named Desire?