A Streetcar Named Desire

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?
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?
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.
6. Comment on the developing strain in the relationship between Blanche and
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
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?