Blanche - Livre Or Die

{Introduction }
to men
• [Two men come round the comer, Stanley
Kowalski and Mitch. They are about
twenty-eight or thirty years old, roughly
dressed in blue denim work clothes.
Stanley carries his bowling jacket and a
red-stained package from a butcher's.]
Construction of Identity, Gender
{Stanley Kowalski}
Age: 25
Polish Descent
Marital Status:
Factory Worker
Bowling, Poker, Drinking
to Stanley
Stanley [bellowing]: Hey, there! Stella,
to Stanley
More laughter and shouts of parting come from the men. Stanley
throws the screen door of the kitchen open and comes in. He is of
medium height, about five feet eight or nine, and strongly,
compactly built. Animal joy in his being is implicit in all his
movements and attitudes. Since earliest manhood the centre of his life
has been pleasure
with women, the giving and taking of it, not
with weak indulgence, dependently, but with the power and
pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens.
Branching out from this complete and satisfying centre are all the
auxiliary channels of his life, such as his heartiness with men, his
appreciation of rough humour, his love of good drink and food and
games, his car, his radio, everything that is his, that bears his
emblem of the gaudy seed-bearer. He saw women up at a glance, with
sexual classifications, crude images flashing into his mind and
determining the way he smiles at them.
{Stella Kowalski}
Symbolic Meaning: Star
Age: 25
Laurel, Mississippi
Marital Status:
{Introduction }
to Stella
• Stars - the light which breaks through the darkness.
• Light - opposite of darkness, symbol for high ideals or goals set
too high
• Stella represents Blanche’s ideal concerning the fact that she is
leading a contented life.
• Stella’s position in play: light, hope and stability.
• Stabilising element of the play - negotiator between the two so
very different characters.
• Ironic – stability is not sustained and does nothing but witness her
sister’s tragic end
{Introduction }
to Stella
[Stella comes out on the first-floor landing,
a gentle young woman, about twenty-five,
and of a background obviously quite
different from her husband's.]
Stella [mildly]: Don't holler at me like that.
Hi, Mitch.
{Introduction }
to Stella
• Contrasts have been set up within the first five minutes of the play.
• Contrast will be extended throughout the play – character, gentility,
colours, etc
• Stella subtly attempts to assert herself – this assertion appears to
intensify with the arrival of Blanche, much to the annoyance of
• Blanche is a threat to Stanley’s overt masculinity
{Introduction }
to S+S
[He heaves the package at her. She cries
out in protest but manages to catch it: then
she laughs breathlessly. Her husband and
his companion have already started back
around the corner.]
{Introduction }
to S+S
What is significant about the dramatic action here?
Heaving – suggests some sort of aggression, weight
Traditional gender roles constructed here
Hunter/Gatherer; Provider/Nurturer dichotomy set
{Introduction }
to S+S
Stella [calling after him}: Stanley! Where are you
Stanley: Bowling!
Stella: Can I come watch?
Stanley: Come on. [He goes out.] (p4)
--Eunice: Well, that’s where she’s at, watchin’ her
husband bowl. (p5)
{Introduction }
to S+S
• Games – construction of gendered spaces.
• Stella is not invited and plays the role of the observer.
• Similar to the poker games, bowling is also a sport that the
women are excluded from.
- Gender dynamics in post-war America
presented in play
- Power dynamics in marital relationships
- Stanley’s position threatened
{Blanche DuBois}
Age: 30
Laurel, Mississippi
Marital Status:
Widow (married at 16)
English School Teacher
Averse to light
{Blanche DuBois}
• Blanche – White/Fair
• DuBois – French origin, made of wood
• Blanche’s entire name is heavily symbolic - it
reflects her true nature in a very clear way.
• Blanche’s character is revealed in the same way
in order of her first and last name.
• Appearance/Reality: Even though she initially
appears to be innocent and pure, her past and
true nature reveals itself as the play progresses.
{Blanche DuBois}
- Scene 1: development of Blanche’s
- Blanche:
- Aware of social distinctions [note
interaction with Eunice and neighbour’s
- Vanity, need of flattery
- Pathos: fear of ageing, vulnerability
{Blanche DuBois}
Awareness of social distinctions:
-Monosyllybalic responses to Eunice and the Negro
Blanche [wanting to get rid of her]
Awareness of Stella’s apparent social
Eunice [defensively, noticing Blanche’s look]: It’s sort of
messed up right now but when it’s clean it’s real sweet.
Blanche: Is it?
{Blanche DuBois}
“There is something about her uncertain
manner, as well as her white clothes, that
suggests a moth”
creature of the night,
averse to light,
lacks colours
symbolic of her living in the dark, living in
ignorance and denial
{Blanche DuBois}
Blanche [with faintly hysterical
humour]: They told me to take a
streetcar named Desire, and then
transfer to one called Cemeteries
and ride six blocks and get off at
- Elysian Fields!
{Blanche DuBois}
• Has a tendency for hysterics and histrionic
outbursts that has to be moderated by Stella
• Given her literary background, her sense of
humour may indicate an awareness of the irony
in her own literal journey
{Contrast in Setting}
Belle Reve
French Quarter
• Laurel is a real town in
southeastern Mississippi
• Had a genteel,
aristocratic Old South
culture that was fast
disappearing in the face
of industrialisation
Industrialised and urban
A shabby part of the
neighbourhood situated near
railway tracks – evidence of
rapid industrialisation and
expansion of cities
A conglomeration of cultures
and migrants
{Contrast in Setting}
Belle Reve
French Quarter
• Blanche’s displacement from Laurel to New Orleans
makes her an outsider in Stanley’s and Stella’s world
• Blanche: symbol of the plantation era which must
inevitable bow to industrialization and newly
confident “ethnic” adversaries – embodied in the
Polish Kowalski
• Additionally, Williams exposes a patriarchal society
in which women ceased to be valued once they lost
their physical attractiveness or failed to conform to
social and generally sexist mores
{Elysian Fields}
• Irony:
– Literally means the Greek paradise
– But here, it is no ethereal heaven, but a
noisy, active place filled with vital, lusty,
‘macho’ life
Blanche [with faintly hysterical humour]: They told me to
take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one
called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields!
Blanche: What you are talking about is brutal desire—
just—Desire! The name of that rattle-trap street-car that
bangs through the Quarter, up one old narrow street and
down another…
Stella: Haven’t you ever ridden on that street-car?
Blanche: It brought me here. (4.104-106)
There is an actual streetcar named “Desire” that
Blanche takes on her way to the Kowalskis’.
-Blanche is literally brought to the Kowalski place
by “Desire,” but she is also brought there by
-Desire > Cemeteries > Elysian Fields.
-Sex, death, the afterlife?
-A linear progression? Desire leading to
{Stanley + Blanche}
Scene 1:
• Two individuals from different societies and cultures
who are set in sharp contrast
• Blanche: a refined woman from an southern aristocratic
• Stanley: a down-to-earth working man with crude
manners, animal-like qualities
• Inability to empathise with each other set from the start
{Stanley + Blanche}
Scene 1:
•Blanche: represents the dying aristocratic culture, an
upper class that threatens Stanley’s role as patriarchal
•Stanley: embodies a crude, lower class which threatens
her class superiority
•Essentially, in conflict with each other on almost every
•Yet, there is a certain baser, animal attraction between
each other
•Predator/Prey model would work, but is also complex
{Scene 1}
• Scene introduces two of the prominent themes of the
play, sex and death.
• Stella and Stanley – basis of love is sexual passion.
• Stanley - “male chauvinist” ? BUT they are happy in
their own way, bound together by physical love.
• Blanche’s longest speech in this scene – death; note of
morbidity continues throughout the play; excessive use
of imagery of death in her speech
{Scene 1}
• Important symbolic and visual elements in the opening
• Stanley – undressing: signifying his elemental, animallike strength and virility
• Blanche - bathing: a symbol of her attempts to wash
away her past and project image of being beautiful
and refined [in scene 2]
• Appearance/Reality; Illusion/Truth
NOTE: However, she is associated with the sound of cats,
undermining her attempts to present herself in this
{Stanley+ Blanche}
• Aristocratic Old
• White, Light, Purity
• Airy
• Feminine
New Industrial Age
Dark (but realistic)
{Stella + Blanche}
• Blanche resents Stella:
– “In bed with a Polack”
– A double insult:
• Insinuates Stella’s sexual appetite
• Disdain for a Southern aristocrat for a vulgar immigrant
• Stella’s defence of Stanley:
– “That’s enough!”
– She passively listens to Blanche’s attack but jumps to
Stanley’s defence
dramatic function
Opening Scene
•Sets tone, mood and atmosphere
•Contextualises play through setting
•Introduces main protagonist and antagonist
•Constructs contrasts and conflicts
•Primes the audience by introducing key
concerns and issues
..all of which contribute to the audience’s
understanding of the rest of the play
dramatic function
Blanche: “Well, I never had your beautiful selfcontrol.”
•Scene 1: Sets up contrasts between all three
•Blanche: self-confesses that she lacks some
form of control and discipline over herself
– Truth? Or her guilt at her inability in being able enough to
manage family property
Scene 2
- Revelations:
- Loss of Belle Reve
- Stella’s pregnancy
- Stanley’s antagonism towards
Blanche increases
- Laying ground for the motive
behind Blanche’s tragic end
Scene 2
- Structure: 2 parts
- 1. Stella and Stanley
- 2. Blanche and Stanley
- Foundation for later conflicts
is set
- New motif: Bathing
- Extended in the course of the
- Repetitive and intrusive
- Symbolic of Blanche’s attempt
to purify herself from guilt and
her sexual history
Scene 2
- Further construction of a
patriarchal society
- Napoleanic Code
- Class antagonism
- Central conflict:
- Blanche’s unrealistic view
of the world and Stanley’s
realistic one
{Scene 2 - Setting}
It is six o’clock the following evening. BLANCHE is bathing.
STELLA is completing her toilette. BLANCHE’S dress, a
flowered print, is laid out on STELLA’s bed.”
[STANLEY enters the kitchen from outside, leaving the
door open on the perpetual ‘blue piano’ around the
Note: Use of spaces and props important in
understanding themes and concerns.
{Scene 2 - Blanche}
Stella: And admire her dress and tell her she’s looking
wonderful. That’s important with Blanche. Her little
QN: What is Blanche’s weakness/flaw?
-Obsessive nature
-Preoccupation with her youth and her appearance