A Streetcar Named Desire _1947_ by dffhrtcv3


									A Streetcar Named
      Desire (1947)

  by Tennessee Williams
           New Orleans in the
           The French Quarter
            (also known as the
            Vieux Carre) is the
            downtown area of
            New Orleans.
           It is known for its
            rowdy nightlife: bars,
            hotels, restaurants,
            jazz music, brothels,
            Mardi Gras, etc.
Basic Premise
 Blanche DuBois, an old maid on the verge
 of a nervous breakdown, pays an
 extended visit to her sister, Stella, in New
 Orleans. At the end of her rope and in
 need of some comfort and kindness,
 Blanche instead finds herself in conflict
 with Stanley Kowalski, her attractive but
 brutish brother-in-law.
    Blanche DuBois
 An old maid high school
    English teacher from
   Her not-so-ex-gay husband
    killed himself
   On the verge of a nervous
   Lives in a world of “illusion”
   Round character: Very
    proper and prudish, yet
   Blanche DuBois translates
    in French to white woods
    White symbolizes purity,
    and woods symbolizes sin.
Stella Kowalski
                   Blanche’s younger sister
                   “Stella for star!”; the star that
                    leads Blanche to New
                   Torn between her
                    aristocratic past and her new
                    working-class life with
                   Pregnant during the course
                    of the play.
                   Round character: pragmatic,
                    yet easily blinded by lust
 Stanley Kowalski
 Stella’s husband
 After WW2, sells auto parts
 Working class
 “Capable”
 Of Polish descent
 Continually referred to as a
  caveman, a barbarian, a,
  brute etc.
 Round character: macho,
  yet emotionally infantile
Harold “Mitch” Mitchell
                One of Stanley’s
                   coworkers and poker
                  Lives with and takes care
                   of his sick mother
                  Dates Blanche throughout
                   the summer—until he finds
                   out the truth about her
                  Falls short as the Knight in
                   Shining Armor who will
                   rescue Blanche
                  Round character: clumsy
                   and unrefined, yet gentle
                   and patient.
Plastic Theatre
 Though the play is largely in the style of realism,
  Tennessee Williams incorporates some subtle
  uses of expressionism:
 The audience hears the Varsouviana Polka and
  the gunshot that Blanche hears only in her head
  as a recollection of her husband’s suicide. She
  hears this more and more frequently as she
  slowly loses her grip on reality.
 The set of the apartment gets incrementally
  smaller and smaller as the play progresses,
  mimicking the growing sense of claustrophobia
  felt by all three main characters
The Kindness of Strangers
 Famous last line of the play: “I’ve always
  depended on the kindness of strangers.”
 TW described the play as “a plea for the gentle
  kind”—those of us who are fragile or broken.
 Blanche’s dramatic need throughout the play is
  for kindness and comfort—something that the
  world of reality, masculinity, and blinding light
  does not provide.
 “The only thing that is unforgivable is deliberate
  cruelty.”—Blanche DuBois
 Throughout the play, note how Stella “waits on”
  her sister. This is the nurturing she needs.
Illusion vs. Reality
 The play thematically embraces the notion that
  reality is cruel and that we must forgive people’s
  dependence on lies or illusions.
 Stanley is the chief representative of Reality; he
  shines the light on Blanche’s secret past.
 The Kowalski home isn’t exactly a haven from
  reality; from it, we can see and hear the life of the
  real world outside: fights, vendors, flashing lights.
 Blanche tells many lies over the course of the play
  to protect her own fragile ego.
 “A woman’s charm is 50% illusion.”
 Illusions: her age, her appearance, her purity,
  rhinestones, fake furs, perfume, Chinese lantern,
  the telegram from Shep Huntleigh
“It’s Only A Paper Moon”
 Blanche sings this song about illusion and
 The lyrics suggest that perception and
  belief—no matter how phony—are the true
  creators of reality.
 Blanche believes the illusions and lies that
  she desperately clings to are harmless in
  that they create a gentler, superior world
  than that of the cruel reality of her actual
Light and the Chinese Lantern
 A motif supporting the theme of illusion vs.
 Light exposes truth; light is harsh and critical.
 Blanche, like a spider (resident of the Tarantula
  Arms), prefers the darkness.
 She places a Chinese lantern over the harsh
  bright bulb in the apartment.
 Her dates with Mitch are in dark locations.
 The darkness hides her age, her guilt for the
  sexual misconduct of her recent past, her guilt in
  Allen’s death, her embarrassment at her
  diminishing sanity, and, chiefly, her broken heart.
Death and Desire
 Throughout the play death and desire are linked,
  suggesting that unbridled sexual desire leads to
  isolating darkness and eventually death.
 The whole play in one line: “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!”
 “Death is the opposite of desire.”
 “Flores para los muertos!”
 She is obsessed with youth, and she uses sex
  (sometimes with youths) to escape the death that
  has surrounded her, but conversely, it leads her
  to death. After having many sordid affairs, she
  retreats into the shadows—literally and
 One of the play’s motifs is Blanche’s
  perpetual bathing.
 It symbolically serves as an attempt to
  purify herself from her lascivious past.
 She also claims it soothes her nerves.
 Stanley is likewise cleansed after the
  famed scene of his drunken violence. (Is
  there something in Stanley that is like
The Fall of the South
 The loss of Belle Reve and the demise of
  the aristocratic DuBois family is
  representative of the entropy of the South
  after the Civil War.
 The name of the estate “Belle Reve”
  means “beautiful dream.” This likewise
  links to the illusion vs. reality theme.
 Stanley Kowalski represents the New
  South—harsh, feral, and violent.
Changes From Stage to Screen
 The film begins in medias res with the arrival of
  Blanche; whereas, the play starts with a glimpse
  at the home life of Stella and Stanley before
  Blanche’s intrusion. “Meat!”
 Location shifts: the bowling alley, the tavern
 The biggest change is the backstory of Blanche:
  in the play, Blanche had caught her husband
  Allen Grey in bed with another man. Shortly after,
  while they were attending a dance, Blanche
  called him weak—not being able to control his
  homosexual “inclinations.” He ran outside the
  hall and shot himself. The version of this story in
  the film is “cleaned up” for Hollywood.

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