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A street car named Desire

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Analysis of A Street Car Named Desire

Tennessee Williams has recreated the New Orleans of 1940 so well in his play A Street Car Named Desire which is why the play became such a runaway success. The characters are clearly defined and the plot moves along the lines of the story. It is a gripping story which gives the actors a lot of scope to perform. There is a seeming clash of social classes

Blanche – The protagonist

The story starts with a direct look into the life of Stanley Kowalski and his friends, his wife Stella and the neighbors of the Kowalski residence. Blanche, Stella’s sister enters this setup, the plot heats up and ends with Blanche being admitted into an asylum. Blanche stays at her sister’s place for an unspecified amount of time. She arrived with a large trunk and a lot of attitude. Stella and Blanche belonged to a higher class of society. Before things went wrong Stella left Laurel and got married to Stanley. Blanche stayed on to see the worst of times, her pretensions of principles and culture keep her delusions of grandeur hidden, her entire personality is an illusion she presents to protect others and more importantly herself from her reality which is why she arrives at Kowalski’s place. Stella is overjoyed but her husband Stanley who is depicted as a sadist is not and tries to humiliate her in all aspects.

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Blanche has a dirty past which she hides from everyone she meets at Stella’s place, including Stella but Stanley manages to get some details about her. Blanche is attracted to Mitch who is a friend of Stanley’s. Blanche was depicted as a person who seemed to hide certain aspects of her behavior or personality throughout the story. There was something more to her than what people perceived. 

She finally confides in Mitch and tells him about her past and her husband Allan Gray who was   homosexual and committed suicide. She became a widow and worked as an English teacher in a school. Stanley’s probe into Blanche’s past reveals more about her life. Stanley learns that she was fired for having an affair with a teenage student. Her frivolous nature jeopardized her security which forced her to leave Laurel. This was why she turned to her sister for help. Stanley tells Stella and Mitch about this. Stella who was pregnant at that time is rushed to the hospital for her delivery. On that night Stanley comes back home and rapes Blanche out of anger which depicts his sadist and primal nature. This deranges Blanche and she is sent to a mental institution because nobody believed her when she told people Stanley raped her.

Well Chosen Title

A Street Car Named Desire might sound like a strange title but once the plot unfolds it is clear that it is passion and desire that propel the protagonists, which are Stanley and Blanche. Both of them appear to be strong characters but Blanche’s strength is an illusion or a mask which fades making her vulnerable and easy to pick on. Stanley hates Blanche Dubois especially her social delusions of grandeur and security and manages to disturb her temporary sense of mental stability. He buys her one way ticket to Laurel, her old place, and destroys her relationship with Mitch and rapes her in the end. He finds a way to vent his anger and clear his name eventually and retain his family life as Stella refused to believe that he had raped Blanche.

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The Main Characters

Blanche struggles throughout the story to keep a clean image and win Mitch’s heart because Stanley destroyed their relationship. Her lustrous nature manifests itself when she kisses the newspaper boy at Kowalski’s house. Her personality is manifests itself eventually, but is completely exposed by Stanley. Stella’s total surrender to Stanley’s brutal love is not understood by Blanche but that was Stella’s nature. She called that side of Stanley ‘thrilling’. She shared a powerful chemistry with Stanley and was comfortable with his sadist nature. Mitch is softer; a mother’s boy clumsy and weary. Not the kind of man Blanche desired but she held on to him for companionship. He fancied her too but her past vexed him.

 The stage was an important component in this play and had many details to be looked into. New Orleans of 1940 had to be created with authenticity. What the dramatist didn’t convey through words had to be conveyed on the stage. The houses of those areas of New Orleans had to be designed where the likes of Stanley, Mitch and his other friends would be able to fit in. The stage direction in this play required attention to minute details. But Tennessee Williams as a playwright has incorporated all these details into his work making it easy for directors to set the stage.

The mood of the play is set from the word go. Tennessee Williams is an acclaimed playwright, short story writer and a novelist. He is known to bring reality into his works with a poetic touch and the play A Street Car named Desire is no exception. He paints word pictures of life as it is. A much analyzed play this work of Tennessee Williams is still very popular in the world.

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Hi. My name is Gaynor and I have been an academic facilitator since 1992. I have successfully developed and imparted the ICSE, IGCSE and IBDP English and History syllabi. My endeavour is to make support material available to students, who find the prescribed content, analysis and collation of information particularly challenging.

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