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A Streetcar Named Desire

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Judith Horne

on 19 October 2017

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Transcript of A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire
Tennessee Williams
Questions for Discussion

What are your
first impressions
of Blanche? Use quotes to back up your answer.
What are your
first impressions
of Stanley? (use quotes)
What are your
first impressions
of Stella? (use quotes)?

What does Blanche mean when she says on p.5 '
I've got to keep a hold of myself
What do we learn about Blanche's drinking habits in this scene?
What do you think about the
relationship between Stella and Blanche
? Again, use quotes to back up your answer.

Why has Blanche come to Stella's? (use quotes and give at least two answers.)

Compare and contrast Stella's home and Belle Reve.

Plot Summary
Blanche arrives at Elysian Fields.
Blanche tells Stella she has lost Belle Reve.
Blanche meets Stanley for the first time.
We learn her husband died.
Key Literary Issues
of Blanche- drinking; beliefs in social class; her vanity; her treatment of Stella.
of Stanley - note that Stanley is called a 'gaudy seed bearer' in the stage directions.
of Stella- 'gentle'
class issues
sexual issues (desire)
loss/ death
The music of the 'blue piano' (representing this area of New Orleans) and the 'polka' (representing the death of Allan)

Scene 1
Blanche arrives...

Scene 2
Plot Summary
Blanche and Stella are going out for the evening while the men have a poker game.
Stanley learns about the loss of Belle Reve and is angry, mentioning the Napoleonic code.
Blanche is flirtatious towards Stanley
Blanche discovers that Stella is pregnant
Key literary issues
We are being prepared for Blanche's inevitable downfall, partly because of Stanley, here. (
Stanley is resentful over the class distinction between himself and the sisters. He uses his sexuality to 'bring them down.' He gets even more annoyed with Stella mocks him for his lack of understanding about how much Blanche's clothes are worth.
Blanche's behaviour towards Stanley makes him question her 'purity.

Blanche's baths- these
her desire for purity and cleansing from her guilt for her sexual affairs and her part in her husband's death.
Questions for Discussion
What do you think of Stanley's
to the loss of Belle Reve?
Discuss the part of the scene where Stanley goes through Blanche's things.
Is this
to Blanche?
How does Stella
to Stanley's behaviour?
Pick three quotes which show
Blanche flirting with Stanley
and show how these illuminate the flirtation.
Is Stanley
in using the Napoleonic code as an excuse to 'bully' Blanche into showing him the papers?
How do you feel towards each of the main characters at the end of this scene? Give a reason for your answers.
Blanche and Stella return and the men are still playing poker.
Mitch and Blanche meets for the first time
Stanley drunkenly rows with Stella and ends up hitting her.
Stella and Blanche go to Eunice's for sanctuary.
Stella returns to her husband, much to the horror of Blanche.
Plot Summary
Scene 3
Questions for Discussion
Trace the use of
in this scene.
Why is the 'covering of the light' important?
Describe Stanley's
in the scene (use evidence/ quotes) to back up your answer.
Why do you think
Blanche is interested in Mitch?
Why do you think
Mitch is interested in Blanche?
can you draw between Mitch and Blanche?
What is the
of the violent episode between Stella and Stanley?
Put the main
four characters in order of sympathy
(from most to least) and discuss why you have listed them as such.

Key Literary Points
the primary colours emphasise the harshness of the men.
covering of the light with the lantern
is a metaphor for Blanche's secrets and decision to hide from reality
Stanley's violent and aggressive side is shown, but also his likeability and passion for his wife.
There is an argument that Stanley is jealous of Mitch's interest in Blanche and this is why is 'loses it' with Stella
Blanche's penchant for telling lies becomes evident and note her sexual behaviour at the curtain. These
the end...
Scene 4
More of Blanche's character is revealed...

Plot Summary
Blanche tries to convince Stella to leave Stanley.
We see Blanche's 'real' feelings towards Stanley
We are introduced to the 'imaginary' Shep Huntleigh
Stanley's mockery of Blanche continues.
Questions for Discussion
Compare and contrast
Stella and Blanche's approaches to Stanley and his behaviour. Use quotes to back up your ideas.
do we have in this scene that Blanche's mind is
How would you feel
if you were Stanley and you overheard Blanche's opinions of you?
Key Literary Devices
A scene of calm or tension? (
The metaphor of the Streetcar-
desire brought Blanche to Elysian Fields
note the
between Stella and Blanche's 'desire.'
Note Stanley's presence when Blanche is talking about him-
dramatic irony
Blanche is unravelling.
Plot Summary
It is insinuated that Stanley knows something about Blanche's past.
Blanche tries to explain her past to Stella.
Stella tries to persuade Blanche that things will work out with Mitch.
Blanche flirts with a young man

Questions for Discussion
Discuss two ways
is portrayed in this scene.
How is Blanche's past beginning to filter through in this scene?
Discuss Blanche's long speech on p.53. How does Blanche
her past?
What is
about Blanche and Mitch's relationship, in the context of this scene?
What is the point (in a dramatic sense) of Blanche's interlude with the young man at the end of the scene?
Scene 5
The past haunts Blanche

Key Literary Points
built up by the underlying aggression in the scene
also built up by the 'hints' we see towards Blanche's past.
of the light continues with Blanche's 'moth-like' appearance and the 'paper lantern' metaphor.
The past is coming back to haunt Blanche as is highlighted by the 'young man' incident.
We wonder how much Blanche wants Mitch, and how much she is in 'self-destruct' mode.
Scene 6
Blanche's marriage and future hopes
Plot Summary
Blanche and Mitch return from an awkward night out.
We hear the story of Blanche's previous marriage.
Mitch suggests they could perhaps be together.
Questions for Discussion
Why do you think Blanche and Mitch
did not have a good time
on their date?
Now you know the story of Blanche's marriage, discuss what may have led to her being the way she is. How may this have
on her?
What does Blanche mean on p.65 when she says
'No! To think of it makes me...'
Key Literary Points
Note how Blanche
ignores reality
in this scene (Paris etc)
mocks Mitch
(further showing her contempt for him) by speaking to him in French and rolling her eyes.
Blanche's musing over Stanley foreshadows the end.
Music/ motif
Note the recurring music of the polka is explained in this scene. We hear it when the 'dead' husband is being discussed. No characters except Blanche hear it.
Scene 7
Blanche's Birthday
Plot Summary
Stanley reveals everything he has found out about Blanche.
She was a prostitute
She had an affair with a school boy
She was kicked out of Laurel
Mitch has learned of Blanche's past and is shocked.
Points for Discussion

the incidents that have happened to Blanche.
Which one makes you most sympathetic towards her and why
Is Mitch's reaction
? Why/ why not?
How would you sum up
Stanley's reaction
to what he has found out?
Key Literary Points
Note the
between Blanche's singing and the doom that is being discussed outside the bathroom.
builds tension
- Blanche is unaware (or is she) of what is going on outside the bathroom.
Scene 8
Arguments, presents and labour
Plot Summary
See if you can come up with the main points of this scene.
Explain three main things that happen/ are happening in this scene.
We will then discuss your responses.
Questions for Discussion
What is
about the fading light at the start of the scene?
further displays
do we have of Stanley's temper in this scene?
How does Stanley
a) claim he brought Stella '
down off them columns'
b) bring Blanche back to reality (for a bit, anyway!)
Key Literary Points
Note the
of the setting.
Note the
- we hear the polka when the bus ticket is given to Blanche
symbolising the climax
to follow.
There is
rising tension
in this scene, displayed through the pauses and the characters' behaviour. Blanche tries to keep things light but Stanley crashes them back to earth.
The baby's imminent arrival clears the way for Stanley and Blanche to be alone.
Plot Summary
Summarise the main incidents in this scene.
Scene 9
Mitch confronts Blanche
Points for discussion
Discuss the
in the relationship between Blanche and Mitch. Pick quotes from this scene to back up your ideas.
How does Blanche
attempt to avoid hearing the 'truth'
from Mitch? (state three ways)
What more do we learn about Blanche's drinking in this scene?
Discuss the
symbolic meaning
behind Mitch removing the paper lantern.
Who deserves more sympathy
at the end of this scene- Blanche or Mitch, and why?

Key Literary Points
Note the
of the lantern- by tearing it down, we are also seeing the 'stripping' of Blanche - it is in this scene she
reveals the truth
She also reveals the truth that she doesn't want reality, she wants 'magic', and that she tells 'what ought to be the truth.'
Note the
of the Mexican woman selling flowers for the dead, just as we hear of Blanche's battles with death.
The attempted rape by Mitch
foreshadows and contrasts
with the rape at the end of the play.
Scene 10
The Climax
Plot Summary
Blanche is wandering about the apartment, dressed up and drunk.
Stanley has been sent home from the hospital as the baby will be a while yet.
Stanley winds Blanche up, laughing as she tells lies about Mitch and Shep Huntleigh.
Blanche becomes clearly terrified of Stanley and he rapes her.
Questions for Discussion
Discuss how Blanche's mind is shown to
further in this scene. Focus on her
words and the stage directions.
to we detect in Stanley at the beginning of this scene and why might this be?
How far can we
blame Blanche
for what happens to her at the end of the play?
Have we
any sympathy
at all for Stanley now?
does Stanley do what he does?
Key Literary Points
Note the 'nightmare'
in this scene, portrayed through the
lights, music, shadows and the use of contrast
. This is all used to build up to the 'climactic' rape.
This is the last scene in which we see Blanche as 'semi' sane (if indeed, we could ever class her as such a thing...).

Scene 11
The Aftermath
Plot Summary
Stella, unable to accept that Stanley raped Blanche, has had her committed to a mental institution.
Blanche thinks Shep Huntleigh is coming to rescue her.
She is confused when she discovers it is not Shep Huntleigh at the door.
Mitch turns on Stanley. He blames Stanley for the position he and Blanche are now in.
Stella is wracked with guilt and Stanley tries to comfort her with affection.
Questions for Discussion
Stella do the right thing
in having Blanche committed?
do you think of Stanley
How far can we
Blanche for her own downfall? Who or what else may be responsible?
Put the
four main characters in order of sympathy
and discuss how this may have changed from when you previously did this exercise.
Key Literary Points
between the characters
at the start and the end
between the
climax of scene 10 and the resolution of scene 11
Note Stanley removes the paper lantern showing us that Blanche can no longer 'hide' from the truth, and on a symbolic level, that he exposed it.
Blanche's line '
I have always depended on the kindness of strangers
' works in many ways- she has, but ironically these are often not as 'kind' as she may think.
Stanley discovers...
Drink, violence and relationships
Choose a play which explores one of the following:the nature of heroism, the impact of self delusion, the burden of responsibility.
Show how the dramatist explores this central concern through her or his presentation of one or more than one character.
Impact of self delusion
How is this explored through presentation of Blanche?

Say what play, writer and character you are going to use
Define self delusion
say what you are going to do in your essay (use the question)
outline the argument
Break down the question
What are you being asked to do ?
(focus on the
Highlight key words and phrases.
option (the impact of self delusion)
character (obviously here we would pick
She is deluded about her age and tries to hide it (light metaphor/ birthday candles)
She is deluded about how she can fix her life (Mitch/ Shep Huntleigh)
She is living in self denial (drinking and bathing)
She tries to ignore her past by pretending to be something she is not (dressing up/ innocence etc).
Leads to the rape (i.e. the situation she has found herself in means she is subject to Stanley's will.)
Leads to her imprisonment (i.e. Because she has displayed such fragile behaviour, Stella is forced to herself become deluded about Stanley.)
Blanche's self delusion impacts on her character's fate
Discuss ways Blanche is self-deluded
Open out to wider reflection
How far is Blanche really self-deluded? (She smashes the mirror when she sees herself- is it all an act? Why is it an act?
How far does this play suggest that we are all vulnerable to the past infecting our present?
Conclude by restating the argument - that the impact of self-delusion is presented through Blanche's fate.
This is only ONE suggestion- there are many different ways to construct essays.
Split these points into separate paragraphs
Further points to think about
How will you include your critical terminology?
This should naturally 'drop' into your discussion and not be forced- i.e. 'the characterisation of Blanche' or 'the setting is claustrophobic which enhances the tension'
What quotes will you use?
Learn a bank of quotes like the ones connected above.
'Now don't get worried, your sister hasn't turned into a drunkard' (Blanche, sc.1)
You thought I'd been fired? (Blanche, sc1)
I received a telegraph from an old admirer of mine. (Blanche, sc.10)
When questioned about Laurel by Stanley she says 'I'm afraid he does have me mixed up with this other party.' (Blanche, sc.5)
'I've got to be good and keep my hands off children' (Blanche, sc5)
'Now Mitch. Just because Stanley and Stella aren't home is no reason why you shouldn't behave like a gentleman' (IRONY) (sc6)
'soaking in a hot tub' (Stanley, sc.7)
'You've been lapping it up all summer like a wild cat' (Stanley, sc.9)
'I don't want realism' Blanche, sc. 9
'moth' sc.1 sd.
'We've had this date from the beginning' (Stanley, sc.10)
'She's got it mixed up in her mind with Shep Huntleigh.' Stella, sc.11
'The Tarantula Arms' Blanche, sc.9
'This woman is morally unfit for her position' Blanche, sc.9
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