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A Streetcar Named Desire

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cansu yıldırım

on 10 March 2014

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Transcript of A Streetcar Named Desire

 More than with most authors, Tennessee Williams' personal life and experiences have been the direct subject matter for his dramas.
 At the end of 1930’s, he went to Washington University for a year. Last of all, he graduated from Iowa University in 1938.
Tenessee Williams:
Life and it's Reflections in the Play
A Streetcar Named Desire
Tülay Şengül
Gizem Sevinçli
Cansu Yıldırım
Ceyda Taşdemiroğlu
S. Samet Demir

The Genre and Plot of the Play
(Modern) TRAGEDY
In "Tragedy and the Common Man" (1949) , Miller argues that tragedy may also depict ordinary people in domestic surroundings.
rejection of Aristotle's dictum that true tragedy can only depict those with power and high status.
unity of place
: a French Quarter in New Orleans, apartment of Kowalskis

unity of time
: straightforward narration, the past is only flashbacks

unity of action:
one act, single plot

modernism: focus on individuals and problems within the mind
Blache's downfall and tragic end
Naturalism / Realism Throughout the Play
Drama (melodrama)
psychological realism
magical realism
social realism

southern gothic
 Tennessee Williams was born on March 26, 1911 in the small town of Columbus, Mississippi.
 His real name is Thomas Lanier Williams.
He was the second child of Cornelius and Edwina.
 In 1918, his family moved to Missouri St. Louis.
 At the beginning of 1930’s, he went to Colombia University.

 At this time; his sister became mentally retarded because of wrong operation.
 Tennessee described desire as being "...rooted in a longing for companionship, [it is] a release from the loneliness
that haunts every individual.”
 He was also a homosexual and he fell in love with
his secretary, Frank Merlo. This relationship
began in 1947.
 Frank Merlo died in 1963.
 In 1979, he was attacked because of
his homosexuality.
 In 1983, he swallowed a bottle cap accidentally
and this caused his death.
 He was found at the Elyse Hotel
in New York.
 In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams says, he is Blanche.
 They both lust after Stanley.
"I cannot write any sort of story unless there is at least one character for whom I have physical desire.”
 Williams, like Blanche, neurasthenic.
Thirty five per cent of his energy, he said went into "the perpetual struggle against lunacy (neurasthenia, hypochondria, anxiety feelings)… it's like having wild-cats under my skin.”
 Throughout his life Tennessee Williams was driven from one sexual encounter to another, exactly like Blanche.
 He used the play to express his envy of heterosexuals and his self-hatred.
 Williams dignifies his own self-loathing and desire for immolation by identifying Blanche's defeat with the cause of culture.
 At the end of the play, Williams has achieved his unconscious goal: destroying the heterosexual male.
“they told [her] to take a street-car named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!” (1.16).
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…
Haven’t you ever ridden on that street-car?
It brought me here. (4.104-106)
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
– “The Broken Tower” by Hart Crane
Tennessee Williams teasingly drops clues about all the major
reveals of the second and third acts in the introductory exposition,
as though he were writing a mystery.
The exposition is indistinguishable from the character development.
Rising Action

"They had this date from the beginning."
After Stanley's harsh cruelty during Blanches birthday dinner, Stella goes into labor.

Stanley takes Stella to the hospital leaving Blanche alone

Mitch soon arrives drunk breaking off his relationship with Blanche

Once she was alone again, Stanley returns from the hospital and rapes her.
He takes out his aggression and sex (the only thing he really knows or cares about women) on Blanche.
Stella calls help for her sister
Weeks after the rape, Stella prepares for blanches departure

Stella tells Eunice; she didn't believe Blanches rape

Blanche boasts that she is leaving on a trip with her millionaire lover

When the doctor arrives, Blanche leaves with little struggle
Blanche [with faintly hysterical humour] :

Mitch [wildly] :

Blanche [throwing back her head] :

Stella [agonizingly] :

Blanche [tensely] :

Stanley [amiably] :

Stanley [grinning amiably] :

examples (writer instructions)
from the play:
Psychological Realism
"[Blanche] ruches past into the bedroom. Lurid reflections appear on the walls in odd, sinous shapes." (11.57)
I don’t want realism. I want magic! [Mitch laughs] Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it! – Don’t turn the light on! (9.43)
a generally realistic
setting with some odd
fantasy thrown in
the fantasy enters the picture when the audience gets to see and hear some of
Blanche’s imagined horrors: shadows on the
wall, the eerie polka music overhead, the
sounds of echoing voices.
Social Realism, because of the play’s frank treatment of issues like immigration, class, gender roles, and power plays between women and men.
the "supernatural"
History of the US from 1918 to 1945
- 1920s was a period of sustained prosperity, except agriculture the industry flourished
- returning veterans could not find Works
- leaving rural America for the cities
- 1920, right for women to vote
- electrification reached all the cities and towns
- 1929 Stock Market Crash
- Black culture flourished
- Radio
- Herbert Hoover
- Great Depression

- Franklin D. Roosevelt
- New Deal
- WWII, End of the Great Depression
- 1945 marked the end of an era
- economic growth and general prosperity
- 1945, Truman
- Poverty and inequality in the postwar era
- Difficulties for women
- The Cold War

Significance of the Historical Context to the Drama
- Collision of worlds: The old South & The new South
- embodied in Blanche and Stanley
- Days of Belle Reve and Southern Plantation culture are gone
- New constructions of power: Money and materialism
- “I write out of love of the South ... (which) once had a way of life that I am just old enough to remember—a culture that had grace, elegance, an inbred culture, not a society based on money.” (Williams)
- History and culture of New Orleans
- the real streetcar named Desire
- Napoleonic Code

- The South
- Decline of the aristrocratic families
- The South’s agricultural base was unable to compete with the new industrialization

- Women’s Role
- Blance constrained by the expectations of the Southern society

- Destruction of Blanche = Destruction of the old South
Stage Productiction
- opened on Broadway on December 3rd, 1947
- closed on December 17th, 1949 in the Ethel Barrymore Theatre
- 855 Performances
- directed by Elia Kazan, produced by Mayer Selznick
• Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski
• Jessica Tandy as Blanche Du Bois
• Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski
• Karl Malden as Harold "Mitch" Mitchell
• Rudy Bond as Steve Hubbell
• Nick Dennis as Pablo Gonzales
• Peg Hillias as Eunice Hubbell
• Vito Christi as Young Collector
• Richard Garrick as Strange Man
• Ann Dere as Strange Woman
• Gee Gee James as Negro Woman
Original Cast:
Marlon Brando & Jessica Tendy
The London Production opened at the Aldwych Theatre on October 12,1949, directed by Laurence Olivier

Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois
Renee Asherson as Stella Kowalski
Bonar Colleano as Stanley Kowalsi
Bernard Braden as Harold Mitchell
Eileen Dale as Eunice Hubbel
Lyn Evans as Steve Hubbel
Theodore Bikel as Pablo Gonzales
Bruce Howard as Negro Woman
Sydney Monckton as Strange Man
Mona Lilian as Strange Woman
John Forrest as Young Collector
Eileen Way as Mexican Woman

- 1956, New York
- 1973, Broadway
- 1988, Square Theatre
- 1992, Ethel Barrymore Theatre
- 1997, New Orleans
- 2005, Broadway
- 2009, African-American Production;
Sydney Theatre Company; London
- 2010, Chicago Production; Oxford University
- 2012, Broadhurst Theatre
- 2014, Young Vic


- Movie
- A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
- Opera
- Ballet
- Television


• 1948 New York Drama Critics' Circle Best Play
• 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
• 1992 Theater World Award for Best Actress in a Play – Jessica Lange
• 2010 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Play – Rachel Weisz
• 2010 Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Play - Ruth Wilson


• 1948 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play – Jessica Tandy
• 1988 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play
• 1988 Best Actress in a Play – Frances McDormand
• 1988 Best Actress in a Play – Blythe Danner
• 1992 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play – Alec Baldwin
• 2005 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play – Amy Ryan
• 2005 Tony Award for Best Costume Design of a Play
• 2005 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design of a Play
• 2010 Olivier Award for Best Revival of a Play

Realistic / Naturalistic
Stanley's conversations
power of nature over mankind

images of everyday life and everyday people
Themes, Motifs, Symbols
The Conflict Between Fantasy and Reality (Appearance and Reality)

The Relationship Between Sex and Death

Dependence on Men

The Conflict Between Fantasy and Reality (Appearance and Reality)
Reality has triumph over fantasy

Blanche is the representative of fantasy
Stanley is the representative of reality

Stanley’s triumph over Blanche

«I don’t want realism, I want magic! Yes, yes magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it! – Don’t turn the light on!»
(Blanche, Scene 9)

The antagonistic relationship between Blanche and Stanley is the struggle between appearances and reality.

The Relationship Between Sex and Death and Madness
Blanche’s fear of death:
Fear of aging
Lost of beauty

Blanche’s sexual history leads to her downfall

«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, Scene 1)

Elysian Fields: the land of the dead in Greek mythology.
Her sexuality caused her to leave Belle Reve and her expulsion form society.
Her ancestor’s «epic fornications»
Her husband’s death – his homosexual affair
The Mexican woman selling «flowers for the dead»

«Death – I used to sit here and she used to sit over there and death was as close as you are… We didn’t dare even admit we had ever heard of it!»
(Blanche, Scene 9)
It reminds her of her own fate and death.

Blanche’s madness is because of:
Her inability to act on desire
Fear of death

Sex and death are linked in her existence
Dependence on Men
Blanche’s and Stellas’s dependence on men

They see their male companions as their only means to achieve happiness and survival.

Blanche thinks that marrying Mitch is her only chance to survive.

Dependence on men lead her downfall not her salvation

Blanche avoids appearing in light
Her real appearence and real age

«And turn that over-light off! Turn that off! I won’t be looked at in this merciless glare!»
(Blanche, Scene 1)

Paper lantern
«I bought this adorable little colored paper lantern at a Chinese shop on Bourborn! Put it over the light bulb! Will you, please?»
(Blanche, Scene 3)
Bright light: youthful sexual innocence
Poor light: sexual maturity and disillusionment

Mitch’s learning the truth and wants Blanche to stand under the light

Represents her efforts to cleanse herself and sordid past

«But you don’t look at me, Stella, no, no, no, not till later, not till I’ve bathed and rested.»
(Blanche, Scene 1)
Hello, Stanley! Here I am, all freshly bathed and scented, and feeling like a brand new human being!»
(Blanche, Scene 2)

Stanley’s Drinking: social
Blanche’s drinking
anti-social as she keeps it a secret

Drinking to escape from reality

Drinking leads to destructive behaviours:
Stanley’s rape
Blanche’s gradual departure from sanity

Shadows and Cries


Belle Reve, Cemeteries, Elysian Fields

Rape- thief, drunkard, prostitute

Shadows and Cries: Blanche’s breakdown and departure from sanity

Meat: symbolizes the sexuality between Stanley and Stella

Belle Reve: losing dreams and innocence
Cemeteries and Elysian Fields:
«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, Scene 1)
Blanche’s life: from desire to death

Rape: the final destruction of the Old South’s genteel fantasy world by the cruel present.

Old South: Blanche
Present: Stanley

Blue Piano:
Expresses the spirit of the life going on there
Suggests physical pleasure, animal strength, vitality and appears at significant emotional moments in the play

The Polka Varsouviana
Heard only by Blanche
Represents Blanche’s worsening state of mind in the play
This music torments her because of it reminds her of her husband
Sometimes soft and sometimes insanely distorted
Bleak past & bleak future

Devlin, Albert J (ed) Conversations with Tennessee Williams, University Press of Mississippi, 1986

Roudane, Matthew C, (ed) The Cambridge Companion to Tennessee Williams,
Cambridge University Press, 1997
Full transcript