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A Streetcar Named Desire - Melodrama or Naturalism?

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Hayley Hardicre

on 21 September 2012

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Transcript of A Streetcar Named Desire - Melodrama or Naturalism?

By Caitlin, Hayley, Mabel, & Romany A Streetcar Named Desire:
Melodrama or Naturalism? What is 'melodrama'? In melodrama, the characters and plot are exaggerated in order to extend emotions. It can also affect particular events that represent those characters (as well as the genre, language, behaviour, etc).

Melodrama can be seen in dramatic work in the 19th & 20th centuries where orchestral music or songs went together with the action on stage.

Modern melodrama is often thought of as comical, as actors with over-act and exaggerate their action on stage much more than in real life. This differs from when the style was first introduced, as audiences took emotions and content very seriously. Key Characters in Melodrama Hero - always the valiant one

Heroine - the love of the hero, normally the one the hero saves

Villain - normally likes the heroine

Villain's sidekick – brings comedy element by getting in the way or annoying the villain

The main themes in melodramatic performances are:
Romance
Violence
Good v Evil

(The purpose of melodrama is to show that wrong does not win, by usually having a happy ending. The point is to show that good triumphs all evil.) What is 'naturalism'? Naturalism is a dramatic style work where the
aim of the action is to be ‘believed in’, as if the action
is really happening. It is intended to be the perfect
illusion of reality.

Another word for naturalism is realism. In order to
support this realism, appropriate movement, words,
scenery and set, furniture, props, costume and make up
are all used.
Naturalism's purpose is to make the audience feel as
if they are on the outside looking in.
The idea of ‘the wall’ between the stage and audience
means the actors can’t see through the wall but the
audience can. This supports the realism by making it
seem natural and as if it is really happening.

Naturalism is often referred to as
'a slice of life' because of this. Naturalistic drama is used to allow the characters to show their true feelings, letting them show the audience their emotions properly.
Often, working class characters are used, so the audience are able to
relate to and sympathise with the them.

Practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski is well known for playing a huge part in the creation of naturalism, and is regarded of the founder of realism. What exactly are melodrama and naturalism? How are the characters and dramatic action in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' both Naturalistic and Melodramatic? We believe 'Streetcar' is a generally a more naturalistic play, with images of everyday life and everyday people. We see the characters lives in great detail, and learn a lot about them and their background, whilst also exploring different key themes within.

Many key events happen in the play that help create this idea of an emotional attachment to each individual character, such as Stella’s
beating from Stanley, Blanche leaving Belle Reve, Blanche’s rape, and then the final scene of Blanche’s removal. So is 'A Streetcar Named Desire' more naturalistic or melodramatic? Blanche Blanche can be seen as melodramatic
in the way that she uses lots of exaggeration,
hyperbola, and many other poetic and literary
devices such as similes to display her emotions.

She ‘celebrates’ her heightened emotions with comments such as;
‘You didn’t run? You didn’t scream?’
in response to Stella’s recounting of Stanley smashing the light bulbs.
She uses extended metaphors in discussing Stanley’s ‘animalistic’ behaviour with Stella, describing him as
‘Stanley Kowalski, survivor of the stone age’.

Blanche is very much a stereotypical tragic
heroine, and with her heightened
characteristics, people are saddened but not
surprised by her unfortunate end. The relationships between the characters also add to the naturalism of the play. They help create this sense of reality, as each of them could easily happen in everyday life (eg Stella and Stanley’s relationship.)

Stanislavski wanted audiences to feel as if they had stepped into someone else’s private life whilst watching this type of drama, and he called this ’a slice of life’. Williams succeeded in using this in his play. Desire, fate, death and madness are all explored in the play, and all reflect Tennessee Williams’ private life.

This has a strong effect on the play, as Tennessee has used his own genuine background to write these characters. It makes it seem as if you know Blanche and understand her as much as you do Stella or Mitch. This leaves the audience with an emotional attachment to each character, as they are portrayed as normal everyday people.
This has a much stronger effect as opposed to other types of theatre. Stella Stella is a very naturalistic character,
and she is ‘earthy’ and sensual. A
demonstration of this is when Stella recounts how
Stanley smashed all the light bulbs on her wedding
night and how she tells Blanche that
‘actually I was sorta thrilled by it’, not using any
poetic language, and in fact using ‘sorta’ as a slang term,
showing she veers somewhat towards her husband’s style of
speech more than her sister’s preferred lyricism.

Likewise, when Blanche exclaims that Stella is married to a madman, Stella replies with;
‘I wish you’d stop taking it for granted that I’m in something I
want to get out of’,
showing her very human sexual desire. Another example of
her naturalistic speech in dialogue follows on from
Blanche’s metaphor of the poker party being a
‘party of apes’.
Stella replies that Stanley is ‘too busy making
a pig of himself’, a standard descriptor
that a scolding wife may use. Stanley The melodrama of Blanche's character is
convincingly contrasted to that of Stanley.

Stanley’s conversation is always realistic, sometimes crude and grammatically incorrect, and well reflecting the idiolect of a typical blue collar worker of the time.
For example, when Blanche declares clothes are her passion, Stanley replies with
‘how much does it cost for a string of furs like that?’, demonstrating the working class obsession with money.

Also, the referral of the coat as a ‘string’ of furs shows that Stanley is incapable of appreciating an item with any design quality.
Furthermore, when he is asked by Blanche how she looks, he responds with, ‘you look okay’, a casual
use of slang within a dialogue which
illustrates him as a naturalistic
character. Mitch Mitch may be one of the most
naturalistic characters in the whole
play, despite not having Stanley’s
overwhelming presence.
He is a very balanced character, showing a
full range of realistic emotions; he is gentlemanly
and sensitive, however, he is also clumsy, sweaty,
and likes blue collar activities such as muscle
building.

He shows his anger and embarrassment about the
way Blanche has treated him but still doesn’t
overreact with the brutality demonstrated by
Stanley. He is like Stella in the way he appears at
the end to understand that Blanche’s madness
is a form of tragedy, and cannot look at
her as she crosses the room with
the doctor.
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