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A Streetcar Named Desire

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  1. A

  2. A Streetcar Named Desire • Is one of the better known and much staged plays of Tennessee Williams. • The play was first produced in New York and Boston in 1947. A film version directed by Elia Kazan followed in 1951. • Set in New Orleans, Louisiana, shortly after World War II, the play explores the plight of impoverished Southern gentry and the rapid changes of Southern society in the industrial age. • yet there is a certain universality about them, for his own life aptly depicted the shattering of the American Dream and its effect on the American people.

  3. How do the street cars embody the play’s interlinked themes of desire and death? “Take a streetcar named Desire and transfer to one called Cemeteries …and get off at - Elysian Fields!” p.5

  4. Comparison Question 1) “ Man is driven by the basic human need to secure a territory, a home, and defend it against intruders.” Compare the ways two texts that you have studied present themes related to the individual and society in light of this comment. 2) “The flesh is weak and vulnerable, and individuals are prone to fall from grace.” How far do any of the two texts confirm or challenge the view? .

  5. What do you compare? Similarities and Differences in…

  6. {Setting Scene One} STREETCAR The exterior of a two-storey corner building on a street in New Orleans which is named Elysian Fields and runs between the L & N tracks and the river. The section is poor but unlike corresponding sections in other American cities, it has a raffish charm. The houses are mostly white frame, weathered grey, with rickety outside stairs and galleries and quaintly ornamented gables. This building contains two flats, upstairs and down. Faded white stairs ascend to the entrances of both. It is first dark of an evening early in May. The sky that shows around the dim white building is a peculiarly tender blue, almost turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay.

  7. {Setting Scene One} STREETCAR You can almost feel the warm breath of the brown river beyond the river warehouses with their faint redolences of bananas and coffee. A corresponding air is evoked by the music of Negro entertainers at a bar-room around the corner. In this part of New Orleans you are practically always just around the corner, or a few doors down the street, from a tinny piano being played with the infatuated fluency of brown fingers. This blue piano' expresses the spirit of the life which goes on here.

  8. Comparing Settings A Streetcar Named Desire Othello Takes place mostly in the pomp and grandeur of the world of court 2 settings -Cosmopolitan Venice and Cyprus Politics of power – mighty generals, senators and their lives Man depicted as a territorial animal – having to defend and protect what is his – talk of invasions and wars on the public level and love and betrayal at the private level • Brings us to the world of the everyday ordinary - man in the street (p.3) Elysian Fields, section of New Orleans, is poor and has a raffish charm – Single setting • Much of the play takes place in Stanley Kowalski’s domicile - the buildings are described as weathered, grey rickety…quaintly ornamented gables BUT • The sky is tender blue, almost turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefullyattenuates the atmosphere of decay

  9. {Historical Context} • A Streetcar Named Desire is a stage play with elements of tragedy and pathos. • Play represents the decline of the aristocratic families traditionally associated with the South. • These once­influential families had lost their historical importance when the South's agricultural base was unable to compete with the new industrialization. • Many landowners, faced with large areas of land and no one to work on it, moved to urban areas.

  10. Setting (A Streetcar…) • Much of the action is confined within the Kowalski household and the street as an extension of it. • Tennessee maintains this ‘unity of place’ to present the territorial nature of Man. • With the arrival of Blanche it is evident that Stanley feels that his territorial rights and his Manhood are being threatened.

  11. Setting and ‘Unity of Place’ • With much of the play taking place in Stanley’s apartment Tennessee depicts Man as being fraught with insecurities about being displaced. • Thus, Tennessee explores “the continuing human need to secure a territory, a home, and defend it against intruders” – Konrad Lorenz in On Aggression

  12. Comparing the Opening A Streetcar Named Desire Othello Though Venice is cosmopolitan there seems to be suspicion and hatred for foreigners- tensions are evident Moors and Florentines appear to have made inroads into the core of Venetian society (with Othello and Cassio having intimate connections and relationships with the local Venetians) evident in the speeches and language • New Orleans presented as a racially tolerant and diverse society • There is little indication of divisiveness in this society – harmonious interactions between blacks and whites (where are the tensions/conflicts?) • (stage directions p.1 – relatively warm and easy intermingling of races white woman and black woman)

  13. Compare both protagonists fall from grace A Streetcar Named Desire Othello Tragic hero (Aristotelian Definition) The play is named after its protagonist giving you a sense of the importance of Othello the character – general, a mighty warrior Drawing our attention to Othello and his tragic fall from grace • Tragic heroine • Blanche Dubois as the name suggests is an immigrant in America of French descent • Blanche is presented as a tragic heroine whose dreams of a better life are shattered as she “seeks refuge from unhappiness in the pursuit of pleasure”

  14. Variations in Syntactical Structures used to reflect background, status, mental state, inner conflict, tensions and dilemma A Streetcar Named Desire Othello Blank verse – elevates Shakespeare’s imagery has been described as a technical resource Wilson Knight analysed 2 styles, “one diffuse, leisurely, like a meandering river” which “radiates a world of romantic, heroic, and picturesque adventure” Second style: “blatanly absurd, ugly” Othello’s language changes to reflect the inner turmoil and anguish • The language captures the music evident in colloquial speech – raw and unmasked • Blanche’s educated speech and literary allusions contrast with Stanley’s down-to-earth and crude language—though often effective and amusing—imagery. • The dialogue is rich in tropes, including the commonplace cliches of Stanley and the literary allusions and quotations of Blanche.

  15. Comparing Language Use The Streetcar Named Desire Othello “Rude am I in speech And little blest with the soft phrase of peace…” “Wherein I spake of disastrous chances, moving accidents by flood and field / of hair-breath scapes…” “Even now, now, very now an old Black Ram is tupping your white ewe!” O! O! O! (Othello falls on the bed” “This look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven.And fiends will snatch at it. Cold, cold, my girl, Even like thy chastity. O cursed, cursed slave! Whip me ye devils, from the possession of this heavenly sight! • “You keep right on going and you find it…” • “Don’t let them sell you a Blue Moon cocktail or you won’t go out on your own feet” • “Hey, there! Stella, Baby! • “Catch” – “Meat” • “Hello Eunice. How are you?”

  16. Recall …Last week’s lecture • Stage directions in A Streetcar Named Desire are extremely detailed and cinematic in scope. • Tennessee presents to us a sensory exploration of the poor South getting the audience to see beyond the physical. • The stage directions set the tone, mood or atmosphere of the play however in Othello the stage directions reveal very little about the background (Enter Roderigo and Iago). • The Shakespearen play opens very abruptly with conflict in mid-action. We know neither what has angered Roderigo nor the identity of him.

  17. Use of Language • In both plays, variations in Syntactical Structures areused to reflect background, status, mental state, inner conflict, tensions and dilemma

  18. Allusions in A Streetcar Named Desire • Blanche’s educated speech and literary allusions contrast with Stanley’s down-to-earth and crude language—though often effective and amusing—imagery.

  19. Language in A Streetcar Named Desire • Blanche(with hysterical humour) sees the irony of the situation as a literature teacher. “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’s allusions to literary work are used by Tennessee to reveal her background and her attitude towards the working class: “You sit down, now, and explain this place to me! What are you doing in a place like this?” … “Only Poe! Mr. Edgar Allan Poe! Could do it justice! Out there I suppose is the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir”

  20. Blanche alludes to Poe’s ULALUME to reveal her horror at seeing a place so ghastly revealing her snobbery The skies they were ashen and sober; The leaves they were crisped and sere— The leaves they were withering and sere;It was night in the lonesome October Of my most immemorial year;It was hard by the dim lake of Auber, In the misty mid region of Weir—It was down by the dank tarn of Auber, In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

  21. {Dramatic Techniques} A Streetcar Named Desire Othello The use of dramatic irony to create tensions and expose Man’s vulnerability and blind spots. Soliloquies are used effectively to reveal inner tensions, secrets and vile evil plans of the villain Exposition, a crisis, resolution, renewal (hope)… • Staging – stage directions cinematic in scope • Structure – 11 one-act plays united by a purpose– “moves from hope and frustration to destruction and despair” • “Each scene is contructed like a one-act play” (Tischler)

  22. {Dramatic Techniques} A Streetcar Named Desire Othello Tragedy is cathartic with the hope of renewal as the villainy comes to light, the dead buried, including Desdemona, the sacrficial lamb and new hands take the reign Ends with hope not despair • Ends in despair or hope? – living dead find no reprieve? Stella and Stanley live with guilt? • Blanche’s desire for death evident – “I can smell the sea-air. The rest of my time I’m going to spend on the sea. And when I die I’m going to die on the sea…” • Does Blanche eventually escape from the harsh reality of life? • Does the audience feel any sense of resolution or catharsis?

  23. Tragic End? How Tragic? A Streetcar Named Desire Othello Cassio: For he was of great heart Re-instates the audience sympathy for Othello by absolving him of guilt Lodovico(to Iago): O Spartan dog…This is thy work. Gratiano keep the house… Myself with “heavy heart” relate this “heavy act” • The play ends with Stanley “voluptuously, soothingly” making love to his wife, after Blanche departs “Now, honey. Now, love. Now, now love (kneeling…) Now, now, love. now, love…” • And life goes on on the social level “This game is seven card stud”.

  24. {Epigraph} “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

  25. {Epigraph} 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 • Function: • Introduces reader to thematic concerns of the play, raises questions essential to the play • “Broken World” – metaphor for the themes of love and loss • Provides poetic language against which we can measure the less formal linguistic register of other characters in the play, illuminating Blanche’s literary background

  26. The Elysian Fields – A Mythological Paradise

  27. The Elysian Fields Think about the significance of the setting and what the playwright hoped to convey about the journey of life and human existence through Blanche’s journey?

  28. How does the setting embody the play’s interlinked themes of desire and death? “Take a streetcar named Desire and transfer to one called Cemeteries …and get off at - Elysian Fields!” p.5

  29. {Setting Scene One} STREETCAR Elysian Fields: - Elysium or the Elysian Fields is a conception of the afterlife - Initial admission - reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. - Later, included those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life.

  30. {Setting Scene One} STREETCAR Elysian Fields: Part of the underworld and a place of reward for the virtuous dead. However, viewed as a temporary place of the souls’ journey back to life.

  31. The Elysian Fields Think about the significance of the setting and what the playwright hoped to convey about the journey of life and human existence through Blanche’s experience’s in Elysian Fields?

  32. {Streetcar Symbols} • Naked Light Bulb – truth, reality, epiphany • Paper lantern – disguise reality, create illusion BUT temporary • Colour symbolism • White clothing – symbolises purity and innocence • Red stained meat package – sexuality, establish gender roles • Music as symbol for emotions • Blue Piano – present when Blanche discusses loss and hope • Polka music that Blanche hears, real or imagined? Represents for Blanche death and imminent disaster • Animal symbolism

  33. Imagery / Symbols A Streetcar Named Desire Othello Light and dark imagery Animal imagery Music Imagery of entrapment Ocular imagery Poison Thievery • Light and dark imagery • Animal imagery • Music • White/red/blue • Streetcars – Death/Desire • Elysian Fields

  34. Both Playwrights and their use of Animal Imagery A Streetcar Named Desire Othello However, animal imagery has more negative associations Iago uses coarse, bestial and degrading sexual images of animals in heat to describe both Othello and Desdemona Othello’s speeches, gestures and actions do not display such perverse sexual behaviour. • Animal imagery is used in the stage directions to explicitly associate Stanley with Masculine libido • “a richly feathered male bird among his hens” p.13 • “Animal joy in his being is implicit in all his movements and attitudes”

  35. Film Clip • Notice how Stanley Kowalski portrayed in this film version of the play • And the tensions between Stanley and Blanche • Notice also how the private and public space almost merge as the house becomes an extension of the street • Notice the layout of the Kowalski apartment

  36. Private and Public Space Merge • Neighbourhood is situated between the L&N railroad tracks near a bowling alley and jazz bar. • They live in a two room apartment that is part of a two family house. • Small and very cramped with three adults sharing the space.

  37. {Staging}

  38. {Staging}

  39. {Staging} • Important that audience can see the upstairs, the downstairs, the interior, and the exterior. • Seeing the "outside" allows one to observe characters on the street [racial relations] • Dramatic action of play takes advantage of the flexibility of this setting

  40. {Staging} • Cramp and tight space – increases tension/ conflict between characters • Stanley Kowalski’s small apartment = his kingdom. . • Blanche = an outsider and intruder to his environment. • She occupies the room adjacent to theirs - invading his privacy, encroaching even between Stanley and Stella’s sexual space

  41. {Major} • Blanche Dubois • Stanley Kowalski • Stella Kowalski • Harold Mitchell (Mitch)

  42. {Minor} • Eunice & Steve Hubbel • Pablo Gonzales • Negro Woman (unnamed) • Newspaper Boy • Mexican Woman (flower vendor) • A Doctor • A Nurse