Consider the effectiveness of this extract from ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ with particular reference to what it adds to the play as a whole. The extract that I shall be analysing is the start of Scene Nine (200-204), which concentrates on showing Blanche’s reactions towards having her illusions shattered, and revealing her past to Mitch. This extract contains drama, tension, and gives the entire play a sense of secrets being revealed, without which, the play would not feel as complete.
This extract is effective not only because it holds the audience’s attention firmly, but also because the way language is used gives the entire scene a dark and mysterious air. This is a relatively small section, but crucial to the play as a whole because without it, the play would not contain finality towards Mitch. Blanche, to start with, is visibly shaken when approached by Mitch at her door. She had a suspicion that Mitch has been told by Stanley about her past, but blithely ignores this in favour of acting as if nothing at all is wrong.
We know that this is true, due to Stanley’s earlier comments. STANLEY: Say, do you happen to know somebody named Shaw? She knows that Stanley is aware of the truth, and becomes nervous, because she had heard him telling Stella about his intention to inform Mitch of this while she was bathing. She begins to ramble on, because she is so nervous of what he will say, since she would have picked up the feeling from him, from the moment that he walked through the door, that he was not best pleased with her.
‘[She offers him her lips.
He ignores it and pushes past her into the flat. She looks fearfully after him… ]’ You can tell by the way she is said as looking ‘fearfully’ after him that she does in her heart know that he has been told about her past, and that soon he will not want to be anywhere near her, ever again (which almost causes a breakdown before his very eyes), but she prefers to delude herself. She begins to create another complex illusion that she makes by talking quickly about nothing in particular: ‘But I forgive you. I forgive you because it’s such a relief to see you. ‘
Blanche is also beginning to unravel after Mitch asks her to turn the fan off, and she hastily agrees, desperate to be seen as able to comply in some way or another. This can be sensed by the way that music, which can be easily ‘caught in your head’, is about to take place. Music is played when a significant event is about to take place. This is represented by the ‘blue piano’ when the event is between two people, and the ‘Varsouviana’ when it shows Blanche’s sanity decreasing. To Blanche, this piece of music represents the moment in which her life, her sanity ended: the moment when her husband died.
It brings back to her mind how she betrayed him, and caused his death. BLANCHE: We danced the Varsouviana! … A few moments later – a shot! She seems unable to concentrate upon the present if she can hear that music echoing in some part of her mind; she feels inexplicably unable to draw herself away from it, and instead must wait until she hears the shot. ‘[A distant revolver shot is heard, BLANCHE seems relieved. ]’ The way that she seems ‘relieved’ suggests that she needs this moment to come in order to obtain some sort of finalisation; she cannot live without being reassured that this is the reality, not a dream.
When she hears the shot, she is reminded once more that, despite all of her illusions, she must remain in touch with reality. It is quite effective since it manages to heighten the tension quickly, then swiftly stop it. When the shot is heard, it is like she becomes sane again, because the ‘voices in her head’ (which by a twist of dramatic irony are audible to the audience, but not to Mitch) have gone for the moment. Towards the middle of scene, the tension that has steadily been mounting throughout the scene (due to neither character so far confronting the other with the main topic of conversation) comes to a head.
Mitch notices something crucial about Blanche; he notices the perpetual darkness in which Blanche exists. This darkness is both literal and metaphorical; Mitch tries to rectify this problem by using another blunt phrase: ‘MITCH: I don’t think I ever seen you in the light. ‘ The way that he uses the word ‘light’ here could also imply that he has never seen Blanche’s true personality, let alone her soul; her complex illusions disguise it, just as her fine clothes disguise her body. Mitch desperately wants the rumours to be proved false, yet to do so he must persuade Blanche to reveal her true self.
This section is effective in making the audience sympathetic towards Blanche and Mitch alike; Blanche because the audience knows she will lose her one true chance of happiness, and Mitch because he wants to be able to trust Blanche, but will never be able to. The symbolism of a paper lantern is again mentioned; the way that Mitch ‘tears the paper lantern off the light bulb’ could be interpreted as him stripping away the lies and the brightly coloured costumes; all that remains is the truth.
Mitch is then able to see Blanche without all the sparkles, the colours, and see directly into her soul. This is similar to a previous conversation, MITCH: How old are you? [She makes a nervous gesture] She then did not want to reveal the truth, but now she is forced to, which makes this scene seem much more violent and dramatic. It is the conclusion to the above extract, where he wanted to see reality, because unlike Blanche, he has no desire to lose his grip on it. ‘BLANCHE: I don’t want realism.
👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!
Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.get help with your assignment