Streetcar named Desire: dramatic tension Essay
Streetcar named Desire: dramatic tension
A Streetcar Named Desire is the story of Blanche Dubois, a fragile, neurotic woman, in desperate search for a place where she can belong. Circumstances lead to her arriving at her sister Stella’s home in New Orleans. Unfortunately Blanche does not get on at all well with Stella’s husband, Stanley, and the difference between them provides a lot of the dramatic tension overall in the play. Whilst Blanche and Stanley are the two major opposing sides, Stella is stuck in the middle. The story is about which person will win; who is the stronger element, Blanche or Stanley?
The winner gets Stella, but whoever loses will have to leave. The play covers many themes, including love, violence, death, vanity, mental instability, sense of social status, racism, sexism and snobbery. There is also the topic of illusion versus reality, which is widely covered throughout the play. The main culprit of this is Blanche, who is unsuccessfully trying to build a new life, but ends up building herself a shield of fantasy so strongly that even she begins to believe it.
She lies about her age, the reason she had to leave her job and move, and gives a general air of superiority that is out of place, given her own situation in life: Blanche: “….. Where I’m not wanted and where I’m ashamed to be…. ” Stella: “Then don’t you think your superior attitude is a bit out of place? ” – scene 4 However, I think that Stella also builds up an illusion, persuading herself that living with Stanley is what she wants, although really it is her only option: Blanche: “But you’ve given in. And that isn’t right, you’re not old!
You can get out. ” Stella: (slowly and emphatically) “I’m not in anything I want to get out of. ” – scene 4 This layer of fantasy helps build dramatic tension in its own right, because the audience knows that eventually the other characters are going to find out who’s telling lies, and what they are really like. There are three main characters in the play: Stella, Stanley and Blanche. It is clear form the beginning that Blanche does not fit in with these new surroundings. Stage direction: (Her appearance is incongruous to the setting) – scene 1
However, one of the reasons that Blanche left Belle Reve was that she desperately wanted somewhere to belong: Blanche: “Will I just be a visiting inlaw, Stella? I couldn’t stand that. ” – scene 1 Tennessee Williams describes Blanche as a moth when she first turns up at Elysian Fields, this is because she is dressed in dainty white clothing and has an uncertain manner about her. When he first began writing “The Streetcar Named Desire,” “The Moth” was the first title he considered, so this picture of Blanche must have been a very strong image as he wrote her character.
When Blanche arrives at Stella’s it is almost immediately obvious that she has been through something terrible and is on the verge of mental insanity. She herself says “I was on the verge of lunacy! ” You can tell she is very nervous because she gabbles to fill in gaps in the conversation: Stage direction: (She begins to speak with feverish vivacity as if she feared for either of them to stop and think) – scene 1 It is interesting that the first thing Blanche does when she is alone in Stella’s home is to get a drink of whisky.
When she has finished she returns the tumbler to its original place, as if to cover her tracks. This may suggest that she has a drink problem, but she doesn’t want anyone to know about it, another issue that she fantasises about. From the beginning Blanche does not make an attempt to conceal her difference in background, she dresses in expensive clothes and jewellery and doesn’t hide her astonishment at the way the people behave: Blanche: “He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits! ” – scene 4.
She refers to Stanley as “Common,” and this implies that she is a bit of a snob. Blanche is also very vain, consistently powdering her face and never wishing to stand under naked light. . It is evident that Blanche behaves towards Stella the same way that she did in childhood, appearing to play the role of stereotypical older sister, ordering Stella about and calling her “messy. ” However, beneath this domineering outer shell it is plain that Blanche is currently vulnerable and has come to Stella to be taken care of and looked after:
Blanche (to Stella): “Do me a favour. Run to the drugstore and get me a lemon-coke with plenty of chipped ice….. ” – scene 2 Stella, on the other hand genuinely plays the role of caring little sister, she looks after Blanche, and does what she is told: Blanche: “You hear me? I said stand up! ” (Stella complies reluctantly) – scene 1 Stella is also very quiet around Blanche: Stella (to Blanche): “You never did give me a chance to say much, Blanche. So I just got into the habit of being quiet around you. ” – scene 1.
This suggests that she is nervous around Blanche, and wants her approval. In the play script Stella is described as: “A gentle young woman, about 25, and of a background obviously quite different from her husband’s. ” This also states that Stella has had an upbringing different to that of Stanley’s. Although her upbringing was the same as Blanche’s, she has obviously successfully adapted to her current situation in New Orleans, Blanche is less adaptable, and yearns for her old life, which is one reason why she is unable to acclimatize to her new surroundings.