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For those of you who know this play will understand that it is crawling with hidden meanings, symbolism and metaphors. I am studying this play at AS Level English Literature and am thoroughly enjoying it. The hidden depths, which are lyers thick, make essay writing a hard and time consuming task! But it has to be done!
I watched this play the other day at theatre in Norwich and I have to say that watching the play ruined my image of what i thought the play would be like, i was much happier with my own imagination to be honest! But it was interesting to see how the director interpreted it.
It has been said that Williams deliberately sets up a pattern on tension and conflicts in the play, which culminate in the ending. Do you agree?
In “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams, Williams employs a number of devices to create tension and conflict, he then expertly combines all of these devices into the final scene. In this essay I am going to explore each point that he draws into the final scene, each point with significance towards the whole of the play. Scene 11 begins with Blanche, once again in the bath. Throughout the play there are a number of references to water and bathing. In scene 2, Blanche is talking to Stanley after just removing herself from the bath. She describes the way she is feeling to Stanley, she says she feels “like a brand new human-being” and again on page 192 after getting out of the bath she says that she feels “so good and cool and-rested”. Blanche always feels her best after having a bath, I think that she feels that bathing not only cleans her, but she feels it is helping her to wash away the guilt that she still feels for the death of Allan. In scene 11 when Blanche is talking about the unwashed grape, I feel that she is using the grape to represent her, before she has bathed she feels like an unwashed grape which she says could kill her, meaning that if she is dirty and unwashed it will almost kill her illusion of beauty which is why she needs to regularly clean herself so that she is clean and beautiful, not just to her but to everyone else, this way her beauty can not be killed.
Stanley and his friend are once again playing polka in the final scene. The last time they played polka was in the explosive scene 3 where Stanley actually hit Stella, making it quite a key scene. The fact that once again they are playing
polka suggests that something eventful is about to take place, which it does, Blanches gets taken away from Stella by the doctor and matron.
Colours are one of the main themes throughout the play. Williams uses vivid images of colour to express how he wants the characters to be seen. Blanches is always dressed in white or very pale colours, this is to show her innocence, which is actually deception created by Blanche to try and fool the people around her. The use of colour creates tension throughout the play because it helps to provide such a vivid picture, of that the scene would look like, to the reader.
Stanley’s animalistic behaviour plays a main part in the whole of the play as well as in the final scene. Eunice describes the men as
“Making pigs of themselves”
They acted just like this during the last polka game, they are carrying on as if this is a normal night, this slightly unnerves the reader, and lures them into a false sense of security, thinking that nothing major will happen because it would be repeat of last time. However, something big does happen, this is a technique that Williams has used to deliberately create tension in the play.
Stanley is violent throughout the play, but since blanche is being taken away one would expect him to have at least a little remorse, but no he is as cold as ever, and cant wait to get rid of her.
Shep Huntleigh is first mentioned in scene 4 on page 159, Blanche tells her sister about his millions. At this point in the play we do not know if this is the truth or if it is something that Blanche has made up. His presence in previous scenes is given a reason for, it all makes sense now, Williams introduced each point in the final scene throughout the play so that it all ties in at the end. Scene 11 is created because of the fact that Blanche has lied to everyone, and to herself by convincing herself that Shep is coming to get her. The madness of Blanche creating this character makes the tension is the scene immense because no one knows what is actually going to happen when he does not turn up, then when the doctor arrives, we are as shocked as she is!
The rape at the end of scene 10 is the main reason for the events in scene 11. Stella does not want to believe that her husband, Stanley, raped her sister, so she assumes that Blanche has made this up and is deluded, this however is one of the few things that Blanche talks about that is truth. Stella says,
“I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley” Page 217
Stella is still unsure as to weather Blanche is actually telling the truth. Eunice tried to comfort her by telling her not to “believe it”. The fact that Stella is unsure creates tension in the scene because it is too late now for Stella to take back the fact that she has called the doctor, she has chosen not to believe Blanche, which we know was the wrong thing to do, tension arises as the reader anticipates weather Stella will find out the truth.
Blanches appearance is always top of her agenda. In scene 1, one of the first things Blanche says to Stella is
“I want you to look at my figure” Page 123
In the final scene Blanche is just as adamant that she has to look her best,
“How do I look?” Page 221
This is understandable in this scene because she thinks she is going to meet someone and be taken somewhere nice, but throughout the rest of the play, in scene 10 for example, she has not real excuse to be dressed so well. Blanche knows her looks are slipping and this saddens her, she is used to having men chasing after her, and knows this is not happening to her she has to create her own illusion. In scene 11 Stella tells Eunice to “tell her how well she’s looking”, Stella knows Blanche well, and knows how important it is that she is complimented, Stella is trying to keep Blanche as happy as possible because she feels guilty at sending her away.
The Varsouviana is first played in scene 6 when Blanche is reviving the memory of Allan’s death, the tunes carries on playing at intervals throughout the play, as the music is played more often, Blanche slowly looses control, the Varsouviana is a sign of Blanches mental state. In scene 11 the tunes is played most of the way through, to show that Blanche has finally lost control of herself. The frequentness of this music will create tension because of it symbolism.
Blanche has avoided talking about death throughout the play, it reminds her of Allan. In the final scene, however, she talks about it bluntly and casually, as if it was not actually blanche talking.
“I’m going to die at sea” Page 220
The way she talks about her own death is quite un-nerving, especially the manner in which she says she will die
“That unwashed grape has transported her soul to heaven” Page 220
The reader is not sure weather to take this statement as a sarcastic joke, or as a sincere comment from a deluded mind.
When Blanche passes through the kitchen past the polka players, she says
“Please don’t get up. I’m only passing through” page 221
There is no reason why these men would stand up as she walked through, but she seems to believe that she is important enough. There are a number of references to royalty throughout the play,
“A pair of queens” Page 194
This creates tension in the final scene because we all know that this statement made by Stanley was sarcastic, but after Blanche made this statement, it is as if she has taken it literally. She sees herself as above all of these people, especially Stanley. We can see this in scene 4 when Blanche calls him “ common”.
Blanche see “Lurid reflections” in scene 11, and once more in the play, these reflections are reminding her of her past, she cant escape the, just like she cant escape her memory and guilt of Allan’s death.
When Stanley asks Blanche if she want to take the lantern she gets up set because this was used to cover the light, covering up the light is how she forgets Allan, he was her light and when “the searchlight” was turned off, when Allan died, she has covered up light since then. Mitch tore this cover, both by physically tearing the cover and by mentally showing her some light again by showing her love for a while; this is all reminded to Blanche by Stanley’s gesture with the light cover.
In scene 5, Blanche talks about how lonely she was when she was living alone in Laurel, she says that she would sleep with men to prevent herself from being alone. In scene 11 she say
“I want to be–left alone-please” Page 223
In the past, Blanche does not want to be alone; this is another flaw in her behaviour to suggest that she is unwell.
Stanley has always been the violent character throughout the play; he hit Stella in Scene 3 and raped Blanche in scene 10. However, in the final scene Mitch and Stanley almost switch roles. Mitch “lunges and strikes at Stanley”, and Stanley just blocks him, he does not fight back.
I believe that Williams wrote each part of this play for a reason, every point made in the play is tied in at the end and there is arson for each point. All the tension and drama culminates in final scene to create a dramatic ending.