AP English Literature – A Streetcar Named Desire
Novels and plays often depict characters caught between colliding cultures – national, regional, ethnic, religious, institutional. Such collisions can call a character’s sense of identity into question. Select a novel or a play in which a character responds to such a cultural collision. Then write a well organized essay in which you describe the character’s response and explain its relevance to the work as a whole. “Home is where the heart lies”, goes the saying. But what about instances when one’s home is snatched away from beneath one’s feet, and you are left to fend for yourself in the big world outside? Cultural and social collisions can have a deep impact on your life, and nowhere is this better brought out than in Tennessee William’s classic play, “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Blanche, a sophisticated upper class lady, loses her ancestral property, Belle Reve, and is relegated to the cold, unfeeling world. For someone who has been used to tender, loving care all her life, she is unable to adjust to the coarse life of the common folk. Blanche DuBois’ holier-than-thou attitude and her priggish ways are by no means a sign of a bad character – they are simply manifestations of the sea change that she has experienced after leaving the confines of her house. We can see Blanche looking down upon her sister Stellla’s house, displaying emotions of shock and anxiety on seeing its small size and relative simplicity. She regards Stella’s husband, Stanley, as a mere “commoner”, and wonders how Stella can bear to stay with him after their fights and his atrocious behaviour. She cannot come to terms with her isolation and loss of prestige, and creates a parallel world – a virtual reality – wherein she tries to recreate her past. The elegant evening siestas with wine, the long baths, the sensuous and flirtatious attitude – all are part of her desire to regain her old life. Blanche’s constant need for compliments and her...
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