Streetcar Named Desire

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How does Williams alert us for the tragedy that is to follow in scene 1 of 'A Streetcar Named Desire'?

‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ can be seen as a modern domestic tragedy, with base elements of traditional tragedy. Williams is able to alert us, with subtle hints in the very first scene of the play that a tragedy is going to occur, by creating an atmosphere that is both oppressive and claustrophobic. The portrayal of characters also adds to the tension as we realise that the two main protagonists, Blanche Dubois and Stanley Kowalski, are polar opposites.

Both Blanche and Stanley can be interpreted as representing aspects of the classical tragic hero. In the first scene, we learn that Blanche has experienced a shift towards unhappiness with the loss of ‘Belle Reve’, the Dubois family home, and also through the death of her husband. We immediately realise that Blanche is in a state of peripeteia which has happened as a result of her hamartia. Although we do not find out what her error of judgement was, Williams implies that we will soon learn about it later on in the play with the use of stagecraft.

The prospect of a tragedy is in our minds as the lighting and sound effects are prophetic. The musical theme is dominant throughout the first scene and underlines the nature of the situation taking place on stage. Williams uses two kinds of music, both of which create a feeling of apprehension and an ominous atmosphere. The ‘blue piano’ is symptomatic of misery and loss and appears at significant emotional moments in the play. For instance, when Blanche tells Stella about the loss of Belle Reve, ‘The music of the ‘blue piano’ grows louder.’ The melancholy sound of the piano reflects both Blanche and Stella’s feelings of loss and shock. The polka, on the other hand, can only be heard by Blanche and signifies key elements of the play that contribute to the development of the plot. ‘The music of the polka rises up’ when Stanley asks Blanche about her husband. An...
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