A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams - Summary

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A Streetcar named Desire

“A Streetcar named Desire” is a play written by Tennessee Williams in which the central characters obsessive behaviour helps the reader understand the character in the play as a whole. It is a play about Blanche DuBois who comes to New Orleans to live off her sister’s charity after losing the family home through her promiscuous past. Williams makes awareness of the flaw and creates admiration of the character through his use of characterisation, contrast, conflict, key scenes.

Firstly, the characterisation of Blanche DuBois successfully illustrates her fanatical flaw early in the play. She is described in the stage directions as she enters the play: “daintily dressed in a white suit” and as fragile as “a moth”. Word choice of “daintily” suggests Blanche’s frailty and “white suit” suggests her purity and innocence. Blanche’s purity is furthermore emphasised through her name “Blanche” which is French for “white”. The audience’s understanding for her character begins to grow as she is portrayed as an innocent character. Her flaw is hinted through William’s use of the metaphor of “the moth” which reminds of the saying: “as a moth to a flame”signifying that she is drawn to danger foreshadowing the idea that Blanche may lead herself to her own obliteration.

A further dramatic technique Tennessee Williams uses to bring out Blanche’s flaw and further our understanding is contrast of characterisation. Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowlaski (her sister’s husband) have many aspects of their characters which are contrasted to stress their differences, create tension and effectively lead to conflict between the characters. Stanley is described as being common: “I was common”. This shows he is of the lower, working classes whereas Blanche is her “white suit” suggests she is of a higher, middle class. Stanley is described as a very masculine character: “Heartiness with men, his appreciation of rough humour” and “gaudy seed bearer”....
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