Play Analysis Essay Example

'A Streetcar Named Desire is a play concerned with the conflict between the old world and the new.'In light of this comment, explore Williams' presentation of the conflict between Blanche and Stanley so far. In your answer you must consider relevant contextual factors.

Within "A Streetcar Named Desire", the conflict between Blanche and Stanley is implicitly portrayed as vehemently hostile throughout the entirety of the eleven-act southern gothic play as a harsh, contextual reminder of post war America, an America which forces the play into a liminal state between the old world and the new. It could, of course, be argued that Williams' presentation of the ardent, deep rooted conflict between the protagonist Blanche and the alleged antagonist Stanley was imposed to apostrophise to the audience and accentuate the risks of the disintegration of not only old values, but those who conform to them. Thus, expanding on the dangers of the fanatical and romanticised southern values and acting as an implicit social commentary to solidify an allegorical moral, to promote acceptance within the play.

The Main Heroes of the Play

Although we observe Stanley's aroused interest in Blanche from the exposition of the play, Act 1, we do not gauge the interchangeable nature of the conflict between the two aforementioned characters until their values are portrayed through the use of plastic theatre, specifically between Act 1 and Act 2. When the non-diegetic "perpetual blue piano" is playing in the background, it elucidates to the impression of the quixotic southern values which can no longer work in a world in which one's individual sanctuary of peace is eliminated by a male, such as Stanley, due to an inflated sense of self in an androcentric society with mass oppression of women following the end of WWII. The way in which Stanley leaves "the door open" to allow the music to be heard only by Blanche does not only indicate that the pair have differing interests due to their manifested values, but it also persuades each individual audience member to consider that he is trying to trigger an ecphonesis within Blanche that will shake her up to become open to suggestion of the current new world which she must, sooner or later, acclimatise to living in despite her internal conflicts between the liminal state of her past and current situation. This then left Blanche open losing her sense of self and disintegrating due to the consistent antagonising by Stanley with his constant pejorative responses, such as "How?", since Williams chose to use these dismissive lexical choices we must consider that Stanley is beginning to "Desire" to expose the flaws within Blanche so that she can slowly adapt to her change and not feel such a psychological impact due to her pretentiousness, that could be viewed as her hamartia that was revealed due to Stanley, not created by his curiosity. It seems that this is a ritualistic behaviour that comes as second nature. Yet the plastic theatre which permeates the play could also have been employed to highlight the underlying sombre mood/tone of all elements of Streetcar or if we consider context, the fact that a psychological and physiological state will enslave all involved characters to their past. Archetypically, the blues genre of music had connotations of slavery, and being a subject to a higher omnipresent power which will leave characters in "such an ordeal", which is then sizable to the dramatic irony in Blanche's downward spiral of mental disintegration that nobody, except the audience members who would marvel at the use of plastic theatre to evoke pathos at the omnipotent conflict stemming from an indifference in opinions, seems to acknowledge profoundly until the denouement. As Williams' life had been disrupted by similar issues, this might serve as an allegory to encourage audience/readers to "open" up and allow internal issues to dissipate and not elevate out of control.

The Rise of Conflict

However, the tensioned ridden conflict between Blanche and Stanley becomes increasingly apparent as the play progresses. It should be considered that the difference in manifested values is the cataclysmic factor for this progression due to the connotations of portrayed gender stereotypes in 1947 to distinguish the lack of erudite in one and others past, that then forced an incongruous division which would not allow an understanding of individualised habits such as "soaking" and "bathing". The reoccurring motif juxtaposes our understanding of the predetermined conflict between Blanche and Stanley. Considering the fact that Stanley is partly Polish, we establish that he could have been attracted to the decadence of the American Dream and the purity of those living in it, maybe his slow realisation that it is something he will never have is a contributory factor the hostility between him and other characters in the play. Moreover, we see him in a diminished manor, but Blanche's ritualised "cleansing" allows us to substantiate the notion that she is attempting to cleanse her soul to "quieten her nerves" after the traumatic events which ensued her ex-husbands death. Or it could be acknowledged that this occurrence of the motif, in Act 2, is the first time we can imply that Blanche is regressing to forget rather than progressing towards a resolution with Stanley to alleviate some of the pressure of her situation as she is so infatuated with the past. The bathing is a temporary respite to ameliorate herself, similar to Lady Macbeth so that Williams could maintain the audience members attention with an intertextual reference.

The Meaning of the Play

This fascination is then furthered when we realise that the sophistication and elegance that Blanche uses to elevate herself with is all a fa?ade. Her elevated lexis, correct grammar and varied syntax allow us to gather that she has the remains of an aristocratic education and lady like mannerism to fulfil the prerequisites of a southern lady who should be perfect. Whereas in reality, the conflict could have stemmed from the consistent deceit of Blanche which has spiralled out of control and had a cumulative effect on her superego, ego and id. These effects had such a magnitude that they left her "nerves in knots" and forced her to cheat her own social expectations of her purity. A further indication regarding the non-purity of Blanche is made when we decode Blanche's name and gauge that the name Blanche could be phonologically associated with the verb blanch. Consequently, Blanche might be "blanching", which could allow an interpretation that Stanley and Blanche are actually more alike than what we perceive, perhaps the conflict could be a battle to gain a complete social status to allow an elevated sense of self after past difficulties. This understanding is solidified after Stanley implodes and explodes at his poker night and only comes round after using the imperative "I want water" to coerce his friends to put him under the shower. By mirroring a habit of Blanche it seems that the macho fa?ade elevates the gender stereotype of 1947, when antagonization in the most masculine way possible was the only way to forge a submission that would allow one party to prevail after a conflict stemming from values occurred. Therefore, indicating that Tennessee Williams tried to articulate that humans acquire a sense of subconscious guilt when forced into unfavourable situations and will always depend on a clean and fresh state of mind to progress after gaining a comprehensive understanding of the root cause of a conflict, which is, in this instance, historical social stereotypes.


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