Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Streetcar Named Desire

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The American plays A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams and Desire Under The Elms, by Eugene O’Neill both use expressionist and symbolist techniques in order to change people’s perceptions of the world. Different dramatic techniques might be used to produce these plays in order to create relevant and challenging theatrical experiences.

A Streetcar Named Desire, written in 147, shows the emergence of a New America after World War Two, and the collapse of the Old America, or the old South. It is a memory play about a disturbed and deprived Southern woman, Blanche who fights to maintain her illusions of good and innocence when forced to confront the truth about her life by her sister, Stella’s, working-class, animalistic and attractive husband, Stanley.

The central idea or theme of the play is one of desire. Hence the symbolic technique of Blanche arriving to Elysian Fields on a Streetcar named Desire. This desire was also expressed by the technique of using the motif “Red Hot”, symbolising lust. Red being the colour symbolic of lust and desire.

The Play deals with the myth that men are superior to women. This myth was acceptable in society around the time the play was written, however, in today’s society the audiences view and opinions have undoubtedly changed. Today it is considered that both male and female are to be treated as equals, it is a politically incorrect myth which is universally believed to be incorrect. The first sign of the domestic society is symbolically seen in the first scene when Stanley hurls the “brown paper bag with blood stains” at Stella, as if to say “here’s the meat I’ve worked for, now you do the rest.”

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The proxemics in A Streetcar Named Desire are extremely important as it is a technique used to emphasise the relationship between the characters and between actors and audience. Through the use of proxemics in the play we can deduce a strong, but desirable tension between Stanley and Blanche. Tension is greatly sensed in the scene where Stanley is no longer able to fight his desire for Blanche and finally rapes her, which completely diminishes her mental stability. It is not only the rape that expresses the causes for her following madness, but the fact she is raped by the man who represents everything unacceptable to her.

Being an American Drama A Streetcar Named Desire is a very symbolic and expressionistic play. Some of the symbols used in the play include, Stanley hurling the meat at Stella expressing an animalistic character. The motif of the primary colour red, symbolising lust, sex, and desire. Blanche smashing the mirror, symbolising it breaking from her imagery, and Stanley’s silky red pyjamas again symbolising desire through the use of red being used and the sexy material of silk.

The motif of the “blue piano” is an expressionistic technique used to express the area the play is set. It expresses the black, sleazy section of New Orleans. Tennessee Williams has emphasised this play as being expressionistic by also using expressionistic characters, like the nurse and doctor.

The use of the space on the setting is used symbolically and significantly. The further into the house the characters go, the more psychological the play becomes, the play becomes a dream. Where as the further outside of the house the characters, the more realistic the play becomes.

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