A Streetcar Named Desire

Kath Qualey
Mind Map by Kath Qualey, updated more than 1 year ago
Kath Qualey
Created by Kath Qualey over 5 years ago
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Mind Map on A Streetcar Named Desire, created by Kath Qualey on 02/25/2015.

Resource summary

A Streetcar Named Desire
1 Summary:
1.1 A Streetcar Named Desire is the story of Blanche DuBois, a fragile and neurotic woman on a desperate prowl for someplace in the world to call her own. After being exiled from her hometown of Laurel, Mississippi, for seducing a seventeen-year-old boy at the school where she taught English, Blanche explains her unexpected appearance on Stanley and Stella's (Blanche's sister) doorstep as nervous exhaustion. This, she claims, is the result of a series of financial calamities which have recently claimed the family plantation, Belle Reve. Suspicious, Stanley points out that "under Louisiana's Napoleonic code what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband." Stanley, a sinewy and brutish man, is as territorial as a panther. He tells Blanche he doesn't like to be swindled and demands to see the bill of sale. This encounter defines Stanley and Blanche's relationship. They are opposing camps and Stella is caught in no-man's-land. But Stanley and Stella are deeply in love. Blanche's efforts to im
2 Key Quotes:
2.1 They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!
2.2 Whoever you are—I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
2.3 “After the death of Allan – the intimacies with strangers was all I seemed to be able to fill my empty head with… I think it was panic, just panic, that drove me from one to another, hunting for some protection …”
3 Types of Love:
3.1 Familial/Sisterly:
3.1.1 Despite Stella's frustration at her sister's response to Stanley, she allows her to live her fantasy.
3.1.1.1
3.1.2 Stella feels remorse for sending Blanche to the asylum showing that she does love her.
3.1.3
3.2 Lustful
3.2.1 Lust is an underlying theme within the entire text, and it is reinforced by the animalistic undertones throughout.
4 Genre:
4.1 Magical Realism, which is a generally realistic setting with some odd fantasy thrown in. In this case, the fantasy enters the picture when the audience gets to see and hear some of Blanche’s imagined horrors: shadows on the wall, the eerie polka music overhead, the sounds of echoing voices.
4.2 It is also Psychological Realism for these same reasons: at times it portrays reality as it exists in the mind, not as it exists objectively.
4.3 Lastly there’s Social Realism, because of the play’s frank treatment of issues like immigration, class, gender roles, and power plays between women and men.
5 Context:
5.1 Streetcar is a great portrait of social issues in New Orleans in the 1940s. It highlights the difference considered by race in the South in comparison to New Orleans, where it was not considered a huge issue.
6 Adaptations:
6.1 1951 - Eliza Kazan
6.2 1984 - John Erman
6.3 1995 - Glen Jordan
7 Links to other texts:
7.1 Contrasts:
7.1.1 The Taming of The Shrew - Shakespeare
7.1.1.1 Katherina , unlike Stella or Blanche, doesn't want to rely on any men.
7.1.2 Top Girls - Caryl Churchill (1982)
7.1.2.1 Top Girls describes the growth of feminism in society, and the concept of the working woman. Unlike Stella, Marlene is able to work on her own and doesn't rely on any men.
7.2 Similarities
7.2.1 A Doll's House
7.2.1.1 The shared use of animalistic imagery and reference to patriarchal society. E.g "Is that my little squirrel bustling around in there?"
7.2.2 The Taming of The Shrew - Shakespeare
8 Devices:
8.1 Plastic Theatre
8.1.1 The Varsouviana Polka
8.1.1.1 This is the polka tune which often reminds Blanche of the last day she spent with her young husband – Allen Grey. Earlier that day, she caught her husband’s adultery with another man, and yet pretended that ‘nothing had happened’. In the middle of the Varsouviana when Blanche told Allen of how he ‘disgusted’ her, he committed suicide. The polka music often arouses a sense of loss and regret for Blanche.
8.1.2 Blue piano
8.1.2.1 The blues music enhances the dreamlike feeling in the play. The Blue piano represents ‘the spirit of life’ in the setting. This is prominent in the first scene when Blanche recalls the unfortunate fate of Belle Reve, and in the 5th scene when she kisses the Young Man. The blue piano is the loudest when Blanche is sent away to the asylum in the last scene.
8.1.3 Locomotives
8.1.3.1 Stanley is associated with the power sounds of locomotives- modern, impressive, and raw. The start of the last phase of the movement towards the rape in Scene 10, the locomotive sound grows louder. The locomotives represent Stanley, who brings Blanche’s downfall by unmasking her truth. Hence, in every scene where the truth of Blanche is revealed through Stanley, the locomotive sound is dominant. It sound may also be seen as a symbol of Blanche’s desire to escape.
8.1.4 “It’s only paper moon!”
8.1.4.1 This song is prominent in the 7th scene, when Stanley learns of Blanche’s promiscuity. The louder Stanley insists on the undeniable facts about Blanche, the louder she sings. The song’s lyrics describe the way love turns the world into a “phony” fantasy. The song says that if both lovers believe in their imagined reality, then it’s no longer “make-believe.” These lyrics sum up Blanche’s approach to life. She believes that her lying is harmless, as she tries to weave harmony with her lies. However, Blanche is just a sham who pretends sexual innocence.
8.1.5 Shadows
8.1.5.1 Light represents truth, which Stella wishes to avoid by putting an artificial lantern on the light bulb. Stella is never in daylight, as she doesn’t wish her lies to be revealed. When Blanche and Stanley fight in Scene 10, oddly shaped shadows appear on the walls. The jungle cries enhance the sense of madness of Blanche. These effects combine to heighten Blanche’s final breakdown.
8.1.6 Flowers
8.2 Symbolism
8.2.1 Animalistic Imagery
9 Setting:
9.1 Race relations weren’t "easy" everywhere in the 1940s, but it’s important to establish the atmosphere in this particular setting, especially since Blanche brings to the Kowalski apartment her prejudices, which prove to be out of time and place. Class distinctions don’t matter here, which is why Stella and Stanley seem to make a fine match despite their backgrounds.
10 Tone
10.1 Ironic and sympathetic realism
11 Themes:
11.1 Sexual Desire
11.2 Fantasy/ Delusion
11.3 Interior & Exterior Appearance
11.4 Masculinity
11.5 Feminine Dependence
12 Setting:
12.1 New Orleans, Louisiana
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