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Tennessee Williams' Use Of Dramatic Devices To Create Contrast And Conflict In "A Streetcar Named Desire"

1755 words - 7 pages

Tennessee Williams' Use of Dramatic Devices To Create Contrast And Conflict In "A Streetcar Named Desire"

Tennessee Williams uses a number of dramatic devices to highlight the
conflicting worlds of the old and new American South. These can be
divided into four categories: staging, character and language, and
props and costumes. I will be using these categories for reference in
this essay. 'A Streetcar Named Desire' is an example of the genre
'realism'. Realism is fiction that is overtly gritty and realistic,
showing real people in real situations, and also comments on the state
of the world at that time. The play is set shortly after the American
Civil War, which was fought over the right to keep slaves; the South
wanted to keep slaves on their plantations, working for free, but the
North wanted them to work in their factories, for a wage. The North
(confederate) won the Civil War and immediately set about
industrializing the South. The play is set in New Orleans, one of
these newly industrialised areas. In this essay I will examine how
Tennessee Williams used these devices to create conflict between the
main characters, to provide a social commentary on a changing America,
and how these changes affect the main characters of the play.

Tennessee Williams stages 'A Streetcar Named Desire' extremely
effectively, with much of the play set in the small, confined room of
the apartment:

Stella: "With only two rooms..." (p.9)

This instantly creates and intensifies tension because all the
characters are forced to be close together; there is no privacy.

When Blanche first enters the play, she is instantly incongruous and
out of place:

'she looks like she is dressed for a tea party' (p.3)

This contrasts straightaway with the run-down, industrial feel of the
area of Elysian Fields, and instantly creates the impression that
Blanche is outdated, and represents a dying way of life: the old
south.

Williams uses the train to highlight Elysian Fields as modernized,
industrialized South:

" The roar of an approaching locomotive. Blanche crouches, pressing
her fists to her ears until it has gone by."(p.80)

Blanche always jumps and covers her ears when it passes - or when
there are any loud noises -; this is because they remind her of the
defining moment in her life: her husband's suicide.

Tennessee Williams creates the image of Elysian Fields as a very
industrial area by placing lots of metal everywhere outside, by having
the train go past every so often, and by making Stanley work in a
steel-works. This is reflected in the cheap, mass-produced furniture
they have inside the apartment. This establishes the context; as I
stated earlier, the new South is very industrialised, nearly everyone
who lives there works in a factory or sells things, representing
modern America as a heavily capitalist country. This is also reflected
in Stanley's attitude to life; he comes across as aggressive and
overpowering,...

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