A Streetcar Named Desire
By Tennessee Williams
About the Author
Tennessee Williams is one of the foremost playwrights of the twentieth century. He won numerous awards and has created some of the most memorable characters in American theater. In an interview, Williams said, “I have always been more interested in creating a character that contains something crippled. I think nearly all of us have some kind of defect, anyway, and I suppose I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person.”
Written in 1947, A Streetcar Named Desire explores the themes of “desire, loneliness, and human fragility” (Andrews 628). The story is set in New Orleans, Louisiana in the month of May, sometime after WW II.
Tennessee William’s play A Streetcar Named Desire is set in New Orleans in the late 1940s. Blanche Dubois leaves her dismantled life in Mississippi to start over in New Orleans.
She arrives at her sister’s home, but quickly falls into conflict with her macho brother-in-law, Stanley. Their lives get tangled up as Blanche falls deeper into despair.
Blanche misuses alcohol to deal with her overwhelming problems. She is forced to deal with poverty, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and depression.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE:
In what ways does fantasy help and harm people trying to cope with reality?
How far should people go to show loyalty to people they love? To friends? To family?
What are the consequences of pursuing overwhelming desire?
Is “deliberate cruelty” the only unforgivable crime?
How do characters simultaneously represent and deconstruct the “American Dream”?
How do humans’ primal instincts both strengthen and destroy them?
Answer the “Essential Questions” using examples from the text, both orally and in writing.
Respond to class texts in journals and analytical writing assignments.
Read a Young Adult Literature book that parallels the themes in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Complete a student-selected final creative project that explores one of the themes in Streetcar: deliberate cruelty, noble vs. primal instinct, desire, loneliness, illusion vs. reality, the decaying “American Dream”.
Maintain a notebook of reading reflections which demonstrate mastery of analytical writing, text interpretation, and understanding of literary devices used in the text.
Participation in class discussions and activities.
Various quizzes on vocabulary, reading comprehension, and text interpretation.
Complete a “Character Trait Poster” on one of the main characters in the play.
Write an R.A.F.T. Letter to a character from Streetcar.
An Alternative Book Report project which compares A Streetcar Named Desire to your Young Adult Fiction Companion Text.
Streetcar Companion Texts: Independent Reading Project
You can read any of the following Young Adult texts for independent reading. The goal of using Young Adult Fiction to supplement A Streetcar Named Desire is for you to read about similar experiences that happen to people your own age in a contemporary setting. You will be required to write a text comparison essay addressing both a Young Adult novel, and A Streetcar Named Desire.
Young Adult Selections:
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999.
Cormier, Robert. Tenderness. New York : Delacorte Press, 2004
Dessen, Sarah. Dreamland. New York: Viking, 2000.
Flinn, Alexandra. Breathing Underwater. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001.
Plummer, Louise. A Dance for Three. New York : Delacorte Press, 2000.
Character Trait Poster Project
Choose one of the four main characters (Stella, Stanley, Blanche, or Mitch). Draw a picture or illustration of your character in the middle of a poster board. Then find and write the following neatly and attractively on the poster:
Two quotes that show the character’s personality(and page #’s)
Two quotes that show the character’s wants/desires/ambitions (and page #’s)
Two quotes that show relationships with other characters (and page #’s)
Two quotes that show the character’s appearance (and page #’s)
This project will be graded on appearance (attractiveness) and appropriateness of quotes in each category. See the project rubric for more info. Make your project unique!
R.A.F.T. Writing Assignment
One assignment that you will complete is a Role, Audience, Format and Topic (R.A.F.T.) writing task. In order to complete this activity, you will identify and read a selection from the text that deals with abuse. Next, you will write an advice letter to a character in the play. In this letter, you will state why you are writing the letter and why the character needs help. You must also explain how the character might go about getting help. Tone is especially important during the writing of this assignment!
Vocab #1: appraise, cosmopolitan, decay, evoke, improvident, incongruous, lunacy, perpetual, peruse, preen, primitive, treachery, valise, vivacity, vulgar, illusion, allusion, blanche, courtesan.
Vocab #2: bestial, contemptible, coquettish, deluded, dote, emphatic, incredulous, morbid, peal, precede, quaint, row, serene, solemn, vicinity, wince.
Vocab #3: anxiety, callous, conceit, dismal, enrich, grotesque, implore, obscure, partial, protrude, repertoire, sinister, slander, sullen, transitory, uncouth.
Extra Credit Vocabulary (5 points per word!) : neurasthenic, contrapuntal[ly], sotto cove, bohemian. **NOTE** You cannot turn in extra credit if you have missing assignments. Make up missed work first!
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE: Final Projects
Create a Soundtrack:
Create an 11- song “mix tape” (CD only, please!) of songs that retell the story of Streetcar. You may choose songs that tell the story from a specific character’s point of view. For each song, you must write a 1-paragraph explanation of why the song suits the scene and the character’s perspective in that scene. You must also design a CD jacket that is appropriate for the project.
Design a Graphic Novel:
Design and illustrate a comic book that tells the story of Streetcar. Your graphic novel must include a frame for at least six major scenes in the play. You must complete this in pen-and-ink, colored pencil, or marker (no messy graphite pencil drawings, and no crayons, please!). Each frame of your graphic novel must include a quotation from the text of Streetcar that is seminal to the scene.
Create a Character Journal:
Write at least four one-page journals (8.5” x 11” page, no more, no less), told from the point of view of a character in Streetcar. Describe the character’s feelings about the events that occur during the play. Because a diary is very personal, remember to include the character’s hopes, dreams, and fears. Your journals should be very creative, and include collage elements and artifacts from the characters’ lives (Such as scraps of clothing, faded flowers from Blanche’s dress, Stella’s receipt from the hospital, Stanley’s winning poker card, and so forth).
Rewrite the Ending of the Play:
Write a three-to-four page alternative ending for Streetcar. Remember to include sound, lighting, and music to make your movie dynamic. You will need to use proper script format and you will have to recruit a few friends from class to read aloud and act this out for us in class. Be creative—use costumes and props to entertain us! (Note: I can give you an example of proper script format. If you choose this project, you should have reliable computer and printer access at home because you will need to print the script).
NOTE: You can also write a “talk show”—but it must be more “Oprah” than “Jerry”. J
How you will be graded:
Create a rubric for the project = 50 points*
Conference with teacher = 30 points
Final Product = 100 points*
Class Presentation = 30 points*
*These assessments count as a test grade.
READING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
When we first meet Blanche DuBois, she has traveled to see her sister Stella. She took streetcars named Desire and Cemeteries to arrive at her sister’s apartment. What might these names represent?
What does Blanche do while she is waiting for Stella to come home?
What does Belle Reve mean? What does it refer to in the play?
Why does Blanche say that she has left her teaching job to visit Stella?
Why does Blanche say that she lost Belle Reve?
Near the end of Scene One, what do we learn about Blanche’s husband?
In Scene Two, Stanley finds out about the loss of Belle Reve. What is his reaction?
What does Stanley think that Blanche has done with the money he believes she made from selling Belle Reve?
What does Stanley tell Blanche about Stella as they are going through her business papers?
Where are Stella and Blanche going while the men play poker?
When Blanche and Stella return to the apartment, the men are still there playing poker. Which one does Stella introduce to Blanche? What does Blanche say about him?
Blanche goes to the back room, a bedroom, to relax until the men finish playing. She turns on the radio. Stanley asks her to turn it off, but when she doesn’t, what does Stanley do?
Why does Blanche lie to Mitch about being younger than Stella? Why doesn’t she like bright lights?
What happens between Stella and Stanley that ends the poker game?
How did Stella say she reacted to Stanley’s breaking all the light bulbs on their wedding night?
What idea does Blanche have to escape New Orleans with Stella?
When Blanche and Stella are discussing Stanley, what does he hear Blanche say about him?
In Scene Five, Blanche discusses astrological signs. What sign does she think Stanley was born under and why? What sign does she say she was born under? What does it mean?
Seemingly out of the blue, Stanley asks Blanche if she knows someone named Shaw. What is Blanche’s response?
Who is coming over to see Blanche on this night?
After Stella and Stanley leave, a young man comes to the door collecting money for the local newspaper, The Evening Star. What does Blanche do when he arrives?
Blanche and Mitch discuss Stanley. She asks him if Stanley talks much about her and explains how horrid he is making her life there with them. What does Mitch respond?
At the end of Scene Six, Blanche is confiding in Mitch by telling him the story of how her husband died. How did he die? What events led to his death?
Stanley lets Stella know that he has learned some things about Blanche. What things?
During their talk, Blanche is in the tub and singing. What does she sing about?
Who is supposed to come over for Blanche’s birthday? Why does Stanley say this person won’t be coming?
What has Stanley bought for Blanche?
Stanley gets angry at Stella for telling him his face and fingers are disgustingly greasy. What does he do in response?
What happens at the end of Scene Eight?
In Scene Nine, who stops by unexpectedly to see Blanche?
Blanche makes a very telling statement about reality. What does she say?
What does Blanche admit happened after her husband’s death? Why did she say she did this?
Why does Mitch say he won’t marry Blanche now?
Who does Blanche tell Stanley she heard from? What invitation does she say he extended?
Blanche tells Stanley that Mitch came to see her that night. What does she tell him the reason was?
What happens at the end of Scene Ten?
37. Several weeks have passed and Stella is packing Blanche’s things. Where does Blanche think she is going? Where is she actually going?
Recommended Young Adult Literature Selections:
You will select one of the Young Adult Literature books described below and read it as your Independent Reading Book / companion text for our unit on Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. If you know of another book you would like to read, bring it to class and get my approval in writing, in advance. I am open to your suggestions! J
A Dance for Three by Louise Plummer: "Milo wasn't the first boy to kiss me but he was the first one to bite me." He's also the first boy to slug her when she tells him she's going to have his baby. Hannah Ziebarth, 15, had felt loved by rich, good-looking Milo and his cool, elegant family, and as she leans on the dumpster in the alley bleeding on her dowdy Burger Bar uniform, she is in shocked denial. The pregnancy is only one of Hannah's troubles. Her beloved father has died suddenly from a freak accident, and her mother has retreated into agoraphobia; Hannah must care for her feeble and self-absorbed Mama just when she needs mothering herself. When she hides in Milo's car and overhears him having sex with his old girlfriend, her world finally collapses. A psychotic break lands her in a mental hospital for juveniles, and she begins the long step-by-step process of putting the pieces of her life back together with the help of a compassionate young therapist.
Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn: It was only a slap. Well, maybe more than one. And maybe Nick used his fist at the end when the anger got out of control. But his girlfriend Caitlin deserved it--hadn't she defied him by singing in the school talent show when he had forbidden her to display herself like that? Even though he'd told her that everybody would laugh at her because she couldn't sing and was a fat slob? Both were lies. Because Caitlin was so beautiful, the only person who understood him. Out of his desperate need for her came all the mean words and the hitting. But now Caitlin's family has procured a restraining order to keep Nick away, and the judge has sentenced him to Mario Ortega's Family Violence class, to sit around every week with six other angry guys who hit their girlfriends. And to write a journal explaining how he got into this mess.
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen: Strange, sleepy Rogerson, with his long brown dreads and brilliant green eyes, had seemed to Caitlin to be an open door. With him she could be anybody, not just the second-rate shadow of her older sister, Cass. But now she is drowning in the vacuum Cass left behind when she turned her back on her family's expectations by running off with a boyfriend. Caitlin wanders in a dream land of drugs and a nightmare of Rogerson's sudden fists, lost in her search for herself.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it's been getting harder and harder for her to speak out loud: "My throat is always sore, my lips raw.... Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze.... It's like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis." What could have caused Melinda to suddenly fall mute? Could it be due to the fact that no one at school is speaking to her because she called the cops and got everyone busted at the seniors' big end-of-summer party? Or maybe it's because her parents' only form of communication is Post-It notes written on their way out the door to their nine-to-whenever jobs. While Melinda is bothered by these things, deep down she knows the real reason why she's been struck mute...
Tenderness by Robert Cormier: A psychological thriller told from the points of view of a teenage serial killer and the runaway girl who falls in love with him.
Text Comparison Essay Rubric
Teacher Name: Ms. Smith Student Name: ____________________________TOTAL POINTS: ______
Evidence Paragraphs and quotes selected clearly related to and supportive of thesis.
Both evidence paragraphs and quotes clearly support thesis. One paragraph has minor weaknesses or is incomplete.
One of the evidence paragraphs/ quotes support thesis. One or more paragraphs have minor weaknesses or are incomplete.
An attempt has been made to add support information, but it was unrelated or confusing.
Response is off-topic, illegible, blank or incoherent.
Text evidence consists of specific, developed details and direct quotes from both texts.
Text evidence consists of some specific details, but no direct quotes, or only quotes one text.
Text evidence consists of general and/or undeveloped details; uses examples instead of quotes from texts.
Elaboration is sparse; almost no details, no quotes from texts.
Elaboration is almost nonexistent, missing, partial, or illogical.
Thesis statement is clear, insightful, accurately relates to both texts, and can be proven with text evidence.
Thesis statement is sound, accurately relates to both texts, and can be proven with text evidence.
Thesis attempts to relate to both texts, but reflects a flawed interpretation and/or cannot be proven with text evidence.
Thesis relates to only one text, and/or cannot be proven with text evidence.
Thesis statement is missing, off-topic or incoherent. Or, no thesis statement exists.
Exhibits expert control of conventions writing task: including use of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.
Exhibits control of grammatical conventions appropriate to the writing task; including use of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.
Exhibits some control of conventions including use of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling; errors do not hinder comprehension.
Exhibits emerging control of conventions appropriate to the writing task: but some errors hinder comprehension.
Exhibits little control of conventions, is incoherent, illegible, or unreadable.
Information is very organized with well-constructed paragraphs and subheadings. Contains a well-crafted introduction and conclusion, and at least two evidence paragraphs.
Information is organized with well-constructed paragraphs. Contains an introduction and conclusion, and at least two evidence paragraphs.
Information is organized, but paragraphs are not well-constructed. Contains an introduction and conclusion, and at least two evidence paragraphs.
An attempt was made at organization but disorganization hinders comprehension. May not contain required paragraphs.
Shows little or no organization. Writer rambles, include irrelevancies; work is messy or illegible. Work may also be incomplete.
The essay is engaging, interesting to read and takes a definitive stance on both texts that gives the reader a precise sense of both texts and the reader's response to the each.
The essay is interesting to read and takes a definitive stance on both texts that gives the reader a sense of the reader's response to the both texts.
The essay is somewhat interesting, but the reader's response seems detached or disinterested. The essay does not reflect a response to both texts.
The essay relies on plot summary, repeating details; does not give insight into the reader's response to both texts.
The essay contains scant or no detail about either text, and makes no attempt to connect to text.
Text Comparison Essay:
A Streetcar Named Desire
All Essays MUST Meet the Following Requirements:
1) All essays are a minimum of four paragraphs: an introduction, two evidence paragraphs (which must include at least one quotation from each text), and a conclusion. Remember—there is a seven- sentence minimum per paragraph.
2) You must use formal, academic language.
3) Your essay must be typed in 12 point Arial or Times New Roman Font, and it must be double-spaced. If you do not double space, your essay will be returned to you and you will accrue late penalties until it is resubmitted.
4) Appropriate Themes: Fantasy vs. Reality; Cruelty; Primitive/Primal instinct; Desire; Loneliness; Violence and Passion. See me if you have other ideas and I will accommodate you if you can justify it via the text.
· Theme essay: Select a concept or theme from your themes shared by your companion text and A Streetcar Named Desire. Explain how the characters’ actions, plot, setting, and style reinforce this theme throughout both texts. You may also refer to other literary elements such as symbolism, metaphor, tone, and motif.
This essay is worth 100 points !!!!
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
Fantasy/Illusion: Blanche dwells in illusion; fantasy is her primary means of self-defense. Her deceits do not carry any trace of malice; rather, they come from her weakness and inability to confront the truth head-on. She tells things not as they are, but as they ought to be. For her, fantasy has a liberating magic that protects her from the tragedies she has had to endure. Unfortunately, this defense is frail and will be shattered by Stanley. In the end, Stanley and Stella will also resort to a kind of illusion: Stella will force herself to believe that Blanche's accusations against Stanley are false.
The Old South and the New South: Stella and Blanche come from a world that is rapidly dying. Belle Reve, their family's ancestral plantation, has been lost. The two sisters, symbolically, are the last living members of their family. Stella will mingle her blood with a man of blue-collar stock, and Blanche will enter the world of madness. Stanley represents the new order of the South: chivalry is dead, replaced by a "rat race," to which Stanley makes several proud illusions.
Cruelty: The only unforgivable crime, according to Blanche, is deliberate cruelty. This sin is Stanley's specialty. His final assault against Blanche is a merciless attack against an already-beaten foe. On the other hand, though Blanche is dishonest, she never lies out of malice. Her cruelty is unintentional; often, she lies in a vain effort to please. Throughout Streetcar, we see the full range of cruelty, from Blanche's well-intentioned deceits to Stella self-deceiving treachery to Stanley's deliberate and unchecked malice. In Williams' plays, there are many ways to hurt someone. And some are worse than others.
The Primitive and the Primal: Blanche often speaks of Stanley as ape-like and primitive. Stanley represents a very unrefined manhood, a romantic idea of man untouched by civilization and its effeminizing influences. His appeal is clear: Stella cannot resist him, and even Blanche, though repulsed, is on some level drawn to him. Stanley's unrefined nature also includes a terrifying amorality. The service of his desire is central to who he is; he has no qualms about driving his sister-in-law to madness, or raping her.
Desire: Closely related to the theme above, desire is the central theme of the play. Blanche seeks to deny it, although we learn later in the play that desire is one of her driving motivations; her desires have caused her to be driven out of town. Desire, and not intellectual or spiritual intimacy, is the heart of Stella's and Stanley's relationship. Desire is Blanche's undoing, because she cannot find a healthy way of dealing with it: she is always either trying to suppress it or pursuing it with abandon.
Loneliness: The companion theme to desire; between these two extremes, Blanche is lost. She desperately seeks companionship and protection in the arms of strangers. And she has never recovered from her tragic and consuming love for her first husband. Blanche is in need of a defender. But in New Orleans, she will find instead the predatory and merciless Stanley.