Anosha Ashfaq Nov 2011 paper A Streetcar named Desire Q)Explore the dramatic techniques through which Williams creates the atmosphere of the play. A) Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire is a play that is spilling with dramatic scenes throughout. He uses a wide variety of techniques which help heighten and emphasize the drama in the scenes. These techniques include the use of music such as the “Blue Piano” and “The Varsouviana Polka”, Animalistic Images that appear throughout the play, language, and his use of personality clashes of the characters and their individual mannerisms such as Blanche and Stanley.
The Blue Piano is a mood setter. It usually is present when Blanche is talking about the loss of Belle Reve and her family. The blue piano stands for Blanche’s loneliness and depression and longing for love. The blue piano grows louder in scenes where Blanche is usually hysterical with some saddening remembrance, such as the loss of Belle Reve, and the deaths she had to deal with or present occurrences that grieved her such as the time Mitch reverted his decision to marry her because of her past. The blue piano helps to add drama to such scenes as it grows louder with her increasing mournfulness and hysteria and emphasizes her emotions.
It is an embodiment of her emotions and grows louder when her emotions are spiraling out of control. It contributes to the drama in the scenes as it heightens the dramatic effect with its drumming up louder and louder in scenes gripped with tension, such as the scene in which she is attacked by Stanley, When Blanche gets desperate or fearful the blue piano is heard such as when her hopes are rising while she is calling Shep Huntleigh or the time she suspects something has happened between Stanley and Stella while she was bathing.
The Varsouviana Polka is another music that William’s uses as a technique to help increase drama in the scenes. The varsouviana polka seems to be associated with death. It was the same song that Blanche and her husband Allan were dancing to when he shot himself and committed suicide. It is always played when she remembers her husband or is questioned about him, for instance by Stanley and when Mitch remembers his dead lover. The Varsouiviana polka is distinctly connected to the death of Blanche’s husband and since the time she talks about Allan to the end of the play the audience and readers are now aware of this music’s association with eath so it helps to add an eerie and dramatic atmosphere to the scenes it plays in. The Varsouviana Polka also plays distinctly throughout the entire scene that deals with Blanche’s downfall when she is being taken to a mental asylum. At the end of the play the Varsouviana polka is mixed with weird distortions and animalistic cries from a jungle. Its very distortion matches her confused mindset at the time and suggests her downfall or end. Apart from the choice and stage directions of the music, Tennesse William’s uses the clash of his characters personalities as a tool to create drama.
Stanley and Blanche are worlds’ apart and have a constant wild, fiery relationship throughout the play. Even the animals that Tennesse William’s associates with them are hugely contrasting. Blanche is compared to a moth. Moths can be regarded as something fickle and wandering and weak. Stanley on the other hand is said to be ape like. As Blanche says,” He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! There’s something – sub-human – something not quite the stage of humanity yet!
Yes, something – ape-like about him…” Stanley is rough, wild, and brutal and Blanche’s fakeness and Stella’s simpering often makes the animal in him come out. Tennesse Willaims uses this personality clash to create drama in his play. The consistency of this friction also help to intensify the drama in the scenes and Stanley’s actions often foreshadow Blanche’s nearing end, as evident in the ending scenes of Stanley’s attack on Blanhe. As far as the individual mannerisms of the characters are concerned they too intensify the dramatic aspect of the scenes.
Stanley is one character whose actions make for great dramatic effect. Stanley’s brutality in dealing with affairs is evident on the poker night when he strikes Stella down in anger, despite her being his wife. This is indeed a very tense and gripping moment in the play for readers/ audience as it is the first moment when Stanley’s animalistic nature comes to light plain and open. He deals with things with a childish immaturity but adds a serious and ugly note to these immature acts.
Now and then he does something wickedly absurd and intimidating, pushing his authority around which helps to add occasional sprinkles of drama to the play. For instance the way he stormed into the bedroom during the poker night and snatched up the radio and tossed it out the window. Another example is the way he hurled the phone to the floor when Stella was taken to Eunice after he hit her. On being asked to help Stella clear the table he knocked his saucers to the floor saying that’s how he was going to help. He tore though Blance’s suitcase like an animal tearing through a prey.
His emotional side also helps add drama to the scene as his emotions are intense like his actions. For example the way he acted when he felt a sudden remorse for hitting Stella. He goes out and bellows Stella’s name pleadingly into the night, as Tennesse Willaims describes it, “with heaven splitting violence”. His actions are somewhat nonsensical as they are not driven by his mind but by his nature and desires and these aspects of his personality are tools that Tennesse Williams uses in creating the dramatic aspect of his play. Stanley provides a certain thrill to the drama.
Like Stella, the audience derives a masochistic thrill from these actions and breathtakingly anticipates his actions. Tennesse Williams uses the two most dramatic characters in the play at the climax, which is Stanley’s attack on Blanche. It signified his triumph over her, the triumph of reality over fantasy, the merciless ripping away of Blanche’s fantasy and illusions and her ultimate defeat and downfall. Blanche’s character is also highly significant in adding drama to the scenes. Her tension is quite contagious. Her very first appearance created tension with the surroundings.
Elysian Fields was lively and vibrant, whereas she was odd, frightened, disillusioned and from an entirely different class. The metaphor Tennesse Williams uses about Blanche’s life, taking a streetcar named Desire, and then taking one called cemeteries and then she arrives at Elysian Fields suggests something about Blanche’s personality and her future which foreshadows ominous events in the upcoming scenes in the play. The metaphor seems to suggest that Blanche’s life was tangled up in sheer desire, and it would wrap her up till her time ends, and she reaches her final resting place, the Elysian Fields.