“The success monster”
I can only say that the introduction seemed to be very aggressive and objective towards the idea of fame and success. I agree with his opinion, obviously I never experienced success as Tennessee Williams did, but his ideas seen to be right, as many rich people who don’t struggle with life seen to loose their focus in life as they have “Everything”. The “Everything” is mostly about earthly possessions, since one seem to get lost in the immensity of tellurian possessions the spiritual part seems to die as it looses its identity of the basic human survival, that is the instinct that most humans need to feel to have the feeling of accomplished, which makes us humans happy. I established a connection of the intro to “Borges and I” as Williams said: “You know, then, that the public Somebody you are when you “have a name” is a fiction created with mirrors and that the only somebody worth being is the solitary and unseen you that existed from your first breath and which is the sum of your actions and so is constantly in a state of becoming under your own volition”(Williams 10) Tennessee summarizes that the only worth living “I’s” is the one when we are alone, when we aren’t acting for no one only for ourselves. Also, Tennessee states that many of the times we make our true self become slave of our other characters making it weaker every time it gets submissive to our other “I’s”. Williams uses the word “mirrors” to stress that out characters are simple as an illusion, a fake reflection of our true self, maybe that little voice that talks to us all day. I can relate to the idea that the artist dies once it gets the desired success, because the artist life is based on his/her experiences of happiness, suffering, exhaustion not of the success. Through living is how an artist manages to create art. As, an artist reaches success it stops going through the tremendous wave of experiences to only experience success, which could finally kill art because it calms the ocean of life to only one feeling.
"Clash of Personalities"
What really impacted me after reading the first two scenes of the play, was the characterization of the three main characters: Stanley, Blanche and Stella. At the first few pages, when Blanche meets with her sister, it is possible to notice her demanding and strong personality. She is very straight forward, a little impatient and not afraid to speak out her mind. When Eunice guides her into Stella`s house, she rudely states, "What I meant was I`d like to be left alone" (Williams 18). Her impulsive personality can sometimes harm others as she personally acknowledges later on, "I didn`t mean to be rude" (Williams 18). I wonder if Blanche`s impatience and impulsiveness behavior will spark further conflicts in the play. What do my fellow peers think? Stella, on the other hand, is very delicate, calm and caring to others. Even after noticing Blanche drinking from her whiskey without permission she offers to serve it to her, "You sit down and let me pour the drinks" (Williams 19). Stella is also significantly submissive to her sister and husband. Blanche brutally orders Stella to stand up, after hearing a refusal the first time, "You hear me? I said stand up! [Stella complies reluctantly]" (Williams 22). Later on, Stanley reveals his manly dignity by harshly responding to his wife`s demand, "Since when do you give me orders?" (Williams 37). This two quotes convey Stella`s submissive personality towards her sister and husband, which reminds me of Haruki Murakami`s short story "The Second Bakery Attack" where the husband was his wife`s puppet, except this time the gender roles are inverted. Stanley`s personality is somehow similar to Blanche`s. He is also very imposing and does not hide his thoughts. He also puts himself above women, which becomes evident when he is speaking to Blanche, "Some men are took in by this Hollywood glamour stuff and some men are not" (Williams 39). Blanche and Stanley suffer a personality crash since they both have strong personalities and I doubt they are going to stand each other under the same roof. What do you guys think?
An Explosive Exposition
During these first two scenes, the plot point of exposition is carried out with the main characters being introduced. Like my good friend Leandro, I was strongly struck by the characterization of Stella, Blanche and Stanley. From the outset, I believe the author intended for Stella and Blanche to be character foils for one another. Stella is described as a "gentle young woman" while Blanche is quickly developed as domineering, outspoken and brash (Williams 18-19). Stanley, on the other hand, is a typical "man's man" and his wordplay with Blanche is comical and witty. I have to praise the author's ability to establish an atmosphere with so little actual text. The reader picks up on so many implicit dynamics such as the bossy and the submissive sister and the underlying sexual tension between Stanley and Blanche. Blanche's passive-aggressiveness over Stella can be seen when the former says "But you - you've put on some weight" (Williams 21). Furthermore, a possibly adulterous relationship between Stanley and Blanche is foreshadowed when he asks coyly "Do you mind if I make myself comfortable?" and starts to undress and Blanche responds "Please, please do" (Williams 30). I connected the DuBois sisters relationship to the sisters in the movie 27 Dresses. In the movie, the older sister is constantly repressed by her younger sister yet she continues to protect her and baby her.
Question: Do you think Stanley will cheat on Stella?
Where The L & N Tracks Lead To
The first scene is a fantastic introduction to the setting, since people of all ethnicities are shown to live in New Orleans (we even see Eunice speak a little Spanish, “Por nada, as the Mexicans say, por nada!” (Williams 17)).
There is also the bright contrast of Blanche against her surroundings, and her OWN sister. Blanche gets a third of a page to describe her looks, while Stella gets two sentences to describe hers! When Blanche drinks she says “No, one’s my limit” (Williams 21), when in reality she just had two drinks. We are carefully introduced to her “verge of--lunacy” (Williams 21), and on page 27, she throws a tantrum that makes her own sister cry.
Stanley could be related, to the song “Bathwater”, by No Doubt, which has a verse that reads:
"Wanted and adored by attractive women
Bountiful selection at your discretion
I know I'm diving into my own destruction
So why do we choose the boys that are naughty?"
Stella is shown to be in love with him to the point that “When he’s away for a week I go wild!” (Williams 25). Blanche claims that her first impression of him was that of a “man” (in the sense he was manly). He even mentions an ex-girlfriend, while talking about his type of women (not the Hollywood type), so it is made clear that he has a ‘womenizer’ sort of effect on people, even though he is, as the song reads, “naughty”. And by naughty I mean a jerk, and if you have not noticed that he is a jerk by now, you will eventually.
A symbol that really intrigues me is the use of music, which is already seen early in the play, with the way the Blue Piano plays in the background--such as when Stanley announces Stella’s pregnancy to Blanche, and “The blue piano sounds louder” (Williams 42). Tracking the use of music as I read might be a good idea, afterall, it is a soundtrack embeded into a paperback!
What are other symbols that you have noticed in the play so far? What do you think their significance might be?
Altruism or Selfishness?
After reading chapters one and two of "A Streetcar Named Desire" I had two thoughts hanging in my mind. Firstly, when Stanley says "You see, under the Napoleonic code - a man has to take interest in his wife's affairs - especially now that she's going to have a baby." (Williams 43), I failed to understand his tone and intention. Is he being altruist and caring towards his wife? Or is he simply being selfish and wanting to take advantage of the possibility of enriching himself with the money behind the house at Belle Reve? After all Stanley does seem like a player with his charming style and apparent swagger. On the other hand he could not be evil to the point of wanting all the money for himself and leaving his wife to take care of their upcoming child alone. Or could he? Stanley is portrayed as a very ambiguous character. In this play, all characters actually seem to be very mysterious. Blanche comes out of nowhere and raises tons of suspicions, Stella hides secrets from her sister (though she discovers the baby soon enough) and no one can truly tell Stanley's intentions. Nevertheless, the second thought that hung in my mind after I read chapters one and two, was the character foil in between Blanche and Stella. While Stella is contempt with the happiness found in little things, Blanche wants many clothes and perfumes and to be extravagant. Stella is simple, she accepts living in this small house. Blanche greatly misses their mansion back in Belle Reve and wishes she could return. If I would relate this beginning to something I would relate it to Alexandre Dumas's "The Count of Monte Christo" since it involves greed and I for one, think that Stanley seems very greedy, and is clearly not as simples as Stella who is contempt with what she now has and not what she could have. It seems almost as Stella is in love since it suffices her and Stanley is not.
Dirty, Dirty Lives
Leo and Bernardo, I was also extremely impressed with the undemanding arrangement of atmosphere and characterization right from the first pages of text. From the moment Stanley throws a piece of raw meat to his wife and she laughs breathlessly, a hint of their personalities is already established. Stanley seems to be a very brutal, manly sort of player, while Stella is the unfortunate girl who had fallen too deeply in love with him to notice this. As the story carries on, this becomes more and more visible. Stanley’s description moments before he first meets Blanche already sets perfectly the type of man he is. His “Animal joy in his being and attitudes” (Williams 29), further characterizes him as a brute through the usage of terms like “animal joy”. Also, the fact that he “…sizes women up at a glance, with sexual classifications, crude images flashing into his minds and determining the way he smiles at them” (Williams 29), may also have a link to the earlier occurrence when he was throwing raw meat at his wife. Raw meat is often used to symbolize sexuality, and the later mentioning of his “sexual classifications” for women reinforce this idea, making my earlier presumptions about his character more tangible. Now, about Blanche, many of you mentioned how she is outspoken and not afraid to speak her mind. I do agree with this, however I believe that this is her “public self” (which goes back to the author’s introduction), and that she actually behaves this manner to hide her true self, which she does not seem conformable with. The fact she was described to be dressed in white and that, when talking to her sister Stella, she “sits in a chair very stiffly…” (Williams 18), indicate that she is hiding something. Given what we can see from the manner she talks and acts, her dressing in white does not mean she is delicate and graceful, but rather that she wants to appear to be just that. Also, the fact she is persistently mentioning how desperately she needs a bath (and that after her bath she seems much more radiant) indicate that bathing may be symbolizing the washing away of all her repressed and hidden feelings. Oh, and to answer Bernardo’s question, I am absolutely sure Stanley will cheat on Stella, perhaps even with her own sister, Blanche.
“Baby, since when do you give me orders? ”
At the first scenes we find ourselves with different character personalities, however I would like first to analyze on Stanley-the Polack. Stanley is a sexist type of guy, what else to compare him to if not with JAMES DEAN! Just look at how he is described. He has the sexy bad boy type written all over him! He orders Stella around and only seems to be worried about his wife’s money. Probably Tennessee Williams is doing this purposely, trying to show how men from the 50-60’s were portrayed as ideal. Furthermore, the fact that Stanley is extremely greedy, makes me remember of Steinbeck’s “The Pearl” where the greed from the pearl found by one of fishermen, leads to men acting more childishly and thinking only of their personal impulsive desires.
Stanley is the type of guy that is “compactly built” and has the “animal joy in his being implicit in all of his movements and attitudes (Williams 29)”. This emphasizes that Stanley is a man guided by his sexual and greedy instincts. As it is proven when Williams says, “since his earliest manhood, the center of his life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependently, but with power and pride of a feathered male bird among hens” (Williams 29). Therefore, the author emphasizes this idea of Stanley’s description of a strong sexist figure of 50’s-60’s type of bad boy. Through his description in many ways he seems to be impulsively guided by his id, since he acts according to his will, when he wants and where he wants. He believes he has the control and there is no such thing as boundaries to him, as he takes his shirt in front of Blanche and picks her letters from her hand without caring about Blanche’s personal space. Furthermore, he seems to be very greedy, as the only thing he cares about is Belle Reve’s money. Then I wonder: does he love Stella or her money? Furthermore, is Blanche taking constant baths as a symbol of her wanting to wash herself from all the negative, greedy influence of Stanley, or is she doing that to wash away the negative memories she has of her mysterious past? What do you think Blanche meant in scene two when she said: “The blind are leading the blind”? Is she making any reference to her sister’s love life?
La Carte Blanche
First, I'd like to comment on how impressive and instant the characterization of Stella, Blanche and Stanley is. From only the first two scenes the reader/ audience already gets a good feel about each characters' personalities. I have decided that I dislike Stanley for he is a sexist womanizer, vulgar in more ways than one, and that I prefer Blanche over Stella. Stella seems a bit slow and much too goody-two-shoes. Blanche looks like a powerful, flirty, cunning woman who will not succumb to the will of a brutish man. She will probably exercise her carte blanche as a sister and end up sleeping with Stella's husband. I wonder what Stella's reaction to that would be. Blanche is clearly dominant over her selfless little sister. This is evidenced when Blanche says to her sister, "Honey, do me a favor. Run to the drug-store and get me a lemon-coke with plenty of chipped ice in it! Will you do that for me, Sweetie?", and Stella humbly complies (Williams 40). Characters that are too saintly tend to annoy me. The characters in this play remind me of the movie "The Other Boleyn Girl". The "first" Boleyn girl, so to say, is sweet and kind and innocent and falls in love with the king. She is so damned altruistic she barely protests when she is replaced by her sister. Her sister, meanwhile, is beautiful, cunning, and power hungry. She gives it her best, a woman truly worth of admiration. The king, meanwhile, much like Stanley, believes himself to be the one with all the power and importance in the story, and thinks with his smaller head instead of the one on top of his shoulders. Hopefully, however, the relationship between Blanche and Stella is better than the relationship between the two Boleyn sisters.
My questions: What is the blue piano supposed to represent? Will Blanche sleep with Stanley? What happened to Blanche's young husband? Does Blanch harbor any resentment towards Stella? Isn't Blanche being too defensive about Belle Reve? What happened to Belle Reve? What will happen at poker the next night?