Notes on A Streetcar Named Desire Themes

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A Streetcar Named Desire Topic Tracking: Opposing Backgrounds

Scene 1

Opposing Backgrounds 1: Blanche arrives in New Orleans expecting a house similar to the one in which she and Stella were children. Her proper upbringing on the plantation of Belle Reve leaves her unexpectedly shocked at Stella's current house in Elysian Fields. She is dressed as if she was raised wealthy, and stands in a home that appears as if she was not raised properly. It is the home of her sister and brother-in-law and is her new home. She believes she is stepping down in class.

Opposing Backgrounds 2: Stella tells Blanche about Stanley's friends. She infers that they are not going anywhere in life. Their "type" is not the kind that Blanche and Stella are used to. This contrasting lifestyle stems from their distinct backgrounds. Stella and Blanche were raised on a plantation with money and society, while Stanley and his friends were poor and uneducated. Now the two classes are pushed together in the same world.

Opposing Backgrounds 3: When Blanche and Stanley meet, their opposite lifestyles and backgrounds are obvious. Stanley is sweaty, dirty, and rude, while Blanche is perfumed, well dressed, and soft-spoken. They both know that they are different and they torment one another because of their different backgrounds.

Scenes 2 and 3

Opposing Backgrounds 4: The backgrounds of Stanley and his friends are evident during the poker game. They curse, drink beer, and act violently. Mitch is the only one who displays some grace and courtesy. Blanche notices his distinction from the rest of the group.

Opposing Backgrounds 5: Blanche tells Mitch the origin of her name and talks of her French roots. She presents herself as having an excellent pedigree and strong, educated background. Mitch is in awe of her grace and presentation. It contrasts with the presentation of the poker players in the next room.

Scenes 4 and 5

Opposing Backgrounds 6: Blanche complains of the mess in the house. She tells Stella that she wants to help her escape. She says the house needs to be clean and she needs money in order to do so. She plans to call one of her old college beaux. She is used to cleanliness and maids, while Stella is living with Stanley in a dirty, old flat. Blanche wants to leave the poor home for luxury, while Stella is happy living in the flat with Stanley despite their meager lifestyle.

Opposing Backgrounds 7: Blanche illustrates her low opinion of Stanley through a descriptive image of a caveman. She thinks his background is common and he is violent and uneducated. She thinks Stella is too good for him.

Opposing Backgrounds 8: When Stanley mentions the Flamingo Hotel, Blanche replies that she would never be seen in it. That sort of establishment is too common, low, and base for a girl of her upbringing. She thinks herself too proper to associate with it.

Opposing Backgrounds 9: Blanche admits to pretending to give the impression of wealth. She tells Stella that she wants Mitch to want her. He thinks that she is proper and refined. She gives the impression that she is, secretly knowing that she is not. She needs to believe that she is in order to keep up her façade.

Scene 6

Opposing Backgrounds 10: As they get to know each other, Blanche and Mitch recognize their distinct backgrounds. Blanche speaks French while Mitch doesn't understand one word of it. Mitch talks about mundane things such as perspiration and gyms, while Blanche talks of education and foreign languages. They both give the impression of coming from different worlds as they speak with one another. Despite their opposing upbringings, they still enjoy one another and want to spend more time together. They share one thing that transcends class and background: loneliness.

Scenes 7 and 8

Opposing Backgrounds 11: Stanley informs Stella of Blanche's tawdry sexual history. He shows her that although Blanche believes she comes from a better background, she behaves to the contrary. She lives her life as if she had no education, no refinement, and no prudence. It's almost as she lives the background of Stanley that she so desperately thinks is unfit for Stella.

Opposing Backgrounds 12: Stanley reminds Stella of their opposing backgrounds, yet does not present it through the negative view that Blanche sees. He believes he saved Stella from an uptight, refined background and brought her to the colorful, common world. Both Stanley and Stella know they come from different worlds, but they have managed to make their own new world together.

Scene 11

Opposing Backgrounds 13: Blanche exits the house as she entered. She walks through the "common" poker game in a very refined, proper way. She tells them not to get up, and leaves. They continue to play poker. The opposing ways of life are evident in this final scene of the play. The poker players are still drunk and common, Stella is classy and concerned for her sister, Mitch stares at the table upset, and Stanley tries to woo his wife back to their previous ways. All the different upbringings, including those of the doctor and nurse, are mixed into this scene, representing a modern society.

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