Tennessee Williams is known for his powerfully written psychological dramas. Most of his works portray neurotic people who are victims of their own passions, frustrations, and loneliness. This play is clearly no exception. It represents the conflict between the sensitive, neurotic Blanche DuBois and the crude, animalistic Stanley Kowalski. Williams achieves this vigour through his use of language. He has compiled two varying writing techniques, one based on naturalism and realism, with contemporary references, and the other which is stylised and relies mainly on symbolism.
Particularly in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ the use of language is a necessity for the audience to be able to comprehend the true feelings of characters like Blanche, who hides her feelings so effortlessly, and to distinguish between the characters’ statuses and roles. By analysing the dialogue of a script we can understand the way in which the lines are meant to be projected and we can clearly see their emotions at any specific time. Not only does he use his characters to express his lyricism, but it can also be found in his stage directions.
The sky that shows around the dim white building is a peculiarly tender blue almost turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay” (page 1). This shows his continuing use of sensuality, and is used primarily to add effect and maintain the feeling that Tennessee builds up so well with his unique talent and flair for writing. Blanche Blanche uses indirect, long, complex sentences. Hyphens are frequently used to show panic – “Then – just now – a wire – inviting me on a cruise to the Caribbean” (page 105).
She appears to ramble a lot, and is not always in control, which seems to make her feel more vulnerable, and therefore continues talking. Blanche’s character has the most lines in the play and has the last line in every scene, proving that she always initiates and concludes the climax. The words she uses and her mannerisms are possibly quite typical of an English teacher, she seems to be someone who reads and interprets a lot of poetry and fairy-stories. She expresses herself through words; this is shown in her use of metaphors.
When she relates something to another thing she makes it very poetic and magical – “I hope candles are going to glow in his life and I hope that his eyes are going to be like candles, like two blue candles lighted in a white cake! ” (page 91) referring to his inner happiness. A key metaphor in the play is – “… Colours of butterfly wings”. By referring to the butterfly, we can see how this relates to herself. She uses clothes as a way of escapism; she tries to change her image so she can hide behind it.
From a caterpillar develops a butterfly so much more beautiful than before, whereas in comparison, we see Blanches character ‘diminish’, from being a happy, bubbly young lady, she changes into a confused ‘little girl’ as she relies heavily on her sister for comfort and support. She doesn’t seem to be her ‘own person’ anymore, she’s a result of all the experiences she’s been through previously. It appears that Blanche is most poetic when she feels strongly passionate about something, or someone. Blanche often drifts in the middle of sentences to daydream or contemplate the impossible.
She appears to be quite fluent, she never stumbles for words or seems unsure of herself this is probably due to the fake persona she has invented so much so, that it almost seems like she believes herself now. Her vocabulary is seemingly complex, probably because of her profession – “Absconding” “treachery” “antiquity” (page 27) by using such elaborate, polysyllabic words; she proves her intelligence to those around her and empowers herself. She also uses ‘name dropping’ as a way of proving her popularity, and improving her image.
Williams frequently uses questions in Blanches speech, but they are mostly rhetorical, she answers them for herself, this again enables the whole play to pivot around her – “Which of them left us a fortune? Which left us a cent of insurance? ” (page 14). She continues her fake persona by speaking formally, with little colloquial dialect, and it is clear that she is very conscious of her specific language choices, as she uses her dialogue to try and better herself. A characteristic of Blanche’s language would be her southern dialect; she has a traditional accent, which is more rounded than the northern states, with elongated vowel sounds.
This accent suits her character, as it is seemingly soothing and reflective as she reminisces on the past a lot. Her language is also individual though with some peculiarities – “Rub-a-dub dub… ” (page 100). Blanche is Tennessee’s main use of poetry and imagery – “It was like you had suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been half in shadow” (page 75) referring to her feelings for her deceased husband Allan.
Surprisingly Blanche can sometimes appear quite offensive through her language, she doesn’t ‘bite her tongue’ when she wants to insult somebody – “In bed with your – Polack! (Meaning Stanley) I think this reiterates her childish side she doesn’t think of other people’s feelings, or what the consequences might be. Her self obsession is also quite prominent in Tennessee’s writing, “1? I! ” (page 49), she’s quite self-reflective, this again links with how childlike she is. She also uses the language of a child at certain times, referring to Stella as “baby” and “Stella for star” this could be received in a patronising manner by Stella, but I think it relates to Blanche unconsciously reminiscing on their childhood familiarities.
Blanche uses innuendoes, particular ones of a sexual nature to familiarise herself with the male characters, especially Mitch – “big capable hands”. This may be a way to make the other person feel a little bit more relaxed and at ease, although it is just as likely to have the adverse effect on someone such as Mitch who is naturally uneasy around women. It is probable that you would only use a sexual innuendo with someone you are comfortable with, hinting that perhaps she thinks she knows people better than in reality perhaps.
Stella Stella is probably William’s most believable character from ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. As she is so down-to-earth. She sees sense in everything and more often than not tries to see the best in every situation, a genuine optimist. She is even able to see good Stanley even though Blanche only sees his curt exterior. A prime example of this is the night after the poker game, when the radio is thrown out of the apartment – “It didn’t land on the pavement, so only one tube was smashed” (page 48).
Whereas most people would consider it better if the radio wasn’t broken at all, Stella tries to bring out the best, and doesn’t blame Stanley, but this most likely to be due to her sexual attraction towards her husband. From her style of language, you can tell that she’s genuine. She speaks in varied lengths of dialogue, but not long passages. She’s very believable in the way that she speaks, because it’s so naturalistic. There are few pauses and no linguistics. She frequently uses colloquial dialect – “honey”.
She is also direct – “I thought you might of resigned”, but I don’t think this is a bad quality. She is fairly informal, but I perceived this more as ‘comfortable’ rather than impolite. Stella doesn’t ask many questions in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ she chooses to accept facts rather than question them like Blanche and Stanley do. But when she does ask questions, they’re not invasive. One peculiarity typical of Stella is her use of clichi?? s – “Stanley was as good as a lamb” (page 47). I think this shows Williams expressing himself but not so poetically like Blanche.
Stella also uses metaphors as another method of expressionism – ‘My head is swimming’ (page 21) this symbolises her thoughts swimming around in her head showing confusion. Surprisingly, Stella also uses sexual innuendoes similarly to her older sister Blanche – “I was sort of thrilled by it” (page 48) referring to Stanley smashing all the light bulbs with the heel of her slipper on their wedding night, and “He’s a different species”. In comparison to Blanche, Stella looks at everything straight on. Stanley Stanley is a very strong, determined and powerful character.
Form certain lines and how Stanley reacts, I initially thought that he acts before he thinks – “I don’t care if she hears me. Let’s see the papers” (page 21). From this quote, you can see that Stanley means ‘business’. Although in retrospect, the character of Stanley is very devious and calculating, although sometimes is appears as if he says things without thinking, I generally think he considers what he is going to say in depth, as to give the impression of not ‘wasting’ any breath, as if the people in his company aren’t worthy of him.
He shows power over characters with his orders and aggressiveness, whereas Blanche uses her intellectuality. Stanley thinks very highly of himself, by referring to himself as ‘king’. But Blanche soon puts him straight with her hurtful name calling of ‘Polack’ this almost makes him realise that he is no better than anyone else. But he still believes in dominating Stella throughout the play. When Blanche refers to him as a ‘pig’ Stanley is naturally insulted, but by acting and behaving like one he does nothing to help himself.
Stanley’s language may not always be grammatically correct, but that adds to the depth of the character. Stanley’s vocabulary is portrayed as limited and simple. As a character and through his language he is very informal and uses a lot of colloquial dialect – “damn tooting”, “grease ball”, and “monkey doings”. Stanley also uses questions in his speech similarly to Blanche but he uses them to reiterate something, to intimidate – “Swine huh? ” and “You did huh? “. This is one of Stanley’s peculiarities of speech, with the repetition of ‘huh? .
This emphasises his impoliteness and vulgarity. Stanley frequently uses imperative verbs in his speech, mainly aimed at Stella. As an alternative for poetry and imagery, Stanley expresses himself through humour – “What is she some deep-sea diver? “. Stanley also uses clichi?? s like Stella – “I’m as common as dirt”, which is probably the origin of Stella’s change in language in comparison to her sister. Stanley also uses sexual innuendoes but they are aimed at his sister in law, rather than his wife – “let’s have some rough house”.
The adverbs used in the stage directions regarding Stanley also give emphasis to his character – e. g. ‘ominously’, ‘angrily’, ‘booming’ and ‘contemptuously’. These words give more indication to the actual meaning (the hidden truth behind his words). They give the impression of how powerful, and headstrong he is, and also almost a warning of his hot temper, as they mostly relate to a bad or violent mood. Mitch You can see beyond the character of Mitch in the way he uses language. He can be quite gentle at times, and say things to impress Blanche.
This is clear in the blatant comment – “You may teach school, but you’re no old maid”. Mitch tries to unsuccessfully reveal his feelings to Blanche, but he becomes aggressive and agitated and we see a similarity to Stanley. Perhaps he does think highly of her at the beginning of the play, but unsurprisingly his mind is soon changed when he hears of her reputation from Stanley. Mitch is more reflective than any of the other characters, and it is obvious of how uneasy he is in the company of women through his language – “I am ashamed of the way I perspire” (page 70).
This is a true representation of Mitch’s dialect, simple sentences, no adjectives, and with no development. Mitch invites a reaction from the other person. He’s most comfortable when he’s stating facts, this means that he can’t be questioned. Mitch is a meaningless character; he doesn’t reveal his true identity throughout the whole play. His use of questions is very obvious, its his individual way of developing a conversation, with little success – After Blanche discusses the inscription in his cigarette case clearly having heard of them, Mitch says – “You know it? (page 38) Mitch is portrayed as the most gentle of the men in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.
He uses gentle words in the presence of Blanche, and his sensitivity shines through in his language, however it seems he is far from the knight in shining armour she was hoping for. The gentlemen in her past were more elaborate, richer, and possibly a lot more gallant, however she believes herself to be a ‘wilting flower’ so she may also deem him to be the best she can do.
Through the language of the characters, it becomes easier to distinguish the differences and similarities of them. The language and accents are used to help set the scene in New Orleans with Pablo, Stanley and Blanche all being in the same place, but of completely different origin. The diversity can be seen in the characters through their use of language and the way in which they present their lines. Contributing to the visual aspects, lines give a sense of place and person and how they interact with one another.