The Decline of Aristocracy in "A Streetcar Named Desire"

Topics: Social class, Marxism, Working class Pages: 5 (1308 words) Published: October 26, 2013

1. Set after World War I, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams reflects many of the social and cultural changes that occurred after the war.

2. Immediately the time of day (“first dark of an evening”) accentuates the background of socio-economic change as it symbolically represents the death of an old value system and the birth of a new set of social values.

3. The play takes place in the French Quarter of New Orleans which is immediately depicted as an impoverished yet cosmopolitan city due to the contrasting juxtaposition of the “warm and easy intermingling of races” and the “atmosphere of decay” of the antiquated structures (as established in Scene 1)

4. Thus, T.W. immediately suggests the idea of transition --> old, southern values to new, urban values because the ornamented, raffish buildings stand out against the socially progressive city.

5. The life of the evidently lower class in the poor section is shown to be “unlike corresponding sections in other American cities” (Scene 1) due to the vibrant synaesthesia (visual/auditory). For example, the contradictory image of a “blue piano” suggests both the dolorous poverty but also, as expressed in Scene 1, the “spirit of life” and as such, takes the sting out of poverty.

6. Essentially, the introduction to the setting in Scene 1 shows the atypical society of the slum, Elysian Fields because it has been romanticized by Tennessee Williams as a rich melting pot of cultures and values.

7. The idea of the inevitable conflict between the declining aristocratic class and the burgeoning proletariat is evident as soon as Blanche arrives because, even in such a cosmopolitan city, is “incongruous to this setting” (Scene 1). Furthermore, Elysian Fields = Greek heaven & Blanche = Romantic South. Her arrival foreshadows conflict as it is the death of the old South.

8. Furthermore, the idea of conflict is accentuated by the description of Blanche's journey as she first rode a streetcar named “Desire” and then one called “Cemeteries” to get to the slum. Her disbelief at looking at her sister's living conditions captures the upper class' arrogance and foreshadows struggle.

9. Blanche is representative of the elite part of southern society. As soon as she arrives → Derisive of Stella & not happy about her being married. However, due to her not having a residence and having been fired from her job/losing Belle Reve all make her exude a sense of vulnerability and frailty. This sense can be interpreted as the fall of the upper echelons of society.

10. Meanwhile, Stanley is established as the exact opposite of Blance → Antithesis. He is animalistic (“red meat” in Scene 1) → Image of a caveman bringing back kill. He is a reveler. Even Stella is shown to be plump.

11. Blanche is the other extreme → Completely detached from her animal/primitive nature, her health/sexuality are all declining → Metaphorically alluding to the fall of aristocracy. “[hasn't] put on one ounce in ten years” → Idea of antiquity and wasting away.

12. Additionally, the theme of deceit is made evident by Blanche's portrayal as a pathological liar → Lies about alcoholism to Stanley and about being fired from her job. This is in contrast to Stanley's crude candidness which essentially shows the upper class to be fraudulent and manipulative.

13. SCENE 2 → Main class conflict. In short, Stan accuses Blanche of selling Belle Reve to maintain her upscale lifestyle and thus violating the Napoleonic Code (cheating Stella/Stanley)

14. Belle Reve translates to “beautiful dream” and, as described in Scene 2, its loss due to the “epic fornications” of Blanche's relatives shows the decline of the upper class. However, this leaves a sort of power vacuum in society which is shown by the struggle between Stanley and Blanche.

15. Stanley's demand to see the bill of sale represents the proletariat demanding its portion of society. Blanche, an elite southern belle has not maintained all...
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