A Streetcar Named Desire – Critical Opinions

Image © The Guardian

In the exam, you will be marked on AO5 (Explore the ways different people (including critical thought) react to, and interpret texts.)

You will need to include some sense of debate in your essay but offering different interpretations of the same point, it could be a separate paragraph or within the same paragraph. You can do this by either, offering a different opinion “However, in a differing opinion, it could be suggested…” or you can use critics opinions to aid what you are saying. You can also discuss how the characters have been interpreted differently in stage and film adaptations of the play. For this exam, it doesn’t matter if you don’t include the critic’s name, but make sure you re using it to illustrate a point and not just throwing it in for the sake of it!

Here are some critical opinions we have looked at in class, of course don’t try and remember all of them, but gather a selection that you can use in your essay if appropriate.

Alternative Critical Perspective – Melbourne High School

“The mythology of Southern Womanhood…elevated the white woman to a position of veneration (saintly)”

“The black woman being perceived as lusty and compliant, the white as Puritanical and lily-pure”

“In the final confrontation with the drunken Mitch, when he knows she is not the virgin of his dreams, but the slut of his desires, she accuses him of being ‘uncavalier’”

“Williams has said he considers Blanche liberated”

“It is only during the courtship that the woman has the advantage”

“Both Blanche and Stella seek the security of marriage, but both find marriage has its own problems for the wife”

“As a gay man, Tennessee Williams felt he was particularly sensitive to the status of women – powerless”

“Having watched [Williams’] sister struggle to become the kind of southern belle that his mother expected, he knew how cruel this definition of roles could be.”

“Blanche is both a villain and a victim”

Last Stop: Blanche’s Breakdown, Shirley Galloway

“Tennessee Williams infuses Blanche and Stanley with the symbols of opposing class and differing attitudes towards sex and love”

“everyone loses something…gives the play its tragic cast”

“[Blanche] has her own desires that draw her to Stanley, like a moth to the light, a light she avoids, even hates, yet yearns for”

“[Stanley] has no use for Blanche…She is a disruption to his and Stella’s relationship

“roots of [Blanche’s] trauma lie in her early marriage”

“Her drive to lose herself in the ‘kindness of strangers’ might also be understood from this period in that her sense of confidence in her own feminine attraction was shaken by the knowledge of her husband’s homosexuality”

“[Blanche] wants a cultured man but is often subconsciously attracted to strong, basic male characters, no doubt a reflexive response since her marriage with a cultured, sensitive man ended in disaster”

“Stanley survives because of sheer physical vitality, not because of any innate superiority”

Stanley & Blanche

“Stanley is portrayed as the personification of disgusting normality, or as one of the brutes who will eventually inhabit the earth”

“it is apparent that Stanley has a great deal of confidence in himself as a man and a husband and that Stella can find security in his confidence”

“[Stanley] can be admired for defending his home against the treachery of Blanche”

“Stanley is decidedly an abnormal member of society”

“Stanley’s devotion to poker games and undershirts announces his virility”

“Stanley is more in tune with reality [than Blanche]”

“He represents the macho forward-driving America of the future”

“Stanley […] emerge[s] as a sort of hero, fighting for the health and sexual normalcy of his marriage against the impositions of the sexually perverted and psychologically profane Blanche”

Patricia Hern and Michael Hooper

“Stanley is a new American, an immigrant, a man of the city”

“[Stanley] shows, perhaps, the more acceptable face of that macho urban jungle pictured in the Hollywood gangster movies of the 1930s”

Susannah Clapp on Gillian Anderson as Blanche on stage

“She perches on spindly stilettos and on caramel-coloured cork wedges, precarious and desperately determined. She is like a bird of prey who has just alighted on her carrion”

Gendered Language and Cultural Identity in A Streetcar Named Desire, Samual Tapp

“Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski both manipulate language and are both manipulated by language”

“Blanche DuBois is a victim of the mythology of the ‘southern belle’”

“She was expected to be innocent, childlike, decorous, demure and submissive…was promised chivalry and romance”

“[Blanche’s] coquetry is often a self-defensive strategy”

“Stanley is as much a victim of masculine ideology (like the Napoleonic Code)”

“Blanche frequently uses ‘empty’ adjective, one of the feminine characteristics identified by Lakoff”

“Overall Tennessee Williams has written a script that dramatizes the battle between the sexes…inequalities that exist in the world and the value of literature in helping to solve them”

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12 thoughts on “A Streetcar Named Desire – Critical Opinions

  1. Anna says:

    If you’re sitting the AS exam this year (or you know, next week) do we have to include critical opinions or is that just for the A level exam next year? Nothing has been said by my teacher to mention any critics so I’m hoping this isn’t the case. Thanks

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    • year12englishblog says:

      Hi! Critical opinions aren’t compulsory in any of the exams this year, but they can be useful for AO3 for prose and AO3 and AO5 for drama.

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    • year12englishblog says:

      Hi! It’s recommended that you spend around 50 minutes writing for poetry, which equates to 10 minutes per paragraph if you spend 5 minutes each on the introduction and conclusion. I think the main thing is to try and write concisely, and to make your best point first in case you run out of time.

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    • year12englishblog says:

      I’m afraid we can’t help with the AQA exam as we’re all doing Edexcel, but I would think that for all exam boards that your engagement with critical opinions is more important than the number of critics you reference – talking about, say, two or three critical viewpoints in detail and linking them to your overall argument is probably going to get you more marks than quoting five different people but not using those quotes to form your own argument. Similarly, the examiner will probably want to see that you have an understanding of the play as a whole, but you (probably) don’t need to reference every scebe in every essay. Hope that helps!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hannah says:

    Hello
    i just wanted to ask how you would structure ascnd in terms of the drama as a whole. For example,if i was answering a question aboit deception , I would i talk about Blanche and then her stage directions, how lighting and sound all potray deception. I may also talk about male characters in generic…

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    • year12englishblog says:

      Hi! There’s no one correct essay structure, although the one you describe sounds like it would work. It really all depends on what you’re trying to argue, and what you feel your strongest point is.

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