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Published: 19-11-2019

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The use of suspense in A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams uses a variety of methods to generate a robust sense of dramatic tension all through A Streetcar Named Desire, as he mostly focuses on the interactions in between characters to develop an edgy mood. For instance, Williams’ presentation of Blanche suggests she is truly the primary cause of dramatic tension in the play – as her connection with Stella and Stanley seems to be really strained due to her own apprehensive nature. The use of setting as properly as sound effects also contributes to the general unnerving atmosphere, considering that these characteristics each produce an element of excitement and establish an aura of uneasiness. Consequently, the audience grows much more conscious of the overwrought tone that dominates the play, and becomes far more intrigued by Williams’ effective use of dramatic staging.

In scene 1, Williams is quickly productive in constructing a tense atmosphere as he highlights Blanche’s tentativeness when arriving in New Orleans for the initial time. When Blanche enters her sister’s flat, the stage directions image her as sitting ‘very stiffly with her shoulders slightly hunched and her legs pressed close together’. The word ‘stiffly’ indicates how uncomfortable Blanche is and the fact that she is ‘hunched’ suggests that she is feeling very anxious she is nervously cowering away in a corner of the space. In addition, Williams’ description of her legs ‘pressed close together’ implies that she senses danger, and is consequently overcome by a sudden urge to defend herself and keep a tight, strong composure. The audience quickly recognises Blanche’s tense response to her surroundings and possibly notices that Blanche is in a vulnerable position. Blanche is said to come from a conventional middle class background of the Old South, an upbringing which was romanticised drastically therefore, she represents an almost fanatical planet full of beauty and sophistication. A Marxist view may possibly be that the tension is amplified due to her incongruousness with her new atmosphere she is not used to the cramped, unsophisticated circumstances of the modern New Orleans apartment and consequently feels very uneasy about the scenario. Williams’ presentation of Stella and Blanche’s partnership at the starting of the play forms one more key factor in constructing a suspenseful mood, as he establishes a sense of awkwardness amongst the sisters. For instance, Williams notes that Blanche speaks with a ‘feverish vivacity’ which unveils how erratic and rushed she is, as a result demonstrating how her mind is restless and the tension between her and her sister is all too powerful for her to maintain self-composure. Blanche’s quick reaction seems to be to turn to alcohol as ‘she rushes to the closet and removes the bottle shaking all more than and panting for breath as she tries to laugh’. This movement reveals how Blanche is overcome by nerves and merely can't include herself, as she helplessly tries to remain calm but ‘the bottle practically slips from her grasp’. Blanche’s inability to unwind reinforces the tense atmosphere and informs the audience of her insecurity that is present throughout the play. A psychoanalytical view may possibly be that Blanche is basic uncomfortable due to her own insecurity and lack of poise as she enables herself to be effortlessly overcome with panic. Consequently, Blanche’s mental instability can be understood as a major contribution to the play’s tension – as she relies on alcohol to calm her nerves and allow herself to forget the edgy atmosphere.

Similarly, dramatic tension is generated by means of Blanche’s relationship with Stanley, which enables Williams to generate an ambiance filled with ominousness. The tension amongst Stanley and Blanche becomes especially apparent in Scene two when Stanley convinces himself that Blanche is lying about the mysterious loss of Belle Reve. He grows very aggressive as he ‘hurls the furs to the daybed’ and ‘kicks the trunk’ when tearing his way by means of Blanche’s possessions. This series of motions signifies Stanley’s explosive nature so that the audience begin to recognize how edgy the Kowalski household is as a result of Stanley’s violence. Williams increases the tenseness even additional as Blanche ‘airily’ exits the bathroom and greets Stanley in a friendly manner, generating the contrast among these characters develop really apparent. As a result, Williams creates a rather awkward mood and makes it possible for the audience to contemplate how uneasy the atmosphere is, as Stanley grows even angrier due to the fact that Blanche is so calm. This situation could also link to the Marxist interpretation of class forming a crucial part of dramatic tension in the play under this interpretation, Stanley is rather jealous of Blanche and her supposed hidden fortune. As a consequence, Stanley’s determination to demonise Blanche increases the wrought-up mood. Further on in scene four, Williams adds to the dramatic tension by focusing on Stanley’s bitterness towards Blanche (right after overhearing her fantastic tour de force about his primitiveness). For example, when Stella embraces Stanley just after he returns from operate, the stage directions state that Stanley ‘grins by way of the curtains at Blanche’ in a manner that fairly an unsettling mood for the audience as well as for Blanche. Williams indeed generates a sinister tone as this eerie ‘grin’ acts as a kind of intimidation towards Blanche, and once again the audience is drawn into this sly but intense resentment that these two characters direct towards. This element of the plot could link to the reality that Stanley is an immigrant of a considerably decrease class than Blanche, and he could possibly really feel threatened by the fact that she is of a wealthier background than he is for that reason, his self-fulfilling prophecy is an act of revenge to embrace his primitive, bestial nature and subdue Blanche even a lot more. In the following scene, Stella exclaims ‘Hey! Don’t I price a single kiss?’ to Stanley, to which he hardly replies ‘Not in front of your sister.’ This cutting remark reinforces the powerful tension among Stanley and Blanche and suggests that the pressure amongst them has a considerable effect on Stanley and Stella’s marriage. A feminist view may possibly be that Stanley is generating the majority of the play’s dramatic tension by efficiently competing for his wife with Blanche – that he purely wants to sustain the dominant male part thus, by intimidating Blanche and producing an unnerving atmosphere for her to live in, he is forcing her out of his connection with Stella.

Williams’ use of setting is yet another way in which he manages to add to the plays dramatic tension as he conveys a accurate sense of edginess via the atmosphere for instance in scene three (‘The Poker Night’) Williams cleverly adapts the setting to reflect a rather suspenseful atmosphere. Williams’ concentrate on the colours in the billiard-parlour is essential as this is particularly successful in making an agitated atmosphere. A number of references to colour are made ‘the raw colours of childhood’s spectrum…yellow linoleum of the kitchen table…vivid green glass shade’ all of which are harsh, overwhelming colours. As these colours are really jarring the audience is successfully warned about the fierce drama that is to follow, as a result generating a sense of apprehension. Stanley, Steve, Mitch and Pablo are also referred to as ‘as coarse and direct and strong as main colours’ and Williams notes their coloured shirts – ‘solid blues, a purple red-and-white verify, a light green’. These further references to powerful vibrant colours exaggerate the men’s potency and forcefulness which once more adds to the dramatic tension as the boldness of the men contrasts drastically with Blanche’s femininity and pale pastels that are related with her. Likewise at the starting of scene four Williams’ stage directions reflect a state of chaos and tension following Stanley’s act of violence towards Stella the night ahead of. For instance the table is said to be ‘sloppy with the remains of breakfast and the debris of the preceding night’. The fact that the table is ‘sloppy’ reflects how little has been done in an attempt to recover right after the shocking occurrences and the ‘debris’ symbolises the tension that nonetheless lingers in the air from the preceding night. Stanley’s ‘gaudy pyjamas’ are lying on the bathroom floor which adds to the apprehensive mood, producing the audience wary of his presence as its unclear as to whether he is nevertheless in the household. The precise attention drawn to his ‘gaudy’ pyjamas also implies how Stanley dominates the play throughout due to his capacity to produce tension and overshadow other weak characters. The outdoors door is ‘slightly ajar’ which furthers the unsettled mood as the apartment is unprotected and open to the dangers of the outdoors world, but also creates a sense of hesitance as it is not clear as to what is to enter or leave.

The use of plastic theatre throughout A Streetcar Named Desire also has a enormous impact on the dramatic tension in the play as Williams incorporates a lot of sound effects to reflect the strained tone. The piece of music that is utilized most usually is the Blue piano which is meant to represent Blanche’s mental deterioration.
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