Friday, November 16, 2007

The use of Setting in A Streetcar Named Desire

In the opening stage directions of the play, the area in New Orleans where Elysian Fields is located is said to have a “raffish charm”. This quality of have a disreputable charm can be see in Stanley and his friends, as well as everyone living there, including the Negro woman who starts off the play with her scandalous anecdote. Immediately, the sleazy, open, yet friendly atmosphere of Elysian Fields is established. The people here all seem to know on another, and, if tested by an intruder, their loyalties would be with each other.

The buildings are described lyrically by Williams, from the “tender blue, turquoise” sky to the smells of “bananas and coffee,” and he creates a very unique setting for the play, a place that sounds appealing despite the poorness. The poorness is nonetheless apparent, where the stairs are “faded,” and the people live in very close proximity. The crowded set-up evokes a sense of claustrophobia, and there may be little space for an extra person.

The name of the area, Elysian Fields, is misleading, as it conjures up ideas of a paradise, with the “white columns” that Blanche was accustomed to in Belle Reve. Blanche is therefore very surprised to find Elysian Fields as how it is, as it would have gone against her illusions of waterfalls and white columns, as well as the grand, spacious place where she had lived. The poorness of this area is highlighted when she arrives, wearing a white suit, necklace and pearl earrings, and her dress shows that the place she had dressed for does not live up to her expectations. Her shock upon seeing it, “They mustn’t have understood” hints at the conflict between her background, culture and class, and that of the people who live her, which will come later.

When Blanche enters Stanley and Stella’s home, she is even less impressed, as there is little space for two people, let alone a third. This again foreshadows future tensions due to the claustrophobia and cramped conditions. The place is not described favourably, and Eunice’s claim that “when it’s cleaned, it’s real sweet” is not taken seriously by Blanche. Blanche does not think this place is good enough for her, and this will be one of the main things to annoy Stanley about her later. When Blanche finally meets Stella, she slips out, “Never in my worst dreams could I picture! Only Poe!”, rudely implying that their home is like something in a horror story. By doing this, she is insulting Stanley as well as Stella, and she will continue to insult Stanley on a range of things, which will eventually lead to her downfall.


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