What are some of the main moods in A Streetcar Named Desire?

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The most dominant mood in this play is that of tension. There is conflict, whether underlying or overt, in every scene. The tension is created by the presence of Blanche in the Kowalski household. In fact Blanche, who is very anxious to appear genteel and refined, considers herself at odds with the entire run-down New Orleans neighbourhood where her sister lives.

Blanche racks up the tension immediately she arrives, taking her sister Stella to task for living in a slum and also blaming her for what she sees as her family desertion, in leaving their home Belle Reve to marry Stanley. She takes it upon herself to try and re-arrange things to her own liking in her sister’s house, which of course doesn’t go down well with either Stella or Stanley. Moreover, she continually antagonises Stanley, looking down on him for his unrefined bearing – although she also tries to flirt with him.

All this enrages Stanley and he gets revenge on Blanche by spreading the gossip that he learns about her. Stanley turns Mitch, the man she hoped to marry, against her by exposing her life of lies and sexual promiscuity. By the end of the play, though, Mitch also turns against Stanley for helping to drive Blanche into madness. Stella is also terribly upset at having to commit Blanche to a mental home.

Thus Blanche creates tension all around her and this mood often explodes into outright conflict and violence. However, alongside this there is a quieter and more elegiac strain that runs through the play. Again, this is centred mostly on Blanche, as she recalls her lost loves and the hardships that she has had to endure in her life – particularly the loss of her husband who turned out to be homosexual and ended up shooting himself. She also recalls the death of various family members that she witnessed at Belle Reve, the people that she was obliged to nurse through their final illnesses:

I - lived in a house where dying old women remembered their dead men...(scene 9)

Though the elegiac mood may generally be less apparent than the atmosphere of tension and confrontation, it is really no less important.

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