A Prostitute, a Thief, and a Drunk: A Streetcar Named Desire, Act I, Scene Ten
Lesson 12 of 15
Objective: SWBAT analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a drama by finding text evidence to support varying facets of a character's development.
This lesson contains a considerable amount of sensitive issues that teachers must consider before covering. Scene Ten is the section of the play where Stanley rapes Blanche. The scene ends with Stanley carrying Blanche into the bedroom. I traditionally teach this play at the end of the year when I am able to make an evaluation as to whether students can handle the subject matter. In the many years that I have taught this play, I have never encountered any students having an issue with the subject matter. In fact, it has piqued their interests, and I have been pleased to notice that they are horrified by the turn of events. However, my school is very liberal and progressive when it comes to these types of issues. The scene does not have any explicit detail indicating a rape; it is more inferred than directly stated.
In this lesson, I feel we have gathered so much information on Blanche's character that it is possible to delve even deeper into her character. Here, we look closely at Tennessee Williams's stage directions in relating this information to Blanche's character. She is so adept at existing in her fantasy world that it is almost like she has several personalities.
To review for the vocabulary test at the end of the week, I quickly flip through the flashcards that students prepared for homework. We discuss the connotations, definitions, and how to use them in a sentence.
This scene is the most powerful scene in the play. It is where Stanley rapes Blanche while Stella is at the hospital having a baby. It also represents the second time in the play that Blanche is raped. In Scene Nine, Blanche is emotionally raped when Mitch tears up the paper lantern that dims the light so Blanche's age is ambiguous.
In the scene, I encourage students to notice how Blanche is fully emerged into her fantasy world while Stanley slowly tears it apart, similar to the way Mitch tears up the paper lantern that allows Blanche to disguise her age. On both a physical and emotional level, Blanche's fantasy is crumbling and her decent into madness is imminent.
I also point out the stage directions in the middle of the scene that describe a prostitute "rolling" a drunk, a woman stealing from the prostitute, and Blanche functioning in an inebriated state. I ask students to think about how Blanche fits into all these roles: prostitute, a thief, and a drunk. These three characteristics describe Blanche at some point in the play.
In Scene Ten, I think we learn so much about Blanche that students will be able to create a skillful analysis of her character. To differentiate this assignment and to make it totally Common Core, I present the characterization in the form of three references Tennessee Williams makes in the stage directions in this scene: a prostitute, a thief, and a drunk. In many ways, Blanche fits into all three characterizations. For example, her reputation in Laurel would qualify her as a prostitute; her pilfering of liquor within the Kowalski household makes her a thief, and her over-consumption of alcohol constitutes a drunk.
In the attached handout, students will explain how Blanche falls into each category and they will then look for an appropriate piece of text evidence to support their answer.