Throughout A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams uses other genres to either mirror or convey themes. In this scene, Williams references the billiard painting ("Cafe Alcazar") by Van Gogh to mirror the actions of the characters. This painting highlights a bar with tables circling a billiard table. The people seated at the tables are obviously inebriated, and in the middle of the scene, a solemn bartender stares out to the viewer. However, the shades of yellow on the floor and emitted from the hanging lights foreshadow an electricfying current that can leash forth at any moment. Of course, this scene ends with the violent attack of Stella at the hands of Stanley.
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.
Again, we set out to read scene three of A Streetcar Named Desire. This scene includes the infamous "Stelllaaa!" scene that has been popularized in popular culture. My intention is for students to realize that a lot of emotions are flowing through this scene, especially at the end when Stanley is pining for Stella. To get them to connect to these emotions, I want to demonstrate that the reading of the lines where Stanley calls out for Stella should be read with much emotion. Students often just read the line nonchalantly, which is extremely anticlimactic. To facilitate the emotional reading that should occur, I show students an old Seinfeld clip where the character Elaine has taken too many pain pills and subsequently screams "Stelllaaa" when she meets Jerry's aunt of the same name.
This scene clearly establishes a contrast between Stanley and Mitch. Williams has created Mitch as the foil to Stanley. In reading the scene, I question students and encourage them to notice the diametrically different characteristics between the two characters: Stanley is crass and rude while Mitch is domesticated and caring. I ask students to consider why Stanley is upset in the scene? (He is losing and Mitch is winning.) How does Stanley treat Stella and Blanche? (He is disrespectful to them while Mitch is courteous.) As we read, I will stop and ask students to notice the differences. Blanche even refers to Mitch as "superior to the others." I focus on this last line and ask students to ponder what Blanche means. I then use that as an opener to the contrasting personalities.
Following the reading of scene three, I ask students to write description of how they view the scene. In referencing the imagery activity completed in the prior lesson, students will use descriptive verbs and adjectives to describe the sights, sounds, taste, touch, and smells of the scene. I always advise students to make use of figurative language such as metaphor, simile, and personification in showing the reader what they are describing versus telling the reader. Their description should be 1-2 paragraphs.
Once students complete their description, I show them the picture of Van Gogh's billiard parlor at night and ask them to compare their description to what they see in the picture. Students will note similarities and differences. They will also note the colors in the picture and what these colors convey as far as the atmosphere that the artist is trying to put forth. They should write another paragraph comparing and contrasting their description to the painting. Lastly, to appropriately relate this activity to the grade eleven standards, I prompt students to consider why Tennessee Williams included the description of the painting in the stage directions? What aesthetic impact does it make and how does it contribute to any theme or themes in the play?
For homework, students will answer the discussion questions for scene three.