Every Man's A King: A Streetcar Named Desire, Act I, Scene Eight

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Objective

SWBAT cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Big Idea

Blanche's fantasy world becomes Stanley's fodder.

Overview

My intent in this lesson is to relate the ideologies of Huey Long to Stanley.  Much of Stanley's character is built on the politics of Huey Long, the famed Louisiana politician who built a career on this mantra that "every man is a king."  In a way, Stanley is a baby Huey.  However, more importantly, the core to Stanley's modeling of Long's ideas is Stanley's complete existence in reality.  This posturing serves as a great contrast to Blanche's existence in a complete fantasy world.  This lesson will explore both worlds.  It is Common Core aligned because it requires students to find text evidence to support contentions about Blanche, Stella, and Stanley, and it looks to examine the themes of fantasy and illusion and male dominance in this scene and throughout the play.

Huey Long: Every Man's a King

20 minutes

In this section, students will be introduced to the political leanings of Huey Long, the former governor of Louisiana and United States senator.  I feel it is necessary to expose students to the ideas of Long because much of what Stanley does and says is influenced by Long's politics.  In this scene, Stanley reaffirms his dominating presence in the household by quoting Long. 

Students will watch the old newsreel about Long and write in their notebooks character traits and sayings that Long says that remind them of Stanley.  I will also ask students why they think Stanley would identify with Long?  Students commonly respond that similar to Stanley Long was a forceful, aggressive figure who promoted male dominance.  He approved of violent retaliations and was extremely volatile.  These traits very much parallel the way Tennessee Williams creates the character of Stanley.

I will then open up the floor to discussion and call upon students to read their answers.

Read A Streetcar Named Desire, Scene Eight

30 minutes

The class will take parts as we read scene eight. I encourage students to pay attention to how Blanche desperately tries to hold on to her fantasy as Stanley's revelations destroy her relationship with Mitch.  I also ask students in the form of a class discussion to consider what Mitch means to Blanche: does she really love him or is he a way for her to seek financial stability? Students usually see Mitch as a way out for Blanche: a way to find financial security and love to cure her loneliness.  Blanche's lies and fake persona lead them to believe this.  As we have progressed in the unit, we have talked about the social roles of women in post-war America and how many women depended on marriage as a means of survival.  This scene also brings out the animalistic and violent side of Stanley.  Students notice in this scene just how closely Stanley resembles Huey Long.  We also see Stanley finally put an end to the ethnic slur that Blanche has continually called Stanley. 

Fantasy Versus Illusion

20 minutes

At the end of this lesson, we examine the two different worlds that Blanche and Stanley live in.  Blanche's world is a complete fantasy: her wish to appear much younger than she is and the stories she tells to plume her feathers to Mitch.  Stanley, on the other hand, exists completely in reality and does what he can to destroy Blanche's fantasy world.  Stella, however, negotiates both worlds in an attempt to appease both characters.  In the attached worksheet, students will have an opportunity to examine the fantasy and realistic worlds of Blanche and Stanley, but also look closely at how Stella enables both characters to function in their worlds.  She is unable to stand up to Stanley and his demands, thus perpetuating his realistic world of card games and bowling alleys.  Similarly, she plays along with Blanche's fantasy world so as not to distrupt Blanche's mental state.

As students complete the worksheet, they will look for specific lines in the play where Stella enables both characters. (This is the Common Core alignment.) Finally, students will write a reflection where they speculate why Stella enables both characters.  Why is it necessary for her to play both worlds?  I want students to see that Stella, like Blanche, is dependent on Stanley for survival:  she is pregnant and without a means of support.  This reliance of course is a common factor for post-war women.  Also, in a weird way, she is excited by Stanley's animal magnetism.  Similarly, Blanche is Stella's only family left.  The remainder of her relatives have died.  She hangs onto Blanche to preserve the last memories of her family.