In this lesson, I want to spend some time examining symbols in the play. Tennessee Williams does a great job of weaving in symbols and motifs into the dialogue and stage directions. I use a lot of scaffolding to get us to the point of finding symbols. I find that students have a very difficult time seeing abstract ideas. They function more on a physical level. They do need a lot of prompting and practice to "see" the symbolism. I think this difficulty has much to do with their age and the fact that most adoloscents are very literal.
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.
I often find that the most difficult skill students struggle with in English class is identifying symbols in a work of literature. Scene Nine in A Streetcar Named Desire is a good opportunity for students to begin looking into the text to find a symbol. However, before I do that, I always review the definition of symbolism, and I give some pointers as to how to find them. I have included a PowerPoint to convey this information. I lecture very quickly on the ways to find a symbol. To reinforce what I have lectured, I show this short Youtube video. The video is about 6 minutes long; however, the first two minutes are sufficient in offering some great examples of symbols.
In this scene, we take out a pick (metaphorically) and we start digging into the text to find symbols. I am specifically looking to see if students can find the light and dark references. Of course, the light represents Blanche's fear of coming to terms with her age. She prefers the darkness as a shield to her true age. The dark also perpetuates her illusionary life and the difficult time Blanche has grasping reality. Scene Nine also has the repetition of the old woman selling flowers and speaking Spanish, which can be translated into "Flowers for the dead." This woman is a symbol of the breakdown and crumbling of Blanche's fantasy world. "The dead" is the death of Blanche's make believe world.
In this section, I want to wrap up this lesson on symbolism by asking students to take two symbols found in the scene and describe how they contribute to the demise of Blanche's mental state. They may use the graphic organizer that they completed in the previous section as a reference. If time, I will pull popsicle sticks and ask students to share their answers.