A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE Day Two - Scenes IV-V
Lesson 2 of 5
Objective: SWBAT interpret A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE through all-class reading, writing, and collaborative discussion.
My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions every other day. Activities in this lesson take one one class period to complete. The lesson below outlines Day Two on A Streetcar Named Desire. Please view the video overview for more information (Video: Overview of Day Two).
For all-class reading and discussion, teachers working with students who are building critical reading proficiency can use a teacher-developed study guide on the play as a resource. It includes discussion questions on each scene as well as extended learning opportunities. I have included it as a resource in this section and will include it in each subsequent lesson to facilitate its use.
Text v. Clip: Scenes I-III
I explain to students that today we are going to review Scenes I-III by distinguishing differences between the text and the clip (A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Warner Bros., 2006). I ask students to list differences between the text and the clip as we view Scenes I-III. I point out that this is a black and white film, starring Marlon Brando (who most of them know from "The Godfather" films) and Vivien Leigh, who starred as Scarlet O'Hara in the film "Gone With the Wind." I explain that Vivien Leigh is quite believable as Blanche in my eyes because her character Scarlet in "Gone With the Wind" did everything she could to save the family home.
After we view the clip, I provide students with a few minutes to refer back to the text and finish their list of differences. Then, they share their findings with a partner. Some differences students find are as follows:
- Blanche goes to the bowling alley to meet with Stella while she waits at Stella's apartment in text.
- Blanche seems more vulnerable than Stella in the clip.
- Stanley seems more flirtatious than Blanche in the clip.
- Stanley approaches the loss of Belle Reve less aggressively in the clip than in the text.
- In the clip, Blanche notices someone has gone through her belongings.
After students finish sharing their findings, I ask them to reflect on our findings and write a paragraph that answers the question: "How does viewing the clip affect your interpretation of the text?". I ask volunteers to share their writing (Student Work: Interpretation - Text v. Clip). Some student reflections are as follows:
- The clip makes it easier to visualize what's going on in the text, even if it isn't always technically faithful to the text.
- The video helped to show more emotion and the effects certain actions had on characters' emotions.
- The clip makes me like or dislike characters more. I like Blanche and Stanley less because I have a better idea of what was going on between them, the power struggle for Stella. I like stella more in the clip. It makes her seem stronger and less weak than in the text. She is in love with Stanley no matter what.
Overall the students say that they enjoy watching the clip because they can check their comprehension of the text and get a visual interpretation of what they have read.
We continue reading the play, exploring Scenes IV and V, by listening to the audiobook (HarperCollins, 2008) from Audible. We read both scenes back to back due to time constraints. After reading, we discuss characterization; character motivation; and the tensions Williams develops in the text, such as Blanche and Stella's desires vs. reality. Highlights are below.
- How do Blanche and Stella portray their desires in these scenes? Blanche's desire is for her sister to have a better life than the one she has with Stanley; she believes Stanley is primitive and serves as Stella's oppressor. Stella's desire remains firmly with Stanley; she accepts Stanley for who he is, telling her sister, "You seem to think that I am in something I mean to get out of" (Scene IV).
- Why do you think Williams allows Stanley to overhear Stella and Blanche's conversation? Stanley's overhearing Stella and Blanche's conversation is vital to creating tension in the play. Stanley vs. Blanche: Blanche threatens Stanley's marriage. If he knows what Blanche thinks about him, he has motivation to invalidate Stella's image of Blanche by discrediting her.
- Why do you think appearances are more important to Blanche than reality? Blanche uses her femininity to gain the trust of men. She thinks she needs a man to protect her. She does not believe she can acquire a man's affections unless she appears young, beautiful, and refined.
Students note that Blanche and Stella are diametrically opposed to one another due to their life choices. Stanley represents Stella's new life while Blanche represents her old life at Belle Reve. Stella seems caught in between her loyalty to Stanley and her loyalty to Blanche, but desire for Stanley consumes her.
I explain to students that since we are running out of time, I want them to write 20 discussion questions on the play through Scene V. We will use these questions for collaborative discussion of the text next class. Students have a few minutes to start in class and must finish for homework. Some questions are as follows:
- Does Stanley's drunkenness justify him beating Stella? Explain.
- Does sex make up for Stanley's wrongdoings (e.g. beating Stella)?
- What do you think Blanche actually did in Laurel when she told Stella she wasn't so good in the last two years or so?
- Do you think Blanche's description of Stanley is accurate? Explain.
- What do you think is the real reason for Blanche's visit?