A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE Day One - Scenes I-III
Lesson 1 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 about one class period to complete. The lesson below outlines Day One on A Streetcar Named Desire. Please view the video overview for more information (Video: Overview Day One).
This is the last unit of the school year, and students in my honors class are highly proficient readers and thinkers. Instead of focusing on text-dependent questions and critical reading strategies students have acquired, I target students' independent reading abilities through the following activities:
- All-Class Reading: students follow along in the text while listening to the audiobook from Audible.com; the audiobook dramatizes the plot with music and performance. I provide more information in the lesson below.
- After each scene, students normally complete quickwrites on their impressions of plot and characters then engage in a think: pair: share and all-class debriefing on their interpretations.
- In two of the five lessons, we view film clips of the play, starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. Students note differences between the text and the clip, and we discuss how the clips affect their interpretations of the text.
Teachers working with students who are building critical reading proficiency can use a teacher-developed study guide on the play. 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.
I remind students that we have studied the hero's journey (the departure, the quest, the return) by exploring works of literature, such as Beowulf and Macbeth. I explain that now we will look at the hero's journey through the lens of a post-World War II New Orleans setting by exploring A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.
I often talk to students about how an author's lives can inform the literature they write. We read background on Tennessee Williams from biography.com. I ask students to note elements of Williams' life as we read Streetcar.
Before we read the play, I tell students that in the post-World War II South, industrialization led to the decline of the agrarian society. The industrialized workforce became increasingly diverse, including African Americans, women, and immigrants.
I introduce the characters:
- Blanche Dubois: high school English teacher, tried to save family estate (Belle Reve)
- Stella Kowalski: Blanche's sister, left family estate to marry and make a life for herself
- Stanley Kowalski: Stella's husband, blue-collar worker
- Eunice & Steve Hubbell: upstairs neighbors of Stella and Stanley Kowalski
- Harold Mitchell: Stanley's friend, known as "Mitch"
I ask students to consider this question as we read the text, "Who is the hero in A Streetcar Named Desire?"
We read Streetcar (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2004) accompanied by the audiobook (HarperCollins, 2008), a taping of the 1973 Lincoln Center performance of the play, that I purchase from audible.com. I can play the audiobook directly from my book library on the Audible website or from an iPhone audible app. The audiobook performance includes music at the beginning and end of each scene, which allows time for students to read the narration preceding or following action.
After reading each scene, I ask students to do a think: pair: share:
- Take five minutes to write down your impression of the action in the scene (Student Work: Impressions Scenes I-III).
- Share your findings with a partner.
- We will debrief as a class after your think: pair: share on all three scenes.
When students share impressions with a partner after each scene, their discussions incorporate plot summary, observations about characters, and predictions about the plot.
We debrief as a class after Scene III. Sample student impressions are below.
- I feel that Blanche is mean to her sister Stella and tries to make her feel guilty because she left Belle Reve. Blanche is also very judgmental about where Stella lives. I have a feeling Stanley and Blanche will have issues.
- There's tension between Stanley and Blanche. It's crazy how Stanley blurts out the news about Stella's pregnancy. Blanche even tells Stella she was flirting with her husband. Stanley reacts emotionally to the news Belle Reve was lost, believing Blanche swindled her sister.
- The play is very interesting. The relationship between Stanley and Stella is not healthy, and I think Blanche is going to attempt to get her out of it.
- Blanche uses her femininity to charm men. I think it's all she has left after losing Belle Reve.