Tennessee William’s “Relies Primarily On Class Conflict In The Play To Generate Dramatic Tension”. A Level Essay

1531 words - 7 pages

English Literature
Caitlin Murphy
“The Kowalskis and the DuBois have different notions” – How far would you agree that William’s “relies primarily on class conflict in the play to generate dramatic tension”?
Throughout the play, Tennessee Williams uses a variety of techniques to build dramatic tension in order to create conflict between the characters and allow the audience to truly engage with the events of the play. To a certain extent, Williams does use the differences in social background to create a division between Blanche and Stanley however he also uses other approaches, such as the use of music and sound and stage directions, to successfully create dramatic tension.
To some extent, it could be argued that from the moment Blanche arrives in Elysian Fields barely able to hide her disdain for the area, Williams intends to present the conflict between the upper and lower classes of America in the late 1940s and so creates dramatic tension from the very start of the play. Williams’ uses stage directions to describe Blanche’s physical appearance to the audience as she arrives “daintily” dressed in a “white fluffy bodice”. The words “daintily” and “white” are often associated with purity and innocence, something stereotypical of the Southern Belle concept. Tennessee Williams may have created this particular image of Blanche as it suggests she conforms to the expectations of the Southern Belle, as she creates an outward impression of innocence and docile beauty simply through her sophisticated style of dress. Blanche’s social superiority is enforced simply through Williams’ choice of name for the town, “Elysian Fields”, as in Greek mythology this is the final resting place of dead war heroes. After World War 2, much of New Orleans would have been inhabited by retired war veterans, suggesting the area represents the deeply working class. This idea is accentuated when Elysian Fields is described as possessing a “rugged charm”. The word “rugged” has the connotations of an area that appears rough and run down. This implies that William’s intended to present Blanche’s lavish appearance as being out of place in this considerably lower class part of New Orleans, instantly creating tension as her appearance suggests she does not belong, branding her an outsider and encouraging the audience to question her motives for going to such a place. Furthermore, class conflict is used in Scene Two when Stanley begins ransacking Blanche’s trunk in search of papers explaining the loss of Belle Reve. He mistakenly refers to her costume jewellery as “genuine diamonds” which suggests that Stanley has never had the financial means to purchase lavish items and does not recognise them as being imitations of real jewellery, only able to see them as a result of Blanche’s frivolous spending habits. This instantly presents him as a character who is inherently working class. Furthermore, William’s presents his reaction to the loss of Belle Reve as being much stronger than...

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