How does Williams create dramatic tension in scene one?
Tennessee Williams creates dramatic tension in the first scene of his play a streetcar named desire through the means of many methods.
Tension is evident in the dialogue between the protagonists. Williams also cleverly uses stage direction and grammar and punctuation with blissful ease and impressive mastery.
Firstly, I would like to examine William's use of grammar and punctuation and how it is effective at creating dramatic tension.
Throughout the scene I noticed the frequent use of exclamation marks in the dialogue. These are used to demonstrate when the characters were speaking loudly and with authority making other characters uneasy thus creating tension.
Naw! We gotta have odds!, Catch!, Bowling! The exclamation marks suggest that Stanley often likes to make his point in a booming and confident manner. There are many examples of Stanley shouting and the sheer volume of his voice welcomes tension to the room.
Stanley isnt the only one who knows how to open up their windpipes. Conversing with her younger sister Stella, Blanche says The grim reaper has put his tent on our doorstep! Stella. There appears to be an element of anger in the tone of Blanches voice. She exaggerates with the agenda that Stella will understand the extent of how poor Blanches life got. There is also an ellipse present in that quote. I believe that Blanche is waiting for Stella to feel pathos for her, which is why Stella is separate from the beginning of the quote.
Another grammatical technique Williams uses is repetition. The use of repetition emphasizes what the character is trying to say. This is present when Blanche is talking to Stella and cries, You didnt dream but I saw. Saw! Saw! Blanche is trying to frighten Stella by repeating herself and raising her voice thus causing dramatic tension.
Williams also skillfully plants the rhetorical question, Which of them left us fortune? into the scene. By asking her sister this Blanche is hoping to evoke Stella to think about what she is saying. Im of the opinion that here Blanche is basically asking Stella to walk a mile in her shoes. I think the main effect of this rhetorical question is to make Stella feel guilty about Blanches situation.
Secondly, I want to examine Blanche in this scene and find out what her contribution to dramatic tension in the scene is.
Blanche creates tension by being deliberatively evasive in the hopes of concealing secrets from Stanley and particularly in this scene her sister Stella. She does not want Stella to think badly of her. There are three topics of conversation specifically Blanche is trying to circumvent: Her drinking, the loss of her previous employment and her age.
Now dont get worried. Your sister hasnt turnt into a drunkard. She is masking the fact that she is an alcoholic.
Blanche asks her sister You thought Id been fired? fishing out her sisters possible suspicions. She then lies, Mr Graves suggested I take a leave of absence. Because Blanche thinks her sister will lose respect for her if she found out the truth.
You could not blame someone for thinking that Blanche suffers with a phobia for ageing or appearance by how insecure she comes across in the scene. God, I love you for a liar! Daylight never exposed such a total ruin. She appreciates the compliments she gets but still thinks someone a liar for voicing those compliments. Blanche relies almost entirely on her appearance and flirtatious nature to get by in life and lives in constant fear the day she cant attract a man.
I observed that Blanche also created dramatic tension with Stella when expressing her reaction to Elysian Fields, the place Stella and her husband Stanley live.
I meant to be nice about it and say oh, what a convenient location. She realizes that she cannot afford to brush-off Elysian Fields because she has nowhere to go and needs her sister to take her in.
There is a moment where I felt awkward tension between the sister when Blanche basically invited herself to stay: Im not going to put up at a hotel, I want to be near you. The reality is that Blanche probably doesnt even have enough money to put up at a hotel and is in desperate need for her sisters kindness. I found her forwardness intensely tense.
Thirdly, I want to examine Stella and her role in creating dramatic tension in the scene. There are two main subjects of discussion that cause tension for Stella. They are about the place she lives and why she left Blanche in Belle Reve.
After Blanche makes a slight comment about the conditions Stella is living under, Stella gets defensive. Arent you being a little intense about it? Its not that bad at all! New Orleans isnt like any other cities. I reason that Stella is also defending her husband as he provided the house for them. She wants Blanche not to look down at her.
Blanche also makes an enquiry about how many rooms the house has. Stella replies this one and (she is embarrassed). The reasoning behind Stellas embarrassment is that Blanche and Stella come from a higher-class place then where she lives now. Stella likes her humble home and only Blanche makes her self-conscious about it.