Explore the dramatic devices used by Tennessee Williams to introduce the main characters and themes to the audience at the start of the play.
The first part of this scene introduces us symbolically to the essential characteristics of Stanley Kowalski. He enters in a loud coloured bowling jacket and work clothes, and is carrying "a red stained package." He bellows to Stella and throws her the raw meat which she catches as she laughs breathlessly. The neighbours laugh over the package of bloody meat – a symbol, which, it could be argued is of a sexual nature and which depicts Stanley in the same way as Blanche later describes him to Stella: He is a "survivor of the strong age! Bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle; and you - you here - waiting for him." This scene, therefore, shows Stanley as the indecent and uncivilized man. The scene also sets a tone of ordinary brutality and reality into which the delicate and sensitive Blanche is about to appear.
Notice the symbolic use of names throughout the play: Blanche DuBois means white of the woods. The white is a play on Blanche's supposed innocence and the woods are used as phallic symbols. Stella's name means star. The name of the plantation home was Belle Reve or beautiful dream, thus the loss of Belle Reve is correlated with the loss of a beautiful dream that Blanche once possessed. In the initial meeting between Stella and Blanche, Blanche tells Stella to "turn that over light off!" This is a first allusion to Blanche's abhorrence to too much light. It associates with her moth-like appearance and will later develop into one of the manipulating themes throughout the play. Her fear of light will be seen to be connected with the death of her first husband and her fear of being too closely examined in the cold hard world of reality. She prefers, instead, the dim, illusionary world of semi darkness.
Stage directions are a key dramatic device used in the beginning of the play. We learn more from the...