A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
READERS’ GUIDE by Allen Loibner-Waitkus
Allen Loibner-Waitkus • UA-PTC • 1
TABLE OF C
2 • Readers’ Guide for A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
CONTENTS About the Author.............................................................................4 Characters.......................................................................................6 Glossary........................................................................................... 7 “Id, Ego & Superego”........................................................................9 “Ualulme” by Edgar Allen Poe....................................................... 11 “How Do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.................. 14 Photos............................................................................................ 15
Allen Loibner-Waitkus • UA-PTC • 3
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ore than with most authors, Tennessee Williams’ personal life and experiences have been the direct subject matter for his dramas. He uses his experiences so as to universalize them through the means of the stage. Thus, his life is utilized over and over again in the creation of his dramas. Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi. Because his father was a traveling salesman and was often away from home, he lived the first ten years of his life in his maternal grandparents’ home. His father was a loud, outgoing, hard-drinking, boisterous man who bordered on the vulgar, at least as far as the young, sensitive Tennessee Williams was concerned. In contrast to his father, his mother seemed to be rather quiet and possessive, demonstrating a tremendous attachment to her children. Tennessee was himself a rather delicate child who was plagued with several serious childhood diseases which kept him from attending regular school. Instead, he read profusely in his grandfather’s library. His maternal grandfather was an Episcopal rector, apparently a rather liberal and progressive individual. Even though there are several portraits of the clergy in Williams’ later works, none seemed to be built on the personality of his real grandfather. Perhaps because his early life was spent in an atmosphere of genteel culture, the greatest shock to Williams was the move his family made when he was about twelve. The father accepted a position in a shoe factory in St. Louis and moved the family from the expansive Episcopal home in the South to an ugly tenement building in St. Louis. Their cramped apartment and the ugliness of the city life seemed
to make a lasting impression on the boy. Here in school he was often ridiculed for his southern accent, and he was never able to find acceptance. Likewise, his father, who had been a traveling salesman, was suddenly at home most of the time. It was here in St. Louis that Williams’ slightly older sister, Rose, began to cease to develop as a person and failed to cross over the barrier from childhood to adulthood. She, like Laura in The Glass Menagerie, began to live in her own world of glass ornaments. Eventually, she had to be placed in an institution. She became the model for Laura Wingfield. The description of Laura’s room, just across the alley from the Paradise Dance Club, is also a description of his sister’s room. Laura’s desire to lose herself from the world was a characteristic of his own sister. And both were seen by Williams as being shy, quiet, but lovely girls who were not able to cope with the modern world. After Tennessee finished high school, he went to the University of Missouri for three years until he failed ROTC. At the university he began to write more and discovered alcohol as a cure for his over-sensitive shyness. After his third year, his father got him a position in the shoe factory. He worked there for two years; he later classified this time as the most miserable two years of his life. He spent dreary days at the warehouse and then devoted his nights to writing poetry, plays, and short stories. After two years of working all day and writing all night, he had a nervous breakdown and went to Memphis, Tennessee, to recuperate with his grandfather, who had moved there after retirement. His years of frustration and his dislike of the warehouse job are reflected directly in the character of Tom Wingfield, who followed essentially the same pattern that Williams himself followed. In fact, Tennessee gave this
4 • Readers’ Guide for A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
character his own first name, Tom. During all of this time, Tennessee had been winning small prizes for various types of writing, but nothing significant had yet been written. After his rest in Memphis, he returned to the university (Washington University in St. Louis), where he became associated with a writers’ group. Here he wrote and had some of his earlier works produced. He later attended the State University of Iowa and wrote two long plays for a creative writing seminar. After leaving Iowa, he drifted around the country, picking up odd jobs and collecting experiences until he received a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1940. He spent his time writing until the money was exhausted and then he worked again at odd jobs until his first great success with The Glass Menagerie in 1944–45.
Williams has used his early life in most of his plays. His favorite setting is southern, with southern characters. In Stanley Kowalski, we see many of the rough, poker-playing, manly qualities that his own father possessed. In Laura and Amanda, we find very close echoes to his own mother and sister. In Tom Wingfield, we find again the Tennessee Williams Biography straggles and aspirations of the writer himself re-echoed in literary form. Thus he has objectified his own subjective experiences in his literary works. Tennessee Williams’ plays are still controversial. There are many critics who call his works sensational and shocking, but his plays have attracted the widest audience of any living American dramatist, and he is established as America’s most important dramatist.
Allen Loibner-Waitkus • UA-PTC • 5
CHARACTERS Doctor DuBois, Blanche Gonzales, Pablo Hubbell, Eunice Hubbell, Steve Kowalski, Stanley Kowalski, Stella Harold, Mitchell (Mitch) Mexican Woman Negro Woman Gee Nurse Young Collector, A
6 • Readers’ Guide for A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
GLOSSARY abscond—to depart secretly and hide oneself. attenuate—to lessen the amount, force, magnitude, or value of.
from author to author: Pindar and Hesiod name Cronus as the ruler, while the poet Homer in the Odyssey describes fair-haired Rhadamanthus dwelling there.
bellow—to make the loud deep hollow sound characteristic of a bull.
gaudy—marked by extravagance or sometimes tasteless showiness.
brass—slang for medals given to members of the military.
improvident—not foreseeing and providing for the future.
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett—(6 March 1806– 29 June 1861) an English poet of the Victorian era, popular in Britain and the United States during her lifetime.
linoleum—a floor covering made by laying on a burlap or canvas backing a mixture of solidified linseed oil with gums, cork dust or wood flour or both, and usually pigments.
divest—to deprive or dispossess especially of property, authority, or title.
lurid—causing horror or revulsion.
Elysian Fields—a conception of the afterlife that developed over time and was maintained by some Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults. Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life. The Elysian Fields were, according to Homer, located on the western edge of the Earth by the stream of Okeanos. In the time of the Greek oral poet Hesiod, Elysium would also be known as the Fortunate Isles or the Isles (or Islands) of the Blessed, located in the western ocean at the end of the earth. The Isles of the Blessed would be reduced to a single island by the Thebean poet Pindar, describing it as having shady parks, with residents indulging in athletic and musical pastimes. The ruler of Elysium varies
Napoleonic code—the French civil code established under Napoléon I in 1804. It was drafted by a commission of four eminent jurists and entered into force on 21 March 1804. The Code, with its stress on clearly written and accessible law, was a major step in replacing the previous patchwork of feudal laws. Historian Robert Holtman regards it as one of the few documents that have influenced the whole world.The Napoleonic Code was not the first legal code to be established in a Euro pean country with a civil legal system; it was preceded by the Codex Maximilianeus bavaricus civilis (Bavaria, 1756), the Allgemeines Landrecht (Prussia, 1794), and the West Galician Code (Galicia, then part of Austria, 1797). It was, however, the first modern legal code to be adopted with a pan-European scope, and it strongly influenced the law of many of the countries formed during and after the Napoleonic Wars. The Napoleonic Code influenced developing countries outside Europe, especially in the Middle East, attempting to modernize their Allen Loibner-Waitkus • UA-PTC • 7
countries through legal reforms. In the United States, whose legal system is largely based on English common law, the state of Louisiana is unique in having a strong influence from Napoleonic Code and Spanish legal traditions on its civil code (Spanish and French colonial forces quarreled over Louisiana during most of the 1700s, with Spain ultimately ceding the territory to France in 1800, which in turn sold the territory to the United States in 1803).Examples of the practical legal differences between Louisiana and the other states include the bar exam and legal standards of practice for attorneys in Louisiana being significantly different from other states; Louisiana being the only American state to practice forced heirship of a deceased person’s estate; and some of Louisiana’s laws clashing with the Uniform Commercial Code practiced by the other 49 states. Poe, Edgar Allan—(19 January 19, 1809–7 October 1849) was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country’s earliest practitioners of the short story. Poe is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing
to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. preen—to dress or smooth (oneself) up. reproach—to express disappointment in or displeasure with (a person) for conduct that is blameworthy or in need of amendment. rhinestone—a imitation stone of high luster made of glass, paste, or gem quartz. saccharine—overly or sickishly sweet. sinuous—marked by strong lithe movements. sonnet—a fixed verse form of Italian origin consisting of 14 lines that are typically 5-foot iambics rhyming according to a prescribed scheme. spasmodic—subject to outbursts of emotional excitement. tumbler—a drinking glass without foot or stem and originally with pointed or convex base. woodland of Weir—a reference to “Ulalume” by Edgar Allan Poe.
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ID, EGO & SUPEREGO
erhaps Freud’s single most enduring and important idea was that the human psyche (personality) has more than one aspect. Freud (1923) saw the psyche structured into three parts (i.e. tripartite), the id, ego and superego, all developing at different stages in our lives. These are systems, not parts of the brain, or in any way physical. Although each part of the personality comprises unique features, they interact to form a whole, and each part makes a relative contribution to an individual’s behavior.
THE ID (OR IT) The id is the primitive and instinctive component of personality. It consists of all the inherited (i.e. biological) components of personality present at birth, including the sex (life) instinct Eros (which contains the libido), and the aggressive (death) instinct—Thanatos. The id is the impulsive (and unconscious) part of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to the instincts. The personality of the newborn child is all id and only later does it develop an ego and super-ego. The id remains infantile in it’s function throughout a persons life, and does not change with time or experience, as it is not in touch with the external world. The id is not affected by reality, logic or the everyday world, as it operates within the unconscious part of the mind. The id demands immediate satisfaction and when this happens we experience pleasure, when it is denied we experience ‘unpleasure’ or tension. On the contrary, it operates on the
pleasure principle (Freud, 1920) which is the idea that every wishful impulse should be satisfied immediately, regardless of the consequences. The id engages in primary process thinking, which is primitive, illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented. This form of process thinking has no comprehension of objective reality, and is selfish and wishful in nature.
THE EGO (OR I) The ego is “that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world.” The ego develops in order to mediate between the unrealistic id and the external real world. It is the decision making component of personality. Ideally the ego works by reason, whereas the id is chaotic and totally unreasonable. The ego operates according to the reality principle, working out realistic ways of satisfying the id’s demands, often compromising or postponing satisfaction to avoid negative consequences of society. The ego considers social realities and norms, etiquette and rules in deciding how to behave. Like the id, the ego seeks pleasure (i.e. tension reduction) and avoids pain, but unlike the id the ego is concerned with devising a realistic strategy to obtain pleasure. The ego has no concept of right or wrong; something is good simply if it achieves its end of satisfying without causing harm to itself or to the id. Often the ego is weak relative to the headstrong id and the best the ego can do is stay on, pointing the id in the right direction and claiming some credit at the end as if the action were its own. Allen Loibner-Waitkus • UA-PTC • 9
Freud made the analogy of the id being a horse while the ego is the rider. The ego is “like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse.” If the ego fails in its attempt to use the reality principle, and anxiety is experienced, unconscious defense mechanisms are employed, to help ward off unpleasant feelings (i.e. anxiety) or make good things feel better for the individual. The ego engages in secondary process thinking, which is rational, realistic, and orientated towards problem solving. If a plan of action does not work, then it is thought through again until a solution is found. This is know as reality testing, and enables the person to control their impulses and demonstrate self-control, via mastery of the ego. An important feature of clinical and social work is to enhance ego functioning and help the client test reality through assisting the client to think through their options.
THE SUPEREGO (OR ABOVE I) The superego incorporates the values and morals of society which are learned from one’s parents and others. It develops around the age
of 3-5 during the phallic stage of psychosexual development. The superego’s function is to control the id’s impulses, especially those which society forbids, such as sex and aggression. It also has the function of persuading the ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection. The superego consists of two systems: The conscience and the ideal self. The conscience can punish the ego through causing feelings of guilt. For example, if the ego gives in to the id’s demands, the superego may make the person feel bad through guilt. The ideal self (or ego-ideal) is an imaginary picture of how you ought to be, and represents career aspirations, how to treat other people, and how to behave as a member of society. Behavior which falls short of the ideal self may be punished by the superego through guilt. The super-ego can also reward us through the ideal self when we behave ‘properly’ by making us feel proud. If a person’s ideal self is too high a standard, then whatever the person does will represent failure. The ideal self and conscience are largely determined in childhood from parental values and how you were brought up.
SOURCE: McLeod, S.A. “Id, Ego and Superego.” Simply Psychology, 2016, accessed 13 March 2018, simplypsychology.org/psyche.html. 10 • Readers’ Guide for A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
by Edgar Allen Poe
The skies they were ashen and sober; The leaves they were crisped and sere— The leaves they were withering and sere; It was night in the lonesome October Of my most immemorial year: It was hard by the dim lake of Auber, In the misty mid region of Weir— It was down by the dank tarn of Auber, In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir. Here once, through an alley Titanic, Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul— Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul. These were days when my heart was volcanic As the scoriac rivers that roll— As the lavas that restlessly roll Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek In the ultimate climes of the pole— That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek In the realms of the boreal pole. Our talk had been serious and sober, But our thoughts they were palsied and sere— Our memories were treacherous and sere,— For we knew not the month was October, And we marked not the night of the year (Ah, night of all nights in the year!)— We noted not the dim lake of Auber (Though once we had journeyed down here)— Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber, Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir. And now, as the night was senescent And star-dials pointed to morn— As the star-dials hinted of morn— At the end of our path a liquescent And nebulous lustre was born, Out of which a miraculous crescent
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Arose with a duplicate horn— Astarte’s bediamonded crescent Distinct with its duplicate horn. And I said: “She is warmer than Dian; She rolls through an ether of sighs— She revels in a region of sighs: She has seen that the tears are not dry on These cheeks, where the worm never dies, And has come past the stars of the Lion To point us the path to the skies— To the Lethean peace of the skies— Come up, in despite of the Lion, To shine on us with her bright eyes— Come up through the lair of the Lion, With love in her luminous eyes.” But Psyche, uplifting her finger, Said: “Sadly this star I mistrust— Her pallor I strangely mistrust: Ah, hasten! —ah, let us not linger! Ah, fly! —let us fly! -for we must.” In terror she spoke, letting sink her Wings until they trailed in the dust— In agony sobbed, letting sink her Plumes till they trailed in the dust— Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust. I replied: “This is nothing but dreaming: Let us on by this tremulous light! Let us bathe in this crystalline light! Its Sybilic splendour is beaming With Hope and in Beauty tonight!— See!—it flickers up the sky through the night! Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming, And be sure it will lead us aright— We safely may trust to a gleaming, That cannot but guide us aright, Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night.” Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her, And tempted her out of her gloom— And conquered her scruples and gloom; And we passed to the end of the vista, But were stopped by the door of a tomb— By the door of a legended tomb;
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And I said: “What is written, sweet sister, On the door of this legended tomb?” She replied: “Ulalume -Ulalume— ‘Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!” Then my heart it grew ashen and sober As the leaves that were crisped and sere— As the leaves that were withering and sere; And I cried: “It was surely October On this very night of last year That I journeyed—I journeyed down here!— That I brought a dread burden down here— On this night of all nights in the year, Ah, what demon hath tempted me here? Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber— This misty mid region of Weir— Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber, This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.”
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HOW DO I LOVE THEE?
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for right. I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. I love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.
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Tennessee Williams, playwright of A Streetcar Named Desire.
Set of A Streetcar Named Desire.
Poster for A Streetcar Named Desire.
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16 • Readers’ Guide for A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Published on Mar 13, 2018