What dramatic and linguistic techniques does Williams use to create an intriguing opening to the play?

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The opening of a play is very important; if it doesn’t grip then the playwright has lost his audience.

Williams uses a number of techniques to create an intriguing opening, including:

Using stage directions to create an intriguing setting
Creating engaging characters who are clearly going to enter into serious conflicts with each other
Creating a mysterious and psychologically intriguing story-line
Creating believable, engaging dialogue
Building up a sense of suspense and mystery
Deploying rich, poetic images that linger in the audience’s mind
Summoning an atmosphere of loss and regret

When my students read the scene, the vast majority of them were interested in three things: the mystery about Blanche and what’s happened to her, the conflicts that were already occurring with Stella, and the appearance of Stanley. One student commented upon the way in which Stanley is described as sexually classifying women; this, the student said, wasn’t the behaviour of a married man. The students sat in a circle and questioned each other about their own opinions; this worked well because they elaborated upon their initial opinions.

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19 thoughts on “What dramatic and linguistic techniques does Williams use to create an intriguing opening to the play?

  1. Becky Christmas

    Williams creates a dramatic and intriguing introduction to the start of the play by giving clear, detailed stage directions of the scenario. Williams creates a womaniser image towards Stanley who is a married man by using the stage directions, “sizes women up at a glance with sexual classifications.” This is creates a dramatic opening scene as the audience are informed more about the character of Stanley. As the audience we automatically dislike Stanley for this reason as he is a married man yet has desires for other women. Stanley’s unusual character is reinforced by the way Stella describes him to her sister, “a different species.” This emphasises the idea that Stanley’s character is not ideal for Stella which also causes the audience to question if there is going to be any trouble with his character later on. This causes an intriguing storyline because as a reader we want to carry on reading to see if and what trouble Stanley’s character is going to bring later on in the play.

    Reply
    1. talesbehindtheclassroomdoor Post author

      Yes, stage directions are very important in creating a dramatic opening. I do think though you should look more carefully at the stage directions for Stanley, because while he is clearly a bit unpleasant, he is also supposed to be attractive and “animalistic”. Try to sound less certain; discuss how some of the audience MIGHT find Stanley unappealing, while others may not. Explore different points of view.

      Reply
  2. Isobel

    Williams uses techniques such as descriptive language to make the opening intriguing to the audience, firstly with Blanche, she is wearing an all white outfit which symbolises purity and innocence, however very early on we discover that she isn’t as innocent, and appears to have a drinking problem which she hides through dramatic irony which we know about, the fact that she is already covering up lies is intriguing as we as the audience want to read on to find out more about her character. Stanley is described as a particularly intriguing character as he is described as a man who ‘sizes up women up at a glance, with sexual classifications’ he appears as a rather shady and repulsive character because of this sexual nature. The stage directions create and intriguing opening such as when Stanley begins to take off his shirt in front of Blanche despite only meeting her just minutes earlier which is an odd thing to do in front of someone who is basically a stranger, which therefore hints towards something more sexual. Blanche and Stella have already had a conflict and ended up with one of them crying and the other feeling sick, which suggests there is many more disagreements to follow. The dialogue is intriguing as you learn more about the characters pasts when someone blurts it out when in an argument, which shows us there is more tense atmosphere and information about the characters to come.

    Reply
    1. talesbehindtheclassroomdoor Post author

      Lots of interesting points here. Now try and be more specific; find quotation to back up your point about the intrigue of the characters’ pasts? Is Stanley really repulsive? Some might see him that way, while others certainly don’t.

      Reply
  3. Ross

    Williams creates an intriguing introduction to the play by using many dramatic and linguistic techniques. Williams uses stage directions to create a distinct first impression of each character such as ‘the centre of his (Stanley’s) life has been pleasure with women,’ giving the reader a glimpse into his personality and possibly suggesting he is quite flirtatious. Furthermore ‘he sizes women up at a glance’ possibly emphasizing the above point and maybe suggesting he is hiding things from Stella. This intrigues the reader to continue to read the play to see how his character develops. Another interesting aspect to the play is the relationship between Blanche and Stella. It is revealed that Stella left Blanche as Blanche says ‘you left! I stayed and struggled!’ This gives the impression that the two sisters had been distant for some time. It also creates a mystique around why Stella left and what situation Blanche was left in. This intrigues the reader to continue the play because they want to know more details about their relationship. Blanche also seems to judge Stella’s surroundings when saying ‘never in my worst dreams could I picture.’ This shows Blanche is disappointed and intrigues the reader to find out her background and whether this will cause arguments between the two sisters.

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  4. Lewis Barclay

    Lewis

    Williams uses some very specific and detailed stage directions to reflect the atmosphere of the opening scene, and to show how Blanche, Stella and Stanley are feeling and the way in which they act. For example, on page 8, one of Williams’s stage directions is “carefully, pouring herself a drink”, referring to Stella. This is gives us an idea of Stella’s mood and the way in which she is acting, as she carefully pours herself a drink which would imply that the atmosphere is tense, and that she does not want anyone else to see her pouring a drink, as she does not want anybody else to know that she likes a drink. There are also other points in the opening scene which support that Stella likes a drink, and so she could come across to the audience as a possible alcoholic. This makes the opening scene very intriguing, as the audience then want to find out if Stella is an alcoholic, and why the atmosphere of the opening scene is so tense that she has to be careful about pouring herself a drink. Since Blanche’s arrival, the atmosphere between the two sisters (Blanche and Stella) has been very tense, purposely done by Williams by very vivid description of how each sister has done something, and this is clear to the audience, and this makes the audience want to find out more about the past of the sisters, and so causes the audience to continue on with the play because they are intrigued by what Williams has done in the opening scene of the play.

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  5. Tom Morgan

    Throughout the opening of the play, Williams uses many linguistic techniques such as descriptive writing to portray the personalities and behaviour of each character. The stand out character is Stanley. This is because WIlliams portrays his character as being a womaniser due to him having a wife but acting as if he wants another woman. Stage directions also portray this throughout the scene aswell as the characters such as Stella reinforcing this. Stella describes him as ‘a different species’. As a member of the audience you instantly take a dislike to him due to this fact. Depending on how her sister takes this information, conflict could occur as she might disagree. This therefore creates an intreguing opening which makes you want to carry on reading and I agree with Ross, i wish to read on to see if arguments occur later on between the two sisters.

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  6. Georgia

    In the first scene of the play Williams gives us a detailed paragraph of stage directions which explains the setting. This helps create a distinctive image of where the play is set and what it looks like. We find out that the play is set in New Orleans on a street named Elysian Fields. The street name Elysian Fields is ironic because in classical mythology Elysian Fields are the equivalent of paradise. There is an obvious irony in Williams’s choice of name for the street however it fascinates me because Elysian Fields were the dwelling place for the dead. It makes you wonder as the reader why calls such a run-down place an intriguing name. Williams describes this ‘section’ of New Orleans as ‘poor’ however then goes on to say it has a ‘raffish charm’. This suggests it is a carefree, fun-loving sort of town. Also, William’s mentions, there is an ‘atmosphere of decay’ to me this indicates the place has an old feel to it and possibly quite run down holding a lot of history. The last part of the paragraph talks about the sound of the town and how it expresses the spirit of the life which goes on there. The ‘blue piano’ evokes the sound for which New Orleans has become world famous for – jazz and blues, a uniquely American blend of black African and European popular music which seems to embody the bohemian laid-back multicultural ambience of the city. It gives us a relaxed, peaceful feel for the place as well as being quite mysterious.

    Blanche arrives carrying a suitcase indicating to the audience that she has come to stay. Eunice, Stella’s neighbour and landlady, lets Blanche into the Kowalski’s apartment with her key while a Negro woman, who had been chatting to Eunice, offers to go and fetch Stella. Blanche is agitated when she first arrives and tells Eunice she would like to be left alone, as soon as Eunice leaves Blanche sits in a chair with her ‘shoulders hunched’ and her ‘legs pressed closely together’. These stage directions given by Williams highlight that she is fed up and slightly anxious. This is soon proven to the audience as the stage directions tell us that she quickly pours herself a glass of whiskey in order to calm her nerves. What I find interesting though is that she carefully replaces the bottle and washes out the glass straight after tossing her drink down. This suggests that she does not want anyone to notice she has had a drink. It makes you wonder whether she has something to hide from her sister; it makes you want to read more into her character.

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  7. Abbie

    Williams uses dramatic techniques such as stage directions to show the mood of the scene, and the characters in an obvious manner. For instance, within scene one Williams states that New Orleans is ‘a cosmopolitan city’. However Williams then contradicts himself by purposely discriminating against one of the characters and chooses to name only Eunice. This sets the mood of the play and intrigues the audience/reader as it is unusual for a writer to contradict the initial direction immediately after writing it and therefore later on in the scene when Blanche is shown to be sneakily hiding her drinking when she at first appears to be prim and proper, the audience is more prepared. Williams also creates an intriguing atmosphere as Blanche is constantly being described as ‘anxious’ and uncomfortable which intrigues the reader as it is unusual for two sisters to appear so uncomfortable around each other, this therefore leads the reader to wonder why their appears to be so much tension between the two characters. Another intriguing factor of the play is the way in which Williams uses descriptive language to provide an obvious difference between Blanches personality and appearance, although she is said to be ‘daintily dressed in a white suit her personality is completely incongruous to the purity that the color white suggests, therefore intriguing the reader and highlighting and possibly exaggerating the ‘raffish charm’ of the area Blanche has been placed in.

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  8. Danielle Preedy

    Williams uses a variety of both dramatic and linguistic techniques in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ in order to create an intriguing opening. Firstly, he uses the use of names very specifically in order to have an impact on his writing. For example, he names the place that they are in ‘Elysian Fields’, which creates irony as this suggests the idea of heaven or a utopia, although we know from the detailed description of the place that it is not what most people would consider ‘heaven’. This makes the opening intriguing as it makes the reader question this name, and made me think that perhaps this place in New Orleans is like heaven to Stella, and makes us wonder what her previous life was like. The use of names is also significant with the character of Blanche, as the name links to the word ‘white’, a colour which has connotations of innocence and purity. Again I think this is ironic and makes the reader question the name as we begin to get hints from her on edge behaviour and secret drinking that she has something to hide; which creates a strong contrast with the name she has been given. Also, Williams uses his initial description of Blanche to also create a clear picture in the reader’s mind of her character. She is dressed in a ‘white suit’, ‘white gloves and hat’ and is wearing ‘pearls’. Again this use of the colour white makes us think of an innocent and pure character, which appears to be at odds with her snobbish and rude behaviour.
    Williams also uses dramatic irony to create an intriguing opening to the play, as we see Blanche drinking secretly ‘She pours half a tumbler of whisky and pours it down.’ Then she ‘carefully replaces the bottle and washes out the tumbler.’ We then see her lying to her sister and saying ‘let me look for some liquor. Where could it be I wonder?’ This instantly shows the reader that she lies to her sister and creates an initial feeling of unease and hints to issues that may be hidden below the surface. It creates an intriguing opening as it shows that not everything is as meets the eye, and makes us wonder what secrets or conflicts may be revealed as the play continues, and if we will find out the reason for Blanche’s drinking.
    Also, the way that Stanley is initially described creates an intriguing opening, as it says things such as ‘the centre of his life has been pleasure with women’, ‘he sizes women up at a glance, with sexual classifications, crude images flashing into his mind’ and also the fact that he takes off his top in front of Blanche after just meeting her. This description of him creates a negative image of his character and suggests he doesn’t respect women and merely sees them as an object of his affections. However, we know that he is married to Stella and that she praises him and says he is ‘not like most men.’ This creates many questions for the reader as we wonder if Stella knows about this side of his personality, and makes us wonder why and how their relationship works, and if it is really as good as it appears to be from the outside. Lastly, I think that the use of music creates an interesting opening to the play. At the beginning of the play it says ‘the blue piano expresses the spirit of life which goes on here.’ This creates a positive image of the atmosphere of the place and the contented feeling and mood. However, the music is used again later on in the first scene, saying ‘The music of the polka rises up, faint in the distance.’ The music is used here to highlight the fact that the atmosphere and tension in the scene heightens and clearly show that this is the important part of the scene.

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  9. Annie Brett

    Williams uses dramatic and linguistic techniques in the play via the long descriptions of the background and context of the opening scene. These descriptions include information about the area in which the scene is set, and also the types of people in it. For example before Stanley enters the apartment in which Blanche and Stella are situated he is described in a way that makes us think that there is something strange about him, we now think that he has an odd relationship with women and this is then demonstrated shortly after his arrival when he takes his top off infront of Blanche when they have only just met. These actions intrigue us and make us curious about Stanley’s character and want to find out more about him.
    Also he has a good use of stage directions, without them as a reader we would not be able to distinguish the emotions of each character, for example when Blanche first arrives at the apartments , her movements are ‘slow’ and her tone of voice shows us that she is disgusted that Stella is living in such a place.
    Williams cleverly uses irony in various situations, for one he has given Blanche a name at symbolises purity and given her the ethics of an upper class woman who has strong values and morals, however she doesn’t seem to comply to them herself with little money and showing the signs of being an alcoholic. This is just one suggestion that we do not yet know all about these characters and their backgrounds, making us want to read on.

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  10. Alex Murphy

    Williams creates an interesting opening to the play with many different stage directions, of which create a healthy and curious contrast between Blanche’s opinion of the surrounding area, and Stella’s opinion of the surrounding area. We could assume the name Elysian Fields is symbolic of the difference in opinion between siblings. Elysian applies to Stella who sees the place around her as paradise, and fields applies to Blanche- who sees the surrounding area as not only drab and uncomfortable, but also unclean (much like a field). Williams also creates cryptic/suspicious occurrences. For example Williams utilizes dramatic irony when Blanche asks where the Whiskey is, having poured herself a glass moments before. This creates the question of Blanche’s relationship with alcohol, this is reinforced when Blanche later claims ‘One’s my limit’. The same contrast between good and bad is created with the character Stanley. Stanley is meant to be happily married, however he seems remarkably flirtatious and open when confronted with another female presence in his residence.

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