Analysis of Stanley and Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire

May 18, 2010

 Stanley Kowalski and Blanche DuBois are two of the main characters in the play,  A Streetcar Named Desire. It is clear from the beginning that they are very different people. Blanche is Stella’s older sister. She goes to visit Stella at her house in New Orleans because the plantation Blanche lived on was lost. She is shocked at her sister’s small, two room living conditions. Blanche is representative of the old south because she is more proper and comes from a wealthy background. In comparison to the colloquial style, laid back diction of Stella’s neighbors, Blanche speaks in short phrases, such as a simple “Yes” when answering Eunice’s questions. Her short way of speaking to Eunice may make seem like she is just being shy; however, Blanche asserts herself quickly as wanting to be left alone. Blanche does not want to be rude though, so even her pushy comment is said politely as, “If you will excuse me, I’m just about to drop”. Blanche DuBuois is a French name meaning “white woods”. She is proud of her name and associates it with beauty, ” Like an orchard in spring!” The color white connotes many things. In the United States, it is viewed as a color of purity, and is the traditional color for a wedding dress. On the other hand, white is also connected to winter months, which suggests coldness. Both descriptions are adjectives for describing personality as well, and Blanche is not specifically either. The complexity of her character is deep because she seems to want to do the right thing, but her actions are questionable. For example, Blanche openly flirts with Stella’s husband Stanley and tells her sister about it later. However, she claims to only be distracting Stanley from the bad news of loosing the plantation. Blanche also discretely drinks, smokes, and bathes frequently to calm her nerves. She believes that, “a woman’s charm is 50% illusion”, which explains why she is so preoccupied with the way that she looks. Blanche is always fishing for compliments and making sure her nose is powered before she enters a room full of people as if she wants to turn back time and go to a place where she was happy. Many people have died in her life, and these tragedies may have lead her to be more content by lying to herself and others. Blanche even says, “I know I fib a good deal.”, but she also claims, “when a thing is important I tell the truth”. However Blanche’s self conscious, secretive behavior and flirtatious nature make it hard to note Blanche as an honest person.

This image of Jessica Tandy, who won a Tony award for her performance as Blanche in the 1947 pre-broadway tryout of A Streetcar Named Desire, accurately portrays Blanche as a romantic character who has a drinking problem.

Stanley, Stella’s husband, is a passionate man with animal like tendencies. He is an honest character who is representative of the truth because unlike Blanche, Stanley does not hide who he really is. He also enjoys drinking, but more as a social construct to further support his brute manliness. Stanley treats Stella as an inferior housewife, and asserts his dominance by throwing a hunk of meat at her during the first scene. Stella and her neighbors laugh at the gesture because they see it as a joke pertaining to sexual desire. Stanley expects his wife to prepare his meals. He says, “How about my supper, huh?” in a demanding tone, but Stella needs him even more because she is so in love with him. Stanley is a muscular and confident man. His passionate nature can be taken to far, like when he beats his wife after a poker game because she asked everyone to leave since it was so late. The rage that he shows is part of his animal side. Stanley also claims to honor the “Napoleonic code”, which states, “what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband and vice versa.”. He uses this code to argue to Blanche that the plantation that was lost should also belong to him. Stanley’s actions are straight forward, but his intensions are unclear. He may want more money for himself to elevate his dominance even more, or maybe he is just protective of his wife and wants to make sure she is well taken care of. Stanley refers to his wife as his “baby doll” which also alludes to the doll house image of Stella, and Stanley expects her to live up to these expectations. Dolls are played with, manipulated, and are built to have no imperfections. Stanley is the stereotypical alfa male and he is not afraid to show it.

Marlon Brando received an Oscar nomination for his role as Stanley Kowalski in the movie production of A Streetcar Named Desire. He is a tall, dark, and handsome man. HIs laid back attitude is portrayed in the photo.

Word count: 821

Close Read Passage

May 5, 2010

The following passage conveys J R Isidore’s hopeless attitude and shows signs of his increasing mental instability after Buster Friendly announces on television that there is strong evidence that Mercer is a fake; furthermore, Isidore has just witnessed Pris mutilate a spider by cutting off four of its legs.

      Maybe it had been the last spider on Earth, as Roy Baty had said. And the spider is gone; Mercer is gone; he saw the dust and    the ruin of the apartment as it lay spreading out everywhere -he heard the kipple coming, the final disorder of all forms, the    absence which would win out. It grew around him as he stood holding the empty ceramic cup; the cupboards of the kitchen    creaked and split and he felt the floor beneath his feet give. (212)

The tone of this passage is pessimistic and sad, as evidenced by the repetition of “gone” and words such as “absence” and “empty”. A third person limited narrator shares Isidore’s thoughts through what is similar to his center of consciousness. Although Isidore has always been in a less than favorable position because of his label as a “special”, or mentally below average individual, it seems that the news of Mercer and watching the spider die has pushed him too far. Isidore’s struggles as a “special” in comparison to the personified “kipple”, relates to the question of what it means to be human, which is a central theme in the novel. Kipple is given the ability to make noise and grow, but it is simply referred to as “it”. Giving human like qualities to an object that does not have the ability feel, is contrasting to Isidore, who is viewed as less than human because of lower intelligence, but he obviously makes emotional connections. The confusion between human and object allows the reader to reflect upon his or her own life, and to personally judge each of the characters.

This image is the cover of the comic book version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It depicts a bounty hunter going after an android in order to “retire” it. You could say that after the android is dead, it contributes to the growing amount of “kipple”.

Kipple also alludes to thermodynamics, which is a science focused on the relationship between heat and work, and the conversion from one to the other. Entropy measures the randomness of thermodynamic variables. In the novel, Kipple has the essence of entropy. It continues to spread and take over the environment, and consists of dust, trash, and abandoned items. Isodore thinks of kipple as “the final disorder of all forms”, which means that eventually everything will turn into kipple. The diction “creaked” and “split” give the passage an eerie feeling, like Isidore’s kitchen was slowly falling apart around him, and nothing was going to stop the destruction. Isidore feeling his feet sink in is the last sign of the damage that kipple has inflicted. The increasing disorder of Earth has Isidore’s challenge to find human virtue during a time of spiritual despair is another example of a relevant theme in Philp K Dicks work. Not only has the floor given in, but Isidore has also sort of given up since he realized that Mercer, whom he fully believed in, is gone, and he is even more alone. 

word count: 560

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Posthumanism

April 27, 2010

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick, is a science fiction novel, whose themes are related to Hayles’ essay on posthumanism. Society is constantly advancing technologies, but recently, the there seems to be more curiosity for the shift from the human construction to the posthuman. However, there are many controversial issues to work out before posthumanism is widely accepted, or fully understood. According to Hayles’, the posthuman believe that their separation between body and mind is a consequence of historical change, rather than what must inevitably happen as part of their materialized life. In other words, the grown or attached biological substance on the posthuman body is merely an advancement of history and not something that must happen to prevent unwanted repercussions. It makes sense that the idea of positive technological advancement is a popular view of the posthuman because then it is perceived that posthumanism is not forced upon society. Furthermore, posthumans would not want to think that their unnatural attachments in any way define who they are, or that some part of then is owned by someone else.

The kitten in this picture is CC, which stands for carbon copy. She is the first cloned kitten and is standing with her surrogate mother Allie. Many people were excited about the prospect of a cloned domestic animal and looked forward to future possibilities and a seemingly large market for the cloning of pets. CC appears to be a healthy cat, and endangered species could also benefit from cloning. However, those opposed to the controversy of cloning make the point that CC is not exactly like her DNA replica. Not only do they look different, but she will probably also have a different personality due to enviromental differences. Cloning pets would also add to an existing overpopulation problem. Although CC is not human, she could be considered, in some ways, a postanimal. The issues revolving her are directly related to animals in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and posthumanism.

The idea of body detachment is farther supported with a quote by Macpherson, which states that “The human essence is freedom from the wills of others, and freedom is a function of possession.” So if someone owns part of the posthuman body, then some of their individual freedom might be taken away because that body part would be under the will of others. The biological substrate is manufactured and maintained by someone else. In contrast, Macpherson also argues that freedom is a paradox because  the natural self is created by consumerism, which is reinforced by freedom. If one’s parts were to be owned, it is because someone bought them, not because of a preexisting condition. Posthumans share the same belief, which is directly related to the themes of questions of being, and the distinction between human and machine in the novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Androids are posthmans with advanced intelligence, but they can not express emotion. They are treated differently between separete groups who value them in different ways. To the bounty hunter on Earth, Androids are dangerous to society and should be exterminated, while the owners of androids on different planets use them as slaves. However, the corporation who manufactures androids, view them as a valuable asset for consumerism purposes and try to keep up with the best products on the market. It is questioned whether intelligence and a look alike human body can classify androids as human beings. Some may argue that a special characterists of humans include being able to connect with others and feel emotions. However, perhaps these emotions are learned over time, and androids in fact do have the mental capacity to feel. Animals have also been turned into artificial beings and are a symbol of a wealth and compassion.

“Feel Good Inc.” is a song about posthumanism where the only thing that matters in the future is pleasure. Using the word Inc. as part of the title suggests that feelings have become some kind of marketed corporation. The cartoon cartoon characters portrayed as The Gorrillaz, farther emphasizes the idea of non human qualities. This song also relates to the mood organ in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. The mood organ allows humans in the future to artificially dial their desired emotion.

Hayles also claims it is important to recognize that “… the posthuman view configures human being so that it can be seamlessly articulated with intelligent machines.” There is no need for difference between how the body exists and what the computer can simulate. With this view, posthumans would not be discriminated against for being unnatural. They would be accepted based on something other than what they are made of. In the posthuman view, human goals would consist of advancing robot technology. The thought of artifical human intelligence is both scary and compelling. There are an abundance of possibilities for the use technologically advanced humans, but this enormous power can also be distructive. There will enevidabley be people against the idea, who make valid points about unethical issues, which is another prominate theme in Dick’s novel. It might not be possible to treat a posthuman as if it were not a material object because since the human constructed it, there is probably a sense of power over what he or she has created. It is unknown wether the posthuman will fit in to our complex society, but hopefully their arrival will be more helpful than destructive.

word count: 908

Perfect “Persimmons”

April 20, 2010

“Persimmons”, by Li-Young Lee, is a free verse poem that expresses the speaker’s way of of dealing with a Chinese heritage while living in America. As a poet, Lee is noted for being brave enough to share his personal experiences, but the intricate literary devices in his work reflect a more artistic writer. In other words, Lee’s background has shaped the way he thinks, but his personal life should not be the only  focus of Lee’s poem. Furthermore, one should not assume that his experiences are the same as every other Chinese American.

These are persimmons. Not only are they the title of the poem, but persimmons are also part of Chinese culture, incorporated  the theme of roundness in the poem, and the metaphorical device that helps the speaker of the poem describe his struggles in American society.

The poem begins when the speaker is in sixth grade. He is slapped in the head by his teacher for not being able to tell the difference between “persimmon and precision”. However, it becomes obvious in the next stanza that the speaker has a clear understanding of their differences, but he can not pronounce them correctly. He proceedes to explain the best way to choose a persimmon with confident precision. During the first conflict in the poem between heritage and his environment is resolved with the speaker’s knowledge that he is not incompetent, no matter what other people with predisposed cultural stereotypes may say. The persimmon fruit is the first of many round things that are noticed throughout the poem to help connect different stanzas without the use of a standard form. At the end of the second stanza, the poet foreshadows upcoming events with the use of sexual language to describe how to properly eat a persimmon. For example, the words “suck it” can be conotated in a sexual way. In addition, words like, “tenderly” and “sweet” can also describe a sexual encounter.

The third and first stanzas are directly related. Although it seems like a random experience during a poem, what happens to the speaker in the third stanza shows another side to his heritage. Once again, he is in the company of what can be percievevd as an American women. This time, he is the teacher and tries to teach the girl Chinese words, but he has forgotten some of them. The comparison between him not knowing how to pronounce some English words, but also forgetting some of his own culture, is another struggle that the speaker faces. He must find the delicate balance between staying true to who he is, and becoming part of a new society. The second allusion to round objects is the moon at the end of the third stanza. The moon is also a Chinese symbol. In the middle of August, it is traditional to celebrate the moon festival, which is an important holiday to be with family. The moon is at its fullest during this time, and moon cakes are served in many varieties.

This you tube video is about culture diversity, which is one of the major problems that the speaker in the poem encountered. The women in the video talks about what culture diversity is and how it shapes different societies. Also, tips about how to be respectful of other people’s culture are discussed. One of the most important tips is to be patient, which Mrs. Walker seems to disregard.

In the next stanza, the speaker tells about other words that he had a hard time pronouncing, but knew what each one of them meant. He explains that he was afraid to fight and how wrens and yarn are similar because both are soft, and birds can be made out of yarn. Perhaps American masculinity was forced upon him, but his mothers craftiness brings him back to a cultural experience. Time is shifted once again in the next stanza when this speaker is back in Mrs. Walker’s sixth grade class. In contrast to the first stanza, the speaker shows the ignorance of his teacher by letting his audience know that the persimmon she had brought to class was not even ripe. The teacher calls the persimmon a “Chinese apple”, which posses another problem for the boy to deal with. His class mates might judge his culture based on the gross taste of an unripened fruit because of their first impressions. The contrast between Mrs. Walker’s ignorance, and the speaker’s knowledge is more emphisied by a full cesura in the middle of a line. The following stanza is short and shows once again how the speaker is comforted by his mother. She says, “… every persimmon has a sun/inside”. “Sun” is another round object, and is also a pun on the word son. His mother is essentially complimenting her son and making him feel better. 

In the eighth stanza, the speaker finds two persimmons and puts them on the windowsill so the sun will ripen them. He says that, “each morning the cardinal/ sang, The sun, the sun.” The sun is a round object but it also alludes to western literature. Other poets, such as Poe in his poem “The Raven”, have used the idea of talking birds. The speaker then states that the time is now “this year”. He looks for a lost item next to his aging and now blind father. The boy finds three paintings that his father had done, one of which was of two persimmons. In the last stanza, the boy’s father becomes the speaker. The father describes the precision it took to paint the persimmons, but he was able to paint them blind. The poem has come full circle. Both father and son clearly understand persimmons, which is a symbol of their heritage. The reader is left with a few lines about what a person never forgets. The final thing is, “the texture of persimmons,/in your palm, the ripe weight.” He is saying that like persimmons, you will never forget where you came from. Weight can also mean the weight of his situation, which is in this means that culture is an important part of life.

Word count: 1022

“The Applicant” Analyzed

April 13, 2010

The poem “The Applicant”, by Sylvia Plath, consists of eight stanzas and has no formal rhyme scheme. It uses the idea of a job interview to convey issues such as gender roles, marriage, and consumerism through cynical and mocking metaphors. In the first two stanzas the reader is given the impression that in order to be considered for the applied position, he must be missing something. The effect of a missing void is shown through a serious of questions that vary in length from short and abrupt to a long list, which provides a sense of urgency. However, all of the things that are listed are only for physical improvement, so the problem does not seem like it should be such a high priority. Businesses make money through strategic techniques that will make the consumer want to buy their product. One of the most popular ways is through advertisements. Plath reflects upon a society of constant need by interrogating the applicant to that point that he cries. Although the constant showering of media advertisements usually does not cause people cry, the stimulated emotion is directly related to how consumerism has such a high impact on everyday life. Ads are found everywhere from bus stations and billboards, to television, the news paper, and the radio.

This you tube video commercial advertisement for Snickers is a classic example of the different strategies companies use in order to sell their product. Betty White is profiled the famous person who most people have heard of to get the audience’s attention and build a foundation of trust. The scene of young people playing football in the grass will also appeal to some people because they can relate. The Snickers bar is given by one of his friends, which shows that he has probably also had one before and it has worked for him. The message is that without Snickers, you will not be able to live up to your full potential. Plath relates this aspect of consumerism to the black suit in “The Applicant”.

The poet continues to eleborate on the metaphor of consumerism by stating, “Open your hand./Empty? Empty. Here is a hand/to fill it…”. The command at the beginning followed by a one sentence question shows how consumers are sucked in to the notion of never being content with what one has. The second half of this quote conveys the ease of buying things. Today, most people in America have a light weight, easy to use credit card that is a very tempting spending tool. The use of a black suit in the fifth stanza makes me think of how extreme commercials are in order to persuade you to buy something. The suit is” proof/against fire and bombs through the roof.” It is helarious to think of a suit as able to withstand the effects of a bomb, but these are the lengths that products must go to be the next best thing. End rhyme in this quote gives the suit an even more exciting and catchy appeal. Plath realizes that consumerism is something to laugh at, but also a growing issue that calls for conscious awareness.

Another metaphor that Plath uses in her poem is gender roles. “The Applicant” is about a man who feels preasured to find a wife, who is treated as a sort of product. One of the first implications of gender roles is in the second stanza when Plath writes, “Stop crying.” This harsh command is a result of how boys and men have been taught to behave. The idea is that “real” men are strong and do not show their feelings because that would be a sign of weakness. Heroic actors in the media, who never seem to die no matter how much trouble they face, have been looked up to as the ideal man. Generations of men “bringing home the bacon” have added to this effect. Unfortunetly, men and women have been basically categorized into seperate groups, each with their own duties and obligations. Plath illustates these contrasting roles by writing the women as a much needed product and the man as the one applying for her. Naturally, the man is in a higher position of power, and the women is consistantly called “it”. This makes her seem like an emotionless object that can be controlled. She is told to “Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.”, which gives the impression that she must be handled delicately, but is merely a new possession. The tone of the poem is mostly light hearted, but deals with deeper social conflicts.

This historic poster is an example of how gender roles can change depending on the situation. “Rosie the Riveter” is pictured as an icon of the feminist movement. During World War II, men had to fight in the war, so women took over their jobs in the labor field.

It is more accepted today that women have been put down in the past and perhaps still carry some kind of burrden to live up to, but Plath is also sensitive to the preasues of men. She says, “My boy, its your last resort.”, which makes the reader consider that boys are also subject to live up to certain ideals. Telling a man that he needs someone to do things that he could do himself can also be degrading. Gender roles are learned at a very young age as part of our culture, and become more apparent as time goes on. For example, young girls are taught to look “pretty” and act politely. Boys however are mostly permitted and encourged to get as dirty as possible and are less likely to be scolded for agressive behavior.

The metaphor of marriage is mockingly strung throughout “The Applicant”. Marriage is put on a pedestal as a faithful union of two soles, but it is obviously not perfect. “Will you marry it?” is a refrain in the poem that is followed by reasons of why he will. It is a constant reminder that marriage is an inevitable part of life for some people. “We make new stock from salt.” with the joining of two people as one. As if starting something new will erase past experiences. However, marriage is vainly related to consumerism and gender roles. As described in Plath’s poem, women will start out as having nothing, but after being married, she will turn into “A living doll”. Once again, the idea of product is brought up to give the impression that marriage is needed. Everything in a doll house is plastic and very controlled. Marriage is also associated with “silver” and “gold” anniversaries. Some people believe that the way to a women’s heart is through chocolate and diamonds.

“Love of My Life” is a popular wedding song that reflects upon some aspects of marriage. It is about how grateful the couple is to have found each other because that is what they needed. The video shines light on the beautiful side of marriage, but also shows the ideals that marriage is supposed to live up to. Plath’s personal marriage had ended, so perhaps that is why she has a cynical attitude in her poem.

“The Applicant” is a classic piece of poetry that can be interpreted in many different ways, and explores important issues that have been relevant for hundreds of years. Although the poem has no organized pattern of structure, it has very clear literary elements. Plath is successful in getting her point across in a mocking and humorous manner. Song like meter makes for a fun and interesting read. She ends the poem with repeating words that seem to linger in the mind and allow her audience to discover a deeper appreciation for art.

Word count: 1289

“My Papa’s Waltz” Analyzed

April 4, 2010

“My Papa’s Waltz”, by Theodore Roethke, is an expressive poem about a young boy and his father’s dance in their home. The poem has four stanzas, each with four lines. When read allowed, the poem has the same sound as the beat to a waltz. This conveys the impression of a lighthearted encounter; however, words such as “death”,” battered”, and “beat” give the poem an ambiguous tone. The author could be using the term waltz sarcastically because the waltz is moderately fast and the dancers move in continuous circles. This makes me think of a romantic dance, but maybe the circles relate to dizziness and alcohol issues.

This image of a couple dancing the waltz shows that traditionally, it is a dance between men and women where both are formally dressed. In the poem, the father is dirty from work and the son is being scrapped and roughed up. The dance also can contain lifts, which are a sign of trust. If mother and son are in fear of the father’s rage and drinking, the waltz clearly is not a reflection of their relationship.

It could be interpreted that child abuse is part of this boys life and the tone becomes tragic. The first line of the poem, “The whiskey on your breath”, indicates that the boy’s father had been drinking. A more optimistic view would see that the father was innocently having a drink with his buddies after a long day at work, but it seems to me that he might have a drinking problem. The latter approach agrees with suspected abuse, and words like “dizzy” and “romped” further support the tone because the boy is dizzy just from smelling the amount of achahol on his father’s breath. It is also suggested that the mother is unhappy, and the father has a job in the hard labor field. Although the mother may just be stressing about possible breakables in the house and the father loves his job, it is more likely that the father’s job is low paying and creates tension in the house. Roethke uses both exact and slant rhyme. Since slant rhyme is not perfect, it could also parallel the father son relationship.

This image shows a depressed young man and an adult abuser in a message to try to stop child abuse. The red lettering next to the man’s hand is sending the idea that he should not bring his hand any farther. The little boy is turned away and helpless. The shadow of child abuse is always beside him. The connotations of child abuse in “My Papa’s Waltz” are connected to this picture because the child in the poem may be feeling the same things as evidenced by, “Such waltzing was not easy.” The child is possibly referring to waltzing as the relationship between him and his father. 

The speaker and time of this poem are also ambiguous. The whole poem is written in past tense, but a child would not use the word “countenance” to describe his mother’s frown and “death” to explain how he was holding on to his father. Children are not supposed to know the true meaning and depth of these words. At the same time, an adult would not say “unfrown”, which is not a real word. By placing “clinging” in the last line, the poet makes me think of a loving and trusting gesture of affection, but it could be that the young boy is desperately trying to hang on to hope during troubling times. For example, monkeys affectionately cling to their mothers when they are afraid or just along for a ride, but during hurtful situations like getting a shot at the doctor, a young boy may cling on to an object to help endure the pain.

Interpretation by Resuki

 

This cartoon image shows the happy portrayal of “My Papa’s Waltz”. The father is happily dancing with his smiling son. The father is missing a tooth and has a beard, which could make others perceive him as an innocent and humble man. The mother is upset in the background, but it is probably just because pots are flying.

The author leaves the poem open to many interpretations, perhaps on purpose. A good writer connects with his audience through related experiences, and more ambiguous literature may reach a larger audience. People like to know that they are not alone and can use the emotion of poetry to feel what they need, whether it be remembering a playful experience, or feeling anger towards an abusive parent. Therefore, each individual’s interpretation of the poem may reflect their past experiences.

Word count: 770


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