Historical, social and cultural contexts SND

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  • Historical, Social & Cultural Contexts SND
    • 'the American Century' & 'the American Dream' concepts fully rooted in cultural landscape of post-WW2 era
      • US century repre. US as a kind of Good Samaritan, helping other countries to achieve democracy, progress & economic security
      • US dream way of uniting the various different groups of immigrants who came to US in 19th & early 20thc to create a cohesive national ethos
        • over time many writers became preoccupied with showing how US dream had died or that it'd only been an illusion in the first place
          • in suggesting society is an even playing field, responsibility for personal success or failure fell solely on individual
          • TW as well as dramatists Arthur Miller & Eugene O'Neill, set out to question the cultural values many of thier contemporaries held dear
    • The 'American South'
      • even today, has a distinctive way of life & its culture, food, literature & music have influenced the rest of the country immensely
      • cultural melting pot - mix of Native American, European settlers & imported African slaves had maj. impact on its history & collective psyche
      • after Civil War, & abolishment of slavery, industrialised North grew more powerful (politically & economically) than the still largely agricultural South
        • after Civ. War, many white Southerners bought into enduring nostalgic mythic rep. of South in its ante-bellum heyday as a haven of peace, prosperity & chivalrous gallantry
          • completely different story for black Southerners
    • Gender Roles
      • WW2 women used to filling men's roles in workplace & gained considerable freedom & financial independence
        • for while, seemed possible for women to pursue own version of American Dream
          • had to give up their jobs for the men coming back
            • gov. wanted pop. boom - wanted them to be mothers
              • had decreased due to deaths of soldiers
        • WW2 & its political changes notable for their omission
          • only Stan.'s brief reference to the Salerno landings
          • omission characteristic of TW's plays
            • seems to emphasise that the plays exist in their own world & time
              • resulting claustrophobic quality contributes to dramtic tension
      • many of TW's female characters seem psychologically trapped in cultural pragmatics of the Old South
        • Blanche & Stella's dependence on men exposes attitudes to women during transition from old world-new
          • B's search for a Southern trad. gentleman will only lead to madness because there's none left
        • Blanche, Stella & Eunice see male companions as only means to achieving happiness & depend on men for economic & ppyschological reasons
          • when Stan. uses Napleonic Code to try & muscle in on Ste.'s inheritance, seems exploitive yet B's escape plan (Shep Huntleigh) still involves playing a submisiive & dependent role
  • many Polish immigrants before 1940& 50s were mostly uneducated labourers who were looked down upon
    • in the final version, Stan. became Polish-US
    • change made to emphasise class element in the play
  • the realism of the setting (a shabby apartment in a rundown house & characters (factory workers & a schoolteacher out of a job) contrasts with the unexpected feasts of lyricism in the dialogue & the high drama of the last 3 scenes
    • groundbreaking
  • 'old' gotten rid of 'new'
    • it's 'won'
      • but the victory doesn't seem like a good thing to the audience
  • men rose up the ranks quickly
    • WW2
    • had a lot of power/respect
      • then had to come back to a lowly job
        • Stan.'s aggressive nature & violence could be him trying to combat this
  • as poker involves concealing a poor hand by not showing any disappointment, is trad. thought of as a tough, masculine game
    • characters in this play often conceal their emotions or the facts
  • Elysian Fields equivalent of paradise
    • ironic that it's a rundown street
    • war heroes often went there
      • Stan. a war hero
        • confirms that B is invading his space
    • B obsessed with death
  • Rosenkavalier is hero of Strauss' comic-romantic opera by the same name (1911)
    • hints at B's culture & liking for fantasy
    • "my Rosenkavalier"


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