AQA AS English Lang and Lit Unit 1: Sample exam question and answer

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A Streetcar Named Desire: Tennessee Williams

How does Williams portray the character of Stanley and his attitudes?

In your answer you should consider:

a) Williams language choices

b) dramatic techniques

Ans) In the play,Stanley is portrayed as a very masculine, aggressive character, with chauvinistic attitude to both Stella and Blanche. However, despite his thuggishness, he is also portrayed as attractive - Stella can't live without him - and he is sometimes seen to have a more naive vulnerable side to his character.

One of the first dramatic techniques Williams uses to introduce us to Stanley in Scene 1 is that of stage directions. In these, Williams describes Stanley as having `the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens`, and this metaphor conveys his masculine sense of superiority and chauvinistic attitude. It is also one of many animal references associated with Stanley. Williams uses many dynamic verbs in the stage directions for Stanley, such as `throws the screen door of the kitchen open`, also reflected later on when he `snatches` the radio and `tosses` it out of the window. These dynamic verbs give us a strong sense of his physical presence. Williams also uses an asyndetic list - `his heartiness with men, his appreciation of rough humour, his love of good drink and food and games, his car, his radio, everything that is his, that bears his emblem of the gaudy seed-bearer` - to build up a picture of Stanley as a typical man, with the repeated pronoun `his` really emphasising his masculinity.

This sense of masculinity is made apparent when we first see Stanley, throwing a parcel of meat to Stella. His attitude is that he is the hunter and provider, while she must stay at home and cook for him. This is further shown at the party scene, when he says `I am the king around here, so don't forget it`. His choice of the noun `king` conveys his arrogance…

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