January 29, 2013

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

January is a freebie month at Let's Read Plays, so I've chosen something very different from classical plays. And it really is different in many ways, and the most striking difference of all is in form. As you open the book, you don't see the list of characters, there is no strict act-scene structure, and the descriptions are far more extensive than I've ever seen. What so we usually see as a commentary in plays? [somebody laughs], [some place], etc. But Williams creates the whole atmosphere with his descriptions, and everything plays its role: sounds, light, some small objects in the scene... For 3 hours I was completely lost in the book, and I can still visualize the small house in New Orleans where everything happened.

As to the plot, I thought it was very predictable from the beginning, but it didn't turn out so. The conflict I was expecting to be the main one (a plain and quiet wife vs. an intriguing and sensual newcomer? we know where this leads) was moved to the very end and was not finally important after all. Deeper things came out on the foreground - the decline of the landowner aristocracy, unwillingness to accept changes in life, and even madness.

I can't say I sympathize with any of the characters in the play, and this can only mean the characters are very real and believable. (What? You didn't know I hate people? ;) ) And I think that this is wonderful descriptions that make them real. Sometimes you feel you need to see an adaptation to really understand somebody's motives in the play, but this play can be read as an independent novella, completely forgetting it was meant for the stage.

So now I know what an American play looks like, and all I want to say is that I'll be reading more of them. I'm going to watch an old movie adaptation with Vivien Leigh (who, I think, will suit perfectly) some time this week if I have chance, and I'll compare reading it to watching it.


  1. Ha..I've been wanting to read something from Bernard Shaw, but I still don't know which one should I start with. It's between this one or Pygmalion or Saint Joan. But I have a peek of Saint Joan, and yes, the structure is similar as novel, you don't find any sign of [aside] or [dies] in Shakespeare.

    Can't wait for another freebie theme! :)

    1. I vote for Pygmalion, it's just perfect, and my favourite Shaw play!!


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