Once again, the play brings to the surface a very mature theme: Stanley's rape of Blanche. I have softened the language in the following sections of the lesson to allow teachers to use their own discretion in considering the type of diction they what like to use in covering the material. Teachers will want to consider the emotional maturity of their class before proceeding. The focus of this lesson is for students to prepare an argument using text evidence to explain Stanley's motives in mistreating Blanche. Students will consider Stanley's motives in buying a bus ticket home and his hostile attack on Blanche and her fantasy world in Scene Ten. Is Stanley a true barbarian who places his needs before others or does he misconstrue Blanche's intentions throughout the play? This lesson is Common Core aligned because the crux of the lesson is for students to gather enough text evidence to support their arguments.
I will give students the final vocabulary test for the unit on A Streetcar Named Desire. This test is Common Core aligned as it relies on determining meaning from context. Words were chosen based on difficulty and level of importance to the play.
As teachers begin this part of the lesson, they should be aware of the mature content. In this section, I want students to consider the motives behind Stanley's mistreatment of Blanche in Scenes Nine and Ten. As previously stated in the prior lesson, Mitch emotionally mistreats Blanche when he tears down her paper lantern which is essentially the guise that Blanche hides behind to mask her true age and experience. Of course, in Scene Ten, Stanley and Blanche have their moment where the tension of the relationship reaches its peak. To present the climax in a prevocative manner, I ask students to re-read the stage directions at the end of Scene Ten. Students will prepare an argument as to whether Stanley's intimate encounter with Blanche is destiny or a significant part of his mistreatment of Blanche. What does Stanley mean when he says, "We've had this date with each other from the beginning?"
Students will use text support and explanations to build an argument. I urge students to consider the history Stanley and Blanche have. Does Blanche openly flirt with Stanley throughout the play and is this behavior a consent to their intimate relationship in Scene Ten? The diction in the stage directions infer a very passive Blanche. Is this passivity a symptom of her emotional state? Why did Tennessee Williams include these stage directions at the end of the scene? What was his intent?
I have included the perimeters of this assignment on an overhead. Students will write their argument in class in the alloted time period. I am looking for three paragraphs: an introduction that discusses the events of Scene Ten and provides a thesis drawing a conclusion to Stanley's intent; a body which provides an explanation and text evidence to support thesis; and finally, a summary paragraph to restate the thesis and evidence.
My experiences teaching this lesson have been quite positive. I have not received any negative criticism based on the content from either students or parents. However, I have tread very carefully in presenting this lesson to ensure that my students can handle the emotional seriousness of the content. My suggestion is to teach Streetcar at the end of the year or semester when teachers have an opportunity to measure the emotional maturity of students. It is possible to teach this play and skim over the final action in Scene Ten. Some students will not understand that Blanche is being raped. Teachers will have to use judgment in either fielding questions about the action or specifically pointing out the circumstances of the intimacy. Again, I teach in an urban school district where the presentation of sensitive issues is left to our professional judgment. My judgment has always served me well.
Following the argumentative writing assignment, we will spend the remainder of the class reading the final scene in the play. This scene is the play's resolution and involves Stella and Stanley committing Blanche to a mental institution. Of course, Tennessee Williams leaves open a small crack in the dialogue where the reader may consider whether Stella truly believed Blanche when she reveals Stanley's violence toward her. Because of her situation and dependence on Stanley, is it easier for Stella to believe Stanley rather than Blanche? This is a question I will pose to students as we read and ask them to make inferences into the dialogue as to whether this is the case.
I will have students finish reading the final scene of A Streetcar Named Desire and ask them to write a short reflection (one paragraph) about what Blanche means when she says, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." To prepare them for this assignment, I play the attached Youtube video showing Blanche and the doctor just before she is escorted out of the Kowalski apartment and as she says the line. I also tell students to consider all the events in the novel and everything they know about Blanche in writing their response.