Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

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7. Motif 1: Behind closed doors...

A Streetcar Named Desire The Turn of the Screw ClaustrophobiaA Streetcar Named Desire is probably best enjoyed in the theatre—after all, it’s a play, not a novel. But if you’re reading instead of watching, be sure to pay close attention to Tennessee Williams’ settings inside the Kowalski’s apartment…and outside on the street.

That contrast—between Blanche’s claustrophobic world inside her sister’s apartment, and the great wide world beyond—becomes sharper as the story progresses. Sharper to everyone, that is, except for Blanche, for whom fantasy and reality, indoors and out, becomes increasingly blurred.


A Streetcar Named Desire Trafficked 60second Book Review

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Trafficked by Kim Purcell

If you’re racing to get through this play, you may be tempted to skip the stage directions—you know, all that stuff written in italics at the beginning of each scene, and interspersed with the dialogue? If you do, though, you’ll be missing out on one of this play’s main motifs.

Take a minute to think about the way this play is staged. There’s a fluidity between inside and outside. What I mean is, if you were watching this play, you’d see both the interior of the Kowalskis’ apartment and the street outside. At the same time.

It’s like Williams has removed the boundary between the outside world and what’s going on inside. Through the staging, he sets up a space where there’s no safety, no place where Blanche (or anyone else) can hide from cruel reality.

In A Streetcar Named Desire, the home is not a sanctuary for women. Although the fluidity between inside and outside appears many times during this play, the most shocking example is at the end of Scene Ten when the back wall of the apartment becomes transparent, showing the shadows of the violent activity in the street. Moments later, inside the apartment, Stanley rapes Blanche.

So what should you remember about this motif? Remember that the fluidity between inside and outside reinforces Williams’ social criticism—and our favorite theme—which says that there’s something wrong with a society in which a single woman’s only recourse is either a man, or a complete departure from reality.


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