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Eterovic, Millaman 1 Sebastian Eterovic Paulina Millaman Professor Carola Oyarzun 7 May 2012 Language and Characters in A Street

Car Named Desire and Waiting for Godot: Language Functions and Characters Design

To commence, A Street Car Named Desire and Waiting for Godot

display a

captivating use of communication as the medium to introduce specific perspectives in relation to Language and characters design. Therefore, this paper will illustrate the relationship between Language and Character exhibited in both dramatic texts by analyzing thoroughly speech and stage directions. This paper proposes that Williamsplay applies Language in order to portrait a colorful power game between two opposite forces fighting for supremacy. Otherwise, Waiting for Godot subverts the idea of Language as the universal framework in which reality is conveyed. First, A Street Car Named Desire is a realistic play. Williams displays a reproduction of the communicative model, since characters speech is coherent and plausible. Furthermore, characters communicate effectively: their message is understood by others, and they communicate accordingly. Based on that, speech on A Street Car Named Desire employs certain linguistic functions (based on Roman Jacobsons model of verbal communication) to highlight a thick and dense communicative system which creates a link between power and speech. This polifunctionality of dramatic language (Pfister 105) is exhibited by associating every characters dialogue to a definite Language function. Furthermore, dialogues show a variety of functions organized to reveal several functions in the internal communication system simultaneously, though one of these may dominate over the others (105). Therefore, referential function is the basement of this communicative structure. Characters are constantly narrating past references, which catalyze characters present conflict. Blanches description of her late husbands suicide is an example of that:We danced the Varsouviana! Suddenly in the middle of the dance the boy I married broke away from me and ran out of the casino. A few moments latera shot! (Williams 57).

Eterovic, Millaman 2 In fact, dialogues can be classified in relation to the role played by the character who uttered them. Expressive function is associated to Blanches speech, since her primary intention is [to] persuade the dialogue partner to do something or to establish communicative contact ( Pfister 109). Blanche is struggling against Stanley for her Stellas attention (protection) and space (the small apartment). Consequently, her vulnerability is clearly exposed every time she utters a dialogue. Nevertheless, Blanche is an English literature teacher; therefore, she masters rhetoric and linguistic devices in order to manipulate hearers emotions by deliberately exposing her fragility, as observed in this dialogue : People dont see youmen dontdont even admit your existence unless they are making love to you. And youve got to have your existence admitted by someone, if youre going to have someones protection. And so the soft people have got to shimmer and glowput a paper lantern over the light (Williams 45). Apart from that, Stanley always is reassuring his position in terms of dialogue. Metalingual function is present in Stanleys speech, since he questions Blanches verbal codes by confrontation; hence, he is consistently reflecting on language and its contradictions. Additionally, Stanley reinforces his position by remarking Blanches prejudices, as seen here: I am not a Polack. People from Poland are Poles, not Polacks. But what I am is a one hundred percent American, born and raised in the greatest country on earth and proud as hell of it, so dont ever call me a Polack (Williams 67). Blanche may master rhetoric devices but Stanley displays his strength through simplicity: he is the one that is always disclosing secrets he finds out Blanches reputation in Belle Reve. Therefore, he will defeat Blanche in this linguistic battle, because Stella will not believe her sister when she finally tells her the truth (Blanches rape). Appellative function is clearly displayed by Stellas speech. Even though she is the reason of Blanche and Stanleys dispute, she mediates between them in order to keep the conflict under control, as observed in this scene: STANLEY: I didnt think you liked my stories Blanche. BLANCHE: I like them when theyre amusing but not indecent. STANLEY: I dont know any refined enough for your taste. BLANCHE: Then tell me one.

Eterovic, Millaman 3 STELLA: Yes, you tell one Blanche. You used to know lot of good stories (Williams 64). Her function is to manage tension; however, Blanche and Stanleys struggle exceeds Stellas control, since she fails in controlling their actions and subsequent clash. In terms of poetic function, Williams illustrates his obsession to control every aspect of the dramatic text and its translation of a text into another artistic language (stage performance) (Carlson 289). His use of psychic polyphony is clearly stated on every dialogue , because he develops a discrete world in which each element is thought to increase density and tension. References to multicultural but thick environments reinforce the effect of foreshadowing Blanches fall , as seen in this line from Scene IX: MEXICAN WOMEN: Flores.Flores para los muertos. Flores. Flores ( Williams 74). Waiting for Godot uses Language in the opposite way. If Willliams dramatic text uses language at the service of the conflict, Beckets play is a pure exhibition of Language by itself. Furthermore, it plausible to argue that Waiting for Godot strongly criticizes Language as medium to perceive reality. In fact, an aspect of its anti literature, its turning away from language as an instrument for the expression of the deepest level of meaning (Eslin 328). As consequence, phatic function acquires a great importance, since dialogues plays the significant role of keeping the channel of communication open. There is no actual communication between characters. Becket plays with arbitrariness of Language, since his characters are not universal archetypes but they play different functions which can be fulfilled by every reader, director, etc in terms of his personal perspective ( as Susan Sontag did), an example of that is the following dialogue between Vladimir and Stragon: VLADIMIR: Imbecile ! From death. ESTRAGON: I thought you said hell. VLADIMIR: From death, from death. ESTRAGON: well, what of it ( Beckett, 15). There is almost none stage directions and dialogues does not help to portray characters. Here, everything works for Language, to introduce it as an empty structure which cannot describe reality as perceived by senses; on the contrary Waiting for Godot is an abstract play, not only is language used to show that it is a poor means of communication, but also the characters are abstractions of ideas. Beckett does not describe his characters, he only mentions a few things

Eterovic, Millaman 4 that they have and that are used in the play, for example, Estragons boots, Vladimirs hat, Pozzos and Luckys baldness. However, nothing is said in relation to the characters, their dialogue does not show any traces of their past or of their history. Even main characters are not referred to, in the play, by the names Beckett has given them. In fact, there is one thing that is known about them, which is the only fact they positively understand about themselves ( as Vladimir accurately points out): they are waiting for someone called Godot. However, even if he came, they do not know what they would do about it: VLADIMIR: Im curious to hear what he has to offer. Then well take it or leave it. ESTRAGON: What exactly did we ask him for? [] VLADIMIR: Oh Nothing very definite. (Beckett 19).They do not seem to know even why they are waiting for Godot. Characters do not have a past and a clear purpose, or talk about current events ( to set the play within a historical framework) . On the contrary, reality only exists in the time and space of the play. Characters are symbolic representations, that is to say, abstractions of the concept of character. For example, the boy, Godots messenger, unlike the messengers in the Greek plays or in Shakespeares plays, comes in order to keep the action from developing. This abstractness allows the directors of each production to take various liberties with the play without going against anything written in it. This is because the meaning or interpretation that the characters may have is something the audience gives to them, as seen in Susan Sontags production of Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo. She considered only the first act of the play, had female actors in the cast and three pairs of Vladimir and Estragon on stage at the same time. And still she says: Beckett's play, written over forty years ago, seems written for, and about, Sarajevo" (Sontag 88). And later she adds: For instance, precisely as Waiting for Godot was so apt an illustration of the feelings of Sarajevans nowbereft, hungry, dejected, waiting for an arbitrary, alien power to save them or take them under its protectionit seemed apt, too, to be staging Waiting for Godot, Act I (Sontag 97). The play made sense because people gave it sense; its essence lies in its abstraction, not on dialogues or plot. Nonetheless, characters in A Streetcar Named Desire are obsessively defined. Their clothing and their socioeconomic background are thoroughly described by stage directions: [Blanche] is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail

Eterovic, Millaman 5 party in the garden district. [] There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggest a moth (Williams 5). Here, there is an accurate description of Blanches dress. By making reference to the cocktail party and a moth-a -a being whose attraction to light bulbs leads it to death, and it is commonly found in worn-out clothing- one can infer her affluent past, her erratic behavior and her hysterical longing for the past. At the same time, differences speech help to associate each character to its specific background. For example: STANLEY: [] How long you here for, Blanche? BLANCHE: Idont know yet. STANLEY: You going to shack up here? BLANCHE: I thought I would if its not inconvenient for you all (Williams 14). Blanches correct and excessively polite use of English, contrasted with Stanleys ordinary way of speaking, helps to distance the two characters (who are antagonists in the play) and to remark the different social backgrounds from where they come.They play also describes, to a lesser extent, the aspects, personalities and pasts of the other characters. These are realistic characters, inscribed in a setting evoking a real place, concerning themselves with the problems of love, friendship and social acceptance (everyday problems). Williams has tried to create a photographic representation of life. The characters of Streetcar have a purpose. The two main characters, Stanley and Blanche, each seeks to have power over the other in order to keep Stella by their side, as read in this dialogue: BLANCHE: [] Would you think it possible that I was once considered to be attractive? STANLEY: Your looks are okay. BLANCHE: I was fishing for a compliment, Stanley. STANLEY: I dont go in for that stuff (Williams 19). Trying to get compliments from Stanley is Blanches attempt to get him to fall into her game of illusions, to have power over him. However, Stanley will not fall for that, he knows what Blanche is trying to do. On the other hand, Stanley is using his power over Stella to get rid of Blanche. As soon as he learns that Belle Reve was lost, his concern is for his share in the deal. Intolerant to Blanches vague descriptions of what happens, he tries to convince Stella that her sister has stolen the money. After scene IV, Blanche makes it evident that she is trying to separate Stella from Stanley, and he sees this as a

Eterovic, Millaman 6 threat. The fight between the two is now for making an alliance with Stella against the other, to throw the other out. However, he is never really close to danger; Stella knows Blanche lies to herself and others to be happy, that she is very excitable, and she cannot keep an accurate track of reality Stanley is also aware of that, but he does not take action until Stella is in the hospital after giving birth. As one can realize after scene III when Stella returns to Stanley after he beats her, Stanley has the advantage in the fight for alliances, and he can easily take down Blanche given the opportunity. When he is alone with Blanche, he rapes her in scene X (the climax of the play) to overpower her completely. To conclude, Language and Characters play different roles in A Street Car Named Desire and Waiting for Godot. The first dramatic text is considered a realistic play, consequently, Characters mimic realistic use of Language; that is to say, they employ it to communicate their purposes . On the contrary, Becketts play introduces a new perspective: Language is not a tool for communication; on the contrary, characters work as signifiers which can be fulfilled in disparate ways based on the exacerbation of abstract nature of Language.

Eterovic, Millaman 7 References Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot. London: Faber and Faber, 1986. Print. Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd. Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1968. Print. Pfister, Manfred. The Theory and Analysis of Drama. U.K.: Cambridge UP, 1988. Print. Williams, Tennessee. A Street Car Named Desire. London: Methuen, 1984.Print.