WORD LISTS

"A Streetcar Named Desire," Vocabulary from the play

April 12, 2013
A potent stew of sexual tension and madness, Tennessee Williams's "A Streetcar Named Desire" is a landmark drama. Learn these 70 words to get to the heart of this drama.
desire
The title is a metaphor for the theme of the story. The streetcar is named Desire after the name of the (actual) street to which it goes. Incidentally, a "streetcar" is a rail vehicle that runs on tracks, used as public transportation. Nowadays, they are not as popular as they used to be, and not as many cities use them.
A Streetcar Named Desire
visionary
This quotation is from the opening poem. Even though this is a play that is meant to be performed, it is also a wonderful book to read, and the presence of this poem underscores the fact that it includes more than stage directions.
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
hurl
Though first showing up in the opening poem, this word is used in the stage directions, and it usually depicts Stanley's actions.
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
attenuate
The sky that shows around the dim white building is a peculiarly tender blue, almost a turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay.
infatuated
In this part of New Orleans you are practically always just around the corner, or a few doors down the street, from a tinny piano being played with the infatuated fluency of brown fingers.
cosmopolitan
The white woman is Eunice, who occupies the upstairs flat; the colored woman a neighbor, for New Orleans is a cosmopolitan city where there is a relatively warm and easy intermingling of races in the old part of town.
bellow
This is another routine reaction from Stanley used in the stage directions.
There he throws back his head like a baying hound and bellows his wife's name: "Stella! Stella, sweetheart! Stella!”
delicate
This word, as used in the sample sentence, is using every sense of its meaning: exquisitely fine, subtle, and easily broken.
Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light.
stare
They stare at each other across the yellow-checked linoleum of the table.
vivacity
She begins to speak, with feverish vivacity as if she feared for either of them to stop and think..
spasmodic
They catch each other in a spasmodic embrace.
glare
Compare with the vocabulary word, "stare."
I won’t be looked at in this merciless glare!
glance
Compare with the vocabulary word, "stare."
She laughs, but her glance at Blanche is a little anxious.
hypocritical
Oh, I’m not going to be hypocritical, I’m going to be honestly critical about it!
verge
I was on the verge of—lunacy, almost.
nip
I am going to take just one little tiny nip more, sort of to put the stopper on, so to speak.
background
Such as his civilian background!
radiant
Stella looks up with a radiant smile.
reproach
Well, Stella—you’re going to reproach me, I know that you’re bound to reproach me—but before you do—take into consideration—you left!
burden
I’m not meaning this in any reproachful way, but all the burden descended on my shoulders.
dialogue
As the men enter, we hear some of the following dialogue.
implicit
Animal joy in his being is implicit in all his movements and attitudes.
auxiliary
Branching out from this complete and satisfying center are all the auxiliary channels of his life, such as his heartiness with men, his appreciation of rough humor, 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.
gaudy
Branching out from this complete and satisfying center are all the auxiliary channels of his life, such as his heartiness with men, his appreciation of rough humor, 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.
perpetual
Stanley enters the kitchen from outside, leaving the door open on the perpetual “blue piano” around the corner.
quarter
Note that in the sample sentence it is capitalized. It is in fact the very colorful French Quarter of New Orleans.
So we’ll go to one of the little places in the Quarter afterwards and you’d better give me some money.
vice versa
In the state of Louisiana we have the Napoleonic code according to which what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband and vice versa.
swindle
It looks to me like you have been swindled, baby, and when you’re swindled under the Napoleonic code I’m swindled too.
perpetrate
I don’t understand what happened to Belle Reve but you don’t know how ridiculous you are being when you suggest that my sister or I or anyone of our family could have perpetrated a swindle on anyone else.
preen
Look at these feathers and furs that she come here to preen herself in!
cordial
In the sample sentence, this word is used ironically in order to be sarcastic.
I understand there’s to be a little card party to which we ladies are cordially not invited!
smoldering
He crosses through drapes with a smoldering look.
glamorous
I once went out with a doll who said to me, “I am the glamorous type, I am the glamorous type!”
abscond
What’s in the back of that little boy’s mind of yours? That I am absconding with something, attempting some kind of treachery on my sister?
antiquity
These are love-letters, yellowing with antiquity, all from one boy.
improvident
There are thousands of papers, stretching back over hundreds of years, affecting Belle Reve as, piece by piece, our improvident grandfathers and father and uncles and brothers exchanged the land for their epic fornications—to put it plainly!
lurid
The kitchen now suggests that sort of lurid nocturnal brilliance, the raw colors of childhood's spectrum.
blues
The music that runs in the background of the story sets a a mood that is inseparable from the story. At times, it almost shows up to emphasize the emotions or the events that are happening. It is almost like the weather that comes and goes. The music is often mingled with unintelligible voices that underscore this new environment that is hot, humid, and noisy to Blanche.
The "blue piano” plays for a brief interval.
coarse
The poker players—Stanley, Steve, Mitch and Pablo—wear colored shirts, solid blues, a purple, a red-and-white check, a light green, and they are men at the peak of their physical manhood, as coarse and direct and powerful as the primary colors.
lurch
He lurches up and tosses some watermelon rinds to the floor.
flinch
She returns his look without flinching.
sonnet
Why, that’s from my favorite sonnet by Mrs. Browning.
threshold
The table is sloppy with remains of breakfast and the debris of the preceding night, and Stanley’s gaudy pyjamas lie across the threshold of the bathroom.
ajar
The outside door is slightly ajar on a sky of summer brilliance.
cultivate
Is this a Chinese philosophy you’ve— cultivated?
dusk
I ran into Shep Hundeigh—I ran into him on Biscayne Boulevard, on Christmas Eve, about dusk... getting into his car—Cadillac convertible; must have been a block longl
quaint
I’m compiling a notebook of quaint little words and phrases I’ve picked up here.
wince
Similar in meaning to "flinch."
At each noise Blanche winces slightly.
inanimate
You must have had lots of banging around in the army and now that you’re out, you make up for it by treating inanimate objects with such a fury!
prim
What I mean is—he thinks I’m sort of— prim and proper, you know!

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