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Bài luyện tập đọc Tiếng Anh Reading Comprehension Short Stories

Directions: Read the passage. Then answer the questions below

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire - Passage 1

A Streetcar Named Desire is a classic of the American theater. Tennessee Williams’ landmark work was a tour de force in its original stage production in 1947 and continues to resonate with audiences and readers today despite—or perhaps because of—its simplistic though layered story. A faded Southern belle, Blanche DuBois, arrives at her sister’s seedy New Orleans apartment where she is tortured by her brutish brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Blanche puts on airs of class and happiness throughout the play, though internally she is miserable and haunted by her tragic and scandalous past. Stanley fo rces Blanche to face her dolorous reality with his vitriol and, finally, his act of sexual aggression, and in doing so, he causes her to lose her tenuous grip on sanity. Most have argued (correctly) that the play is about the ways the past haunts our present or (again correctly) that it is about the ways class and sexuality impact our lives. However, few have seen the play for what it is: an allegory for the theater itself.

Before Williams wrote Streetcar, the theater had been dominated by melodrama. A brief interlude in the 1930s brought political theater to center stage (pardon the pun), but by the 1940s, its principal playwright, Clifford Odets, had left New York for Hollywood, and the sensationalized and maudlin form of melodrama once again flourished. The theater was in limbo, and Williams had a desire to bring something new to the world. It would bring the realism of the political theater of the 1930s but without the political (read: socialist) underpinnings. To that end, he created lifelike characters who spoke in realistic dialect.

But to make his point that melodrama was flawed, he added an equally unrealistic character. Blanche, unlike the other characters, speaks theatrically, acts larger than life on stage, and uses floral language and heightened mannerisms. Blanche is a character not to be trusted. She lies about everything, and the only thing that finally exposes her lies is reality itself: Stanley. He finally forces her off the stage and into the insane asylum by forcing himself on her sexu ally. And with that, realism forcibly
removed melodrama from the stage.

A Streetcar Named Desire - Passage 2

It is not possible to imagine A Streetcar Named Desire without the influence of Marlon Brando, the actor who rose to fame playing Stanley Kowalski. On the page, the part is fairly simplistic. Stanley is a monster and a beast without any redeeming qualities. But Brando and the play’s original director, Elia Kazan, imagined the character as having a soft underbelly, rooted in his own sorrow, insecurities, and soulful complexity. Brando’s Stanley is a brute, yes, but he is a brute who hates the fact that he is so awful. He is also unable to control himself and his passions, and this lack of control is equally embarrassing to him, even as it is also threatening to Blanche and alluring to her sister Stella.

For instance, after he hits Stella, he comes back to her, famously begging for forgiveness by shouting “Stella” outside their apartment. But in Brando’s depiction on the stage and later on the screen, he is soaked from the rain and looks completely desperate, as though he needs Stella to live. He looks and seems totally helpless and weak, the exact opposite of the brute he appears later when he forces himself onto Blanche.

The play is excellent and memorable, even when read. But it is Brando’s interpretation of the male lead role that makes the play indelible. Without Brando, the play would still have a deep meaning, but with Brando’s interpretation, the play becomes even more profound.

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