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Published: 21-10-2019

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A comparison between the Plastic Theatre and Expressionism in A Streetcar Named Desire

Expressionism was important in several of Williams’s plays – so considerably so that it was he who came up with the term ‘Plastic Theatre’. All through his plays, and especially in A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams uses expressionism to show feelings or themes which may possibly not be wholly clear from just the dialogue. In certain, he makes use of expressionism (which comprises of the use of costume, lighting, props etc.) to relate his plays to a sense of fraught, edgy emotion. With out the purely physical components that define its characters, A Streetcar Named Want would be robbed of some of the expressive subtlety and power that makes Williams’s operate so memorable.

1 of the central methods in which Williams makes use of expressionism is with costume, which he uses to portray various characters, and in distinct to show the contrast amongst numerous characters. The “work clothes” Stanley 1st appears in represent how stereotypically male he is, as the breadwinner of his household. Williams also makes use of the “bowling jacket” to emphasise his superiority as they symbolise a proficiency in sports common of an alpha male character. The exact same concept is continued with other male characters. When they collect collectively they are dressed in “primary colours” to represent the fact that they are “coarse and direct and powerful”, as shown in scene III. This shows how dominant they are intended to be, and how the energy is intended to lie with them. While Stanley’s perform clothes show how at ease he is with himself, Blanche’s show the opposite. She is dressed in a “white suit with a fluffy bodice” as even though dressed for “a summer season tea or cocktail party”. This quickly shows her to be out of location and almost delusional about what she’s coming to, echoing the idea expressed through the street name “Elysian Fields” about her naïve expectations. Her “white clothes” show how Blanche desires to be regarded innocent, when in reality she is not innocent at all – a approach frequently utilized by Williams. Once again this is an indication of trying to hide her accurate character, as nicely as possibly a deep desire to be innocent once more and cleanse herself of her sins (most particularly, losing Belle Reve). Costume is also used to highlight other aspects of Blanche’s character. For instance, the fox fur-pieces that Stanley finds in her suitcase in scene II are representative of the animalistic elements of her personality, and far more particularly the sly, coquettish elements of her character the “costume jewellery” he finds along with it symbolise how Blanche is always attempting to put a façade and give an illusion of wealth that is far from the reality. Later on, certain clothes are utilized to show the desire and lust felt by Blanche. This is particularly evident in the way that Williams usually makes use of red costume, for instance the “red satin robe”, to demonstrate the lust that a certain character – generally Blanche –is experiencing. This is occasionally utilized to show the partnership in between Stella and Blanche, such as when Stella is dressed in a “light blue satin kimono” to show her icy disapproval of Blanche’s behaviour at this point. Blue is also a pretty innocent and calm colour, in contrast to Blanche’s red, suggesting that Stella has higher control over herself and that she does not really feel the want to assert her sexuality in the same was as he sister.

However, it is not merely the costumes themselves that can be utilised symbolically, but also what precisely is getting done with these costumes. When Blanche “throws off her robe” in scene II, it is portion of her try to flirt with and seduce Stanley it is also expressing her sexuality, which she reveals metaphorically by revealing herself literally. This is repeated in scene III: Blanche undresses while discussing Stanley, once more exposing her sexuality and her attraction to him. Conversely, when she gets dressed into a “dark red satin wrapper” in scene III this also is employed to recommend her sexuality, and more particularly her sexual attraction to Mitch. In scene IV, Stanley’s “gaudy pyjamas” lying across the threshold of Stella’s room shows his imposing presence over both the girls, even when he is not actually present. This acts to reinforce his dominant persona and his energy over his wife. This identical idea is shown at the starting of scene II, when Blanche’s dress is “laid out on Stella’s bed”. This is showing Blanche to be encroaching on Stella’s space, virtually attempting to take what is her, and also asserting her sexual dominance. This is mirrored by the way that Blanche treats her sister’s husband – flirting with him – in an try to win over what is not hers. Whether or not she wants this merely because she is lonely and has nobody of her personal, or simply because she wants to take from her sister in some sort of competitors is not clear. The theme of Blanche’s desperate attempts at asserting herself is also shown through their exchanges with every other, such as when Stella says “I just got into the habit of becoming quiet around you”, which Blanche totally dismisses by replying “a excellent habit to get into…”

Williams also employs lighting to show the diverse aspects of character’s personalities and also to show their feelings at distinct points. With Blanche this is introduced practically instantly, as in scene I Williams describes how she “must keep away from a powerful light” and backs this up by his comparison of her to a “moth”. This shows how she is drawn to light – here meant to symbolise need – but at the same time this light and want is harmful for her. This notion is used to reflect the notion of the streetcars want and death, and how a single can't be had without having the other. Nonetheless, Blanche’s wish to avoid a bright light, which is expressed so often (“Turn that off!”, “I can’t stand a naked light bulb”), is also representative of her obsession with look, linking back to the ideology of the ‘Old South’ which was so focused on outward appearances. This is supported by her apparent revelling in the light when she feels that she is at her ideal or in her element, such as in scene III when Blanche “moves back into the streak of light. She raises her arms and stretches, as she moves indolently”. This almost feline description shows Blanche in her element, and her ready willingness to flaunt herself when she is so. Her altering attitude to light also shows the internal struggle inside her as she attempts to cling onto attitudes relating to the Old South that do not really match with her anymore: in reality she is desperate to give in to her sexuality but these ideals that she is grasping on to dictate that she can not. This is shown once more in scene III as Blanche “stands in her pink silk brassiere and white skirt in the light”, showing her revealing and exposing her sexuality however once more.

The setting is one more critical element to this play – partly because New Orleans itself was so important to Williams as the only place where he felt accepted, but also simply because he creates an atmosphere in which Blanche can not feel accepted, but instead feels entirely out of location. Williams’s initial description of New Orleans is quite poetic and romantic: “a peculiarly tender blue, almost turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay”. He also describes an up-beat and lively atmosphere with the “entertainers at a bar-room about the corner” and the “raffish charm”. However, in spite of all these issues that made Williams feel so accepted and at home, New Orleans is a place exactly where Blanche can not truly feel comfy – an idea ironically represented by the street name “Elysian Fields” which should be a heaven but rather becomes her hell. This is the result of a series of ‘flaws’ in Williams’s description which would have bothered Blanche even though it did not do the very same for him: the homes “weathered grey” are such an clear representation of the kind of deterioration that Blanche could not stand and tried so desperately to hide in herself. Additionally, the “infatuated fluency of brown fingers”, which is produced to sound so poetic here, would likely have been far much more uncomfortable to Blanche who, despite the fact that perhaps not necessarily a racist, would surely nevertheless have been retaining certain racist attitudes due to her position in the south. This whole description of a place that in many methods appears idyllic, but with flaws that compromise Blanche’s character, strengthens the impression that she is totally out of location and does not belong.

Williams continues this strategy with his description of Stella’s house. Instantly the impression that Blanche will not be pleased here is created by the “light blue” blinds, representing sadness, and also the truth that the house is described to be small – “two rooms” and “a narrow door”. This is clearly a contrast to Blanche’s expectations and as a result are part of the disappointment that she feels on getting into the home. This disappointment is very first introduced when she reaches New Orleans – “They mustn’t have–understood –what number I wanted” – and continues to develop all through the entirety of the play. Furthermore, the “folding bed” utilised by Blanche suggests impermanence, and also shows her up as a guest or an individual who has enforced their presence onto someone, rather than a person totally ready for or welcome. The idea of exposure that Blanche tries so hard to hide from is also shown in the set-up of the property, as there’s no door among Blanche’s area and the area when Stella and Stanley sleep. Even so, as nicely as the notion of exposure, Blanche also uses this to insinuate that Stanley would behave inappropriately by asking “will it be decent”.

One more crucial element of plastic theatre utilised in this play is sound, most prominent in the look of the “blue piano”, which is generally utilized to signify the feeling of loss, particularly in Blanche. For example, this blue piano appears when Blanche tells Stella about the loss of Belle Reve in scene I and when Blanche finds out her sister is pregnant in scene II – signifying her worry of losing her sister. In scene III, the song “paper doll” is played. This song is all about wanting a paper doll as opposed to a real lady so that the man can entirely control her, and this corresponds to Stanley begging to have Stella back just soon after he has hit her. The implication is that Stanley wants to have total control over Stella, and truly to be one thing closer to an owner than a partner. Certainly, a quantity of objects, or props, are utilized in Streetcar by Williams to suggest the emotions of characters and dynamics of relationships. The first notable example of this is in scene 1 when Stanley “heaves the package” of meat at Stella, forcing her to catch it. This sexual act symbolises the thrusting of Stanley’s sexuality onto Stella and represents his crude and uncouth behaviour, as well as his primitive nature. Nonetheless, the truth that Stella receives this package – nonetheless reluctantly – represents her acceptance of Stanley and his primal ways. Cigarettes and matches are also employed to show the ignition of passion often. The very first example of this is in scene II when Stanley lights a cigarette while speaking to Blanche, displaying his sexual attraction to her. This is repeated in scene III when Mitch “strikes a match” to show the abruptly growing passion amongst Mitch and Blanche. The use of fire to recommend this in each of these instances indicates that the passion is sudden, powerful, but also that it almost certainly will not final, but will as an alternative burn out.

Williams makes use of both expressionism and plastic theatre to such an extent in Streetcar that usually the stage directions are a lot more crucial and revealing than the dialogue itself. In distinct, the use of costumes is critical in displaying the realities of various characters, and possibly this is why costume is used so frequently by Williams – hardly ever, if ever, is a costume mentioned without having there being some significance behind it. Perhaps this is since costume is the most obvious way of displaying a contrast between what a character is attempting to show about himself and what the reality of that character is. Moreover, plastic theatre was an crucial way for Williams to draw parallels among his characters and himself for instance, by displaying us Blanche’s vulnerability via her costume and her aversion to light, he is also in a position to express his personal vulnerability and fear of exposure.
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