and her self-loathing, whilst Stanley spews Blanche’s deception

 and Ella Fitzgerald,
“It’s Only a Paper Moon” (, 2005), used as a device to
express the incongruity of Blanches mental state and her complete lack of
insight. Blanche sings the popular song (Scene seven) epitomizing her turn to
make-believe and desire for ugly reality to disappear. However, “real” reality,
as the song states, requires other people to believe her. Dramatic irony ensues
as Blanche sings in the bathroom, symbolically cleansing her self-loathing,
whilst Stanley spews Blanche’s deception to Stella, dirtying Blanche as she
attempts purification and crushing ignorant Blanche’s flimsy veneer. Williams
uses bathing as a motif, expressing depression, metaphorically displayed in
Blanche’ bathing. Her cleansing of the guilt of her past alludes to Lady Macbeth’s
obsessive hand washing to relieve her guilt after murder, (Shakespeare,1904)

Music is an aspect of “plastic
theatre” fundamental to Streetcar (Corrigan, 2000), setting character moods,
(Williams 1976) and expressing Blanche’s mental spiral with destiny. The
leitmotif Varsouviana Polka is symbolic of Blanche’s loss and the effects of
death on her mental state. Blanche challenged her husband homosexuality during
a polka, leading to his suicide. The Polka adds increasing dramatic tension
throughout and is representative of Blanche’s chagrin, guilt, shame and loss.
First appearing distant “The music of the polka rises, faint in the
distance.” (Scene one). It initially appears to be another street sound
but becomes increasingly frenetic, affecting the audience beyond simple
theatre. Williams incrementally reveals the polka is an hallucination (Stage
direction, scene nine), exposing the essence of her deterioration from illusion
to delusional to psychosis, allowing the reader/audience to understand and move
with Blanche’s literal and metaphorical lost battle. When Stanley gives Blanche
a ticket back to Laurel for her Birthday (Scene seven), reality bites and her fantasy
world cracks wide open, represented by the rising polkas “sinister rapidity”
suggesting approaching climax, and further symbolizing psychotic decent. Her
alienation is complete as Williams directs the polka as “rapid, feverish”
(Stage Directions, scene nine) expressing loss of reality (e-guide, n.d.). Now “she
is drinking to escape” contrasting the concealed alcoholism in scene one, she
doesn’t care, her lies are exposed. Later, the polka is directed as “filtered
into a weird distortion, accompanied by the cries and noises of the jungle.”, a
discordant, distorted flip-side of her fantasy world, that exposes Blanches
retreat into the permanent world of ‘magic’ that “draws the audience into
Blanche’s nightmare” (Hern, 2009) Another leitmotif is introduced in in the
form of “a tinny piano being played with the infatuated fluency of brown
fingers.” (Stage direction, scene one). This
imagery arouses auditory, tactile and visual sensuality, as the “”Blue
Piano” expresses the spirit of the life which goes on here.” (Stage
direction, scene one). This atmospheric motif adds depth and meaning, and is testament
to Williams’ skill with affective sound direction grown from his love of early
cinema (Sambrook
and Eddy, 2015). The blue piano is a flexible motif that symbolises
whoever or whatever the scene represents, rising and falling with the action.
The piano creates a sense of lively, colourful setting, whilst expressing
character mood, and representing Blanche’s loss and incremental alienation.
“Blanche opens her eyes, the “blue piano” sounds louder.” (Stage
direction, scene one), reflecting her discordant emotions around Stella’s
pregnancy and exposing a lost and squashed Blanche under the façade of fake
jewels, cheap furs and manipulations. In Scene two, Williams releases the
“perpetual” nature of the “Blue Piano” around the corner. The music is
unrelenting, pacing Blanche’s predicament after Stanley discovers her
duplicity. The tune expresses Blanche’s failed transition to alien culture. The
“Blue Piano” reaches its crescendo with Blanche’s birthday, fading out and
returning, to be replaced by the polka which is carried into scene nine. Again,
direction is explicit “The rapid, feverish polka tune……. is in her mind; “. (Stage
direction, Scene nine) Blanche can hide no more when a suitor, Mitch, divulges
his disgust, rejecting Blanche, after clumsily attempting to be intimate with
her. He is a symbol that foreshadows the American Dream’s real-life duality and
psychopathy, a non-character that juxtaposes Blanche to expose her shame and
fall from grace. He is a man that she would not have given a second look at in
her former glory, exposing her desperation.  The blue piano returns as “the distant piano …
slow and blue” (Stage direction, scene nine), expressing Blanche’s helplessness
and hopelessness. Music is also used to portray Blanche’s sassy side, but this
becomes farce. “Rhumba music comes over the radio.” (Stage direction, scene
three) adding a sense of passion behind Blanches façade, and Mitch’s
willingness to follow her (Scene three), foreshadowing the betrayal Mitch will
experience from Blanche’s duplicity alluding to Mitch’s character as a follower
not a leader and symbolising those from the North who will always be losers.

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Streetcar was
certainly ground-breaking and remains popular seventy years on.  The realism of “plastic theatre” results in
an immersive experience for the audience but not the average reader. Without
music and lighting direction Streetcar would be flat, but Williams creates a
multi-dimensional experience that still wows audiences today. The scenes are
easy to grasp, and the tension is cumulative, climaxing in Scene Ten. Suspense
builds in Blanches interaction with Stanley, her delusions and paranoia
expressed, “I’m caught in a trap,” (scene ten), the “low honkey tonk”
(Stage direction, scene one) juxtapose to Blanche’s expressed emotion.  Stanley’s perverse statement to Blanche,
“We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning!”   alludes again to fate and desire and foreshadows
the climax and rape of Blanche. The action falls drastically with the
denouement in Scene Eleven. Blanche is removed from the society that has no
room for her whilst life goes on around her with an ordinary game of cards. The
brutal reality is exposed… the American Dream is certainly a Nightmare. 



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