"A StreetCar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams.

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In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams uses the combined effects of lighting, sound, costume and symbolism to influence and control the audience's response. The play is intentionally an emotive one. It evokes an emotional response from the audience that is not necessarily reasoned or logical. The response to Streetcar is generally a uniformed one. As emotional as it is, by the end of the play most of the audience feels the same way towards the characters and the play in general. Williams managed to do this through his use of various theatrical devices.

One of the most important of these is lighting. Williams' use of lighting is extremely clever and effective. Take, for example, the poker night in scene three. This is the scene in which Stanley hits Stella, and the audience has to try to understand and comprehend the dynamics of their relationship. At the very beginning of the scene we are told that the kitchen has 'a sort of lurid nocturnal brilliance, the raw colours of childhood's spectrum' (scene 3 pg. 143). This coarse atmosphere is designed to directly contrast with the much softer one proceeding it, where Stanley interrogates Blanche about Belle Reve. This new, harsher lighting goes with both Stanley's world and Stanley himself - his manly, animalistic nature, and his 'what you see is what you get' attitude. This is the direct opposite of Blanche. While Stanley is quite comfortable with this bright, lurid lighting, Blanche prefers the soft, subtle light that isn't too revealing. Light represents truth and reality, and, as she said towards the end of the play 'I like it dark, the dark is comforting to me' (scene 9 pg. 203). When the play is focussing on Blanche the lighting is usually soft and dim in order to emphasise this point, and where the focus is on Stanley, as it was on the poker night, the lighting is bright and harsh, revealing all. This is particularly effective at the beginning of the play, as it makes the audience wonder what exactly it is that Blanche is hiding. It gives the play an atmosphere of wonder and suspense.

Although lighting is used effectively throughout the entire play, one of the most effective scenes would have to be scene 10, also the climatic scene of the play, the one in which Stanley rapes Blanche, irreversibly asserting his power and dominance over her. The lighting in this scene is dramatic and slightly unrealistic, but it works onstage to help provide a powerful and exciting atmosphere. 'Lurid reflections appear on the wall around Blanche' (scene 10 pg. 213). This helps to emphasise the threatening danger of the situation she is in. Combined with the 'shadows of an intense and menacing form' (scene 10 pg. 213) it provides and intense mood for the audience. The contrast between Stanley's power and Blanche's helplessness becomes very apparent, and we lose any trace of sympathy or liking we had left for Stanley. This is transferred onto Blanche, and the audience feels immense sorrow and pity for her. It is at this point in the play where it is really made clear that Blanche is just a victim of circumstance. With liking for Stanley, any dislike of Blanche leaves as well. Williams makes sure that by the end of the play it is very difficult to dislike Blanche, because as much difficulty, discomfort and disturbance she has caused to other, she has caused much more to herself. In the rape scene, Williams' use of lighting emphasised Blanche's role of the victim, and Stanley's of the predator.

The cruel, violent, predatory nature of the 'real world' is emphasised by the small scene that takes place outside just before Stanley rapes Blanche. Through a simple yet clever use of lighting, the back wall becomes transparent, and we see the prostitute being chased followed by a Negro woman rummaging through the bag she dropped. It is seemingly small incidents such as this and the simple yet effective use of theatrical devices that really 'make' the play.

Another of these devices...
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