Describe the use of light in the play . What does its presence or absence indictate ?Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 As an Expressionistic playwright, Tennesse Williams has made use of lighting in his play A Streetcar Named Desire as well as in other plays such as The Glass Menagerie.  Lighting is a reflection of the inner character of one or more personages in his plays.  Regarding Blanche DuBois, the lighting represents reality; the bare light bulbs that reveal the harshness of reality are too much for Blanche to bear.  She must soften reality by placing paper lanterns or scarves upon the light.  This softened light creates an illusion of youthfulness for her in two ways:  First of all, she appears younger, and secondly, the illusive quality of her surroundings reflect the illusions about herself that she seeks to create.

Blanche describes her love for Allen Grey in words that explain much about her:

When I was sixteen, I made the discovery--love. All at once and much too completely. It was like you suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been half in shadow, that's how it struck the world for me.

For Blanche, who has met with failure and disappointment, it is, indeed, as though a "blinding light" has been cast upon her life, but she must keep it in shadow, for she cannot deal with the harsh, "blinding light" of reality.

When Stanley confronts Blanche with her stories of beaus and the life she once led at Belle Reve, he tears off the paper cover from the light, and exposes Blanche to the "blinding light" of reality, cruelly stripping her of any delusions, angrily taking from her any illusions.  After she is bereft in this light, Blanche is destroyed.

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A Streetcar Named Desire

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