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A Streetcar Named Desire

by Tennessee Williams

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In A Streetcar Named Desire, what is Blanche's dramatic significance and its relation to literary theories?

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Throughout this play, Blanche is a character who represents illusion, artifice and the importance of appearances. Williams is very clear to show that this places her in conflict with Stanley, who as his gruff and no-nonsence character suggests, represents reality. The dramatic significance of Blanche is therefore characterised in her inability to face the truth, and the way that she is willing, and forced to, sacrifice everything in order to maintain her illusion and to believe in it. Note for example the symbol of light and the red shade that is so important to Blanche. In the opening scene, Blanche shows she has an aversion to bright lights:

And turn that over-light off! Turn that off! I won’t be looked at in this merciless glare!

It is important to note that she describes the light as having a "merciless glare," indicating how dangerous light is to her. Because it reveals everything so precisely, she is afraid that her fading beauty and her age will be exposed. Yet also it becomes a symbol for exposing her deceit and her lies. The red shade that she buys to cover the light reinforces this, and it is therefore very important when Mitch rips the red shade off the light during an argument that they have about who she really is, as this represents how he is beginning to see the reality of her character.

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