The Importance of Light in A Streetcar Named Desire

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This paper will discuss the use of light in the play, "A Streetcar Named Desire", by Tennessee Williams. Blanche’s relation to light is quite obvious because she tries to avoid bright light of any kind. Her reaction to light can be regarded as an attempt to hide her true nature as well as her vanishing beauty and youth. By hiding from the light, she tries to escape reality. She covers the naked light bulb with a Chinese paper lantern, saying, “I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action” (Sc.3 p. 2093). This remark shows that Blanche would rather hide behind polite phrases than accept truth and reality. The paper lantern is not very stable, though, and it can easily be destroyed, just like her illusions. In scene six, she takes Mitch home with her and says, “Let’s leave the lights off” (Sc.6 p. 2309). Blanche thinks of Mitch as a future husband, and therefore she does not want him to know her past or her true age, and the best way to hide her age is to stay out of bright light where he could possibly see her wrinkles and fading youth in her face. Later in that scene, Blanche tells Mitch about her husband Allan: “When I was sixteen, I made the discovery – love. All at once and much, 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” (Sc. 6 p. 2113). In her past, light used to represent love, but now it represents something destructive for her. Allan’s suicide erases the light or love, and thus she now does not believe in it any longer and tries to escape from the light and therefore escape reality. When Mitch tears off the paper lantern in order to take a closer look at her in the bright light, “she utters a frightened gasp” (Sc. 9 p. 2125). Then she tells him, “I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth.
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