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Visual and Sound Effects in A Streetcar Named Desire

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To What Extent are the visual and sound effects important in "A Streetcar Named Desire"? Visual and sound effects are often as critical to the illustration of themes and ideas in a play as the characters themselves, due to the more nuanced ideas they represent. In "A Streetcar Named Desire", visual and sound effects are important in the development of the themes of madness, desire and sex and death. They are also essential in the illustration of the motifs of light and bathing and the symbols of shadows and cries and the varsouviana polka. However, there are a number of other themes, motifs and symbols in the play that are entirely dependent on the actual journeys of the characters, and in no way developed by the visual and sound effects presented. The visual aspect of "A Streetcar Named Desire" was clearly very important to the author; partly perhaps as a result of his interest in the cinema. His stage directions are very detailed, aiming to create an atmosphere that would heighten the impact of the action, though the visually recurring symbols Williams presents. Firstly, throughout the play there is a continual reference to light. It is used in the form of bright sunlight, on the morning following Stella's beating at the hands of Stanley, indicating that they have settled their grievances. ...read more.


Alternatively, the moth could represent Blanche's own wishful view of herself, as an attractive being that men flock to, like moths to a light. As well as visual effects, sound effects are also used. Foremost among them are the "blue piano", representing the spirit of the rundown quarter, the polka for Blanche's guilty memories of her husband, harsh discords for the rape and for Blanche's removal to the mental hospital. The sound effects such as the screech of a cat, or the inhuman voices heard in the climatic tenth scene all add to the chaotic atmosphere and tension arising, or possibly to enhance a feeling of one of the characters. The original script is unusual in that the author included a comprehensive sound effects plot, most notably sounds of passing trains which punctuate the action and heighten the sense of Blanche's being left behind. Also included in sound effects and symbols are the tamale and flower vendors presented throughout the play. In scene nine, we hear the vendor's cry of the Mexican Woman, "flores, flores por los muertos" (flowers, flowers for the dead). It follows the moment when Mitch denounces Blanche as a liar and thereupon refuses to marry her. The vendor's cry becomes symbolic of Blanche's failure to remain among the living. Blanche protests by shouting "no, no! ...read more.


The speaker in the song says that if both lovers believe their imagined reality, then it's no longer "make-believe". These lyrics sum up Blanche's approach to life. She believes that her fibbing is only a means of enjoying a better way of life and is therefore essentially harmless. Blanche's singing in this scene acts as a contrapuntal to Stanley telling Stella the details of Blanche's sexually corrupt past. Williams ironically juxtaposes Blanche's fantastical understanding of herself with Stanley's description of Blanche's real nature. In reality, Blanche is a sham who feigns propriety and sexual modesty. Once Mitch learns the truth about Blanche, he can no longer believe in her tricks and lies. However, although the themes, symbols and motifs presented by sound and visual effects are significant, there are a several additional ideas that are not even touched on by these effects, including the motif of drunkenness, the symbol of meat and the themes of masculinity, marriage, society and class, sex, drugs and alcohol, appearances and morality, to name a few. Furthermore, although visual and sound effects highlight and symbolically represent some other themes and motifs, they do not construct the themes independently of the action and dialogue in the play. Therefore, I must conclude that visual and sound effects play an important, but limited role in the depiction of critical themes in the play, and are therefore central, but not the only constituent elements presented in "A Streetcar Named Desire". Word count: 1, 407 Anja Young 15/03/11 ...read more.

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