The Dramatic Devices To Portray Blanche’s Deteriorating Mind In A Streetcar Named Desire By Tennessee Williams

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‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ written By Tennessee Williams in 1947. In A Streetcar named Desire Williams uses a range of drama devices to present Blanche’s deterioration mind. Drama devices are techniques used by playwrights to substitute for the reality presented to the audience through performance, and ‘give the audience information they could not get from a straightforward presentation of action’ (Efpatridis, N.D.). Williams uses drama devices to present Blanche’s deteriorating mind through Language, Props, Set, Music, Costume and through other character.

Williams portrays other characters realistically through their dialogue, which contrasts with Blanche’s dialogue which has a more poetic quality. For example, ‘Stanley: “Yep. Just me and you, Blanche[…]”.This extract is from scene ten when Stanley is having a conversation with Blanche. His dialogue is colloquial, more straightforward and has a much more everyday conversation, style of speaking. While, Blanche’s dialogue has a more poetic quality and isn’t usually used in everyday conversation. For example, ‘Blanche: “my worst dreams could I picture--Only Poe! Only Mr. Edgar Allan Poe!--could do it justice!” this extract is from scene one when Blanche first meets Stella. Mr. Edgar Allan Poe was an American poet. In this dialogue Blanche might refer to the poem ‘Ulalume’ written by Edgar. In the poem, he mentions that a person “stopped by the door of tomb[…]”’(Kupka, 2016). This suggests that Blanche thinks that Stella’s apartment is a destitute and a poor place. Her dialogue has a way poetic quality. As well as this, it could also be suggested that Blanche is facing her own death. Moreover, Blanche takes every opportunity to impress others with her high education. In some scenes we can see that Blanche often speaks Spanish and French in front of everyone. Although, she knew that they wouldn’t understand. Blanche’s internal monologues emphasising her mental illness. For example, In scene ten, just before Stanley comes in and rapes Blanche.‘[…] a moonlight swim at the old quarry?’ this suggests that she wishes to bring back her purity by swimming under the moonlight. Williams stage direction suggest that Blanche becomes more violent due to her mental decline. ‘She catches her breath and slams the mirror face down with such violent that the glass cracks’. Williams uses the word ‘violence’ to emphasis Blanche’s insanity which drives her to a violence behavior.

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In the script of, A Streetcar Named Desire Williams writes with realistic details about the city and the apartment, the setting itself looks like an apartment that can be seen in ordinary life. The characters are portrayed so realistically that a reader may believe that Streetcar is a real story. The stage directions describe the exterior surroundings as ‘poor’ and ‘raffish’. With the reference to the L&N tracks and warehouse clearly establishing the location as an urban industrial working-class area. When Eunice shows Blanche the apartment, Williams writes in detail about the condition through the uses of sets. ‘primary a kitchen[…] a narrow door to a bathroom’. This suggests that the kitchen is not only used for cooking, but also used for another purpose as well. For example, uses a room for a poker night or uses as an entertainment room. The word ‘narrow ‘emphasizes that the apartment is very small and has a limited space. Williams also gives evidence of Stanley and Stella’s finances and their affordability. For example, ‘The yellow-checked linoleum of the table[…]’the linoleum table is not a valuable item, this suggests that Stanley and Stella have limited funds.

Williams expresses Blanche’s insanity through the use of props. From the beginning of the play, Williams clearly mentions that Blanche’s beauty must avoid a strong light. A paper lantern is a Chinese lantern that Blanche uses to cover the light bulbs symbolizing her instinct to avoid harsh reality. The lantern creates a more romantic atmosphere. ‘soft people have got to – shimmer and glow – put a – paper lantern over the light’ ‘suggests that soft people like Blanche cannot defend themeself, they need to be attentive in order to survive’(eGuideDrama, N.D.). Also, it suggests that Blanche cannot accept the fact that her beauty fades through time. By putting the paper lantern over the light it avoids people having a clear vision of her fading beauty. For example, in scene nine when Mitch takes out the paper lantern and reveals Blanche’s face through real light, Blanche seems to be out of her mind, and this is the only scene that the reader feels that Blanche comes out from her illusionary world into reality. It can be suggested that, a paper lantern really has a significant meaning for her it is like a shield that protects her from the harsh reality. Also, Blanche prefers to be in the dark, this suggests that she wants Mitch and other people to see her as an innocent and young woman under the light bulbs, which are covered by paper lanterns. Williams also uses other characters to present Blanche’s deteriorating mind. For example, in scene nine there is an appearance of a blind Mexican women, she was selling flowers to Blanche. ‘Flores para los Muertos’ in English it means the flowers for death. In Greek mythology, Tiresias was a blind prophet of Apollo and he has a ability to see the future, which is suggested through the blind Mexican women. This suggests that death is on its way to Blanche, which is interesting because in the following scene Stanley rapes Blanche.

In Streetcar, Williams uses music to protray Blanche’s deteriorating mind. The Versouviana is a dance music from 19thcentury central Europe, popular throughout Europe and America. Williams uses the Versouviana song to presents Blanche’s guilty memories that drive her to insanity. ‘The music is in her mind; she is drinking to escape it and the sense of disaster closing to her’this music can be heard only Blanche, through the music she recalls when she was dancing with her husband before he shot himself. This ‘reminds the reader of Blanche’s significant mental decline in later scenes when the music becomes frantic and she cannot determine whether it is real or not’ (eGuideDrama, N.D). Furthermore, Williams refers to an inhuman voice to emphasize Blanche’s mental breakdown. For example, in scene ten where Stanley is about to rape Blanche. ‘The inhuman jungle voices rise up’ this voice present Blanche’s scariness and her final breakdown, which Blanche gets raped by Stanley. Williams also uses the shadow to heighten Blanche’s final breakdown. ‘the shadows are of a grotesque and menacing form’ Williams uses the word ‘menacing’ suggesting the presence of danger and threat, which is the rape that is about to happen to Blanche. The rise up of the inhuman voice enhances the danger and sense of Blanche’s madness. Combining the two dramatic devices heighten Blanche’s final breakdown.

Williams symbolizes Blanche’s emotions through her costume. In scene nine, Blanche is meeting Mitch after he revealed the truth about her, Blanche wears a scarlet satin robe. ‘She has on her scarlet satin robe.’ The scarlet satin robe could be representing love, passion and fertility. From Blanche’s point of view, she wants to win the affections of Mitch, who she thinks can offers her some economic stability through marriage. Alternatively, in scene ten Blanche is completely in her illusion world. ‘She has been drinking fairly steadily since Mitch left’ she drinks to escape from reality, she cannot accept the fact that Mitch refused to marry her. ‘She wearing soiled and crumpled white satin evening grown[…] a pair of scuffed silver slippers’. In scene nine she wore a scarlet satin, while in this scene she wore a ‘white’ satin suggesting that Blanche is trying to bring back or create an illusion of the innocent women from Southern belle, but the word ‘soiled’, ‘crumpled’ and ‘scuffed’ state of her clothing are dim and have been used for quite a long time. Furthermore, white satin might refers to a wedding dress that Blanche thinks she’ll get to wear it on her wedding day with Mitch. Visually, Williams uses costume to help the audience understand Blanche’s mental decline, as she is more in an illusory world as an escape from the real world.

To conclude, Williams uses drama devices extremely effectively to present Blanche’s deteriorating mind. Williams portrayal of the character Blanche makes the reader recognize that she has a deteriorating mind as well as have a feeling of sympathy towards Blanche.


  1. Efpatridis, Dobson Mrs. “Dramatic Literary Devices”. File, N.D. Accessed 27 Feb 2019.
  2. Kupka, Karley. “A Streetcar named Desire (Literary Allusion).”, 13 June 2016. Accessed 27 Feb 2019.
  3. eGuideDrama. “Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire”, Props., N.D. PDF file. Accessed 27 Feb 2019.
  4. eGuideDrama. “Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire”, Music and sound effects., N.D. PDF file. Accessed 27 Feb 2019.
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The Dramatic Devices To Portray Blanche’s Deteriorating Mind In A Streetcar Named Desire By Tennessee Williams. (2021, August 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from
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