Expressionism In Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire

3462 words - 14 pages

In nineteen century the very nature of reality was questioned and the artists tried to portray the reality in their own ways. Realism claimed that whatever they are showing is the pure reality. This claim was rejected by naturalism which claimed that reality should be illustrated through forces in the environment and heritance. After World War I, expressionism rejected both realism and naturalism. Expressionists were obsessed with the disasters of the war; that is the reason for leaving the outside world to show the reality; in fact they hated the destruction of humanity which was occurring in the world. They preferred to return to the inner world of ma, to the mind of man, in order to ...view middle of the document...

..) a more penetrating and vivid expression of things as they are (qtd. in da Silva Oliveira 1).

In fact, T. Williams makes use of plenty of unconventional techniques, which gives the play an Expressionist touch.
Subjective feelings play an important role in expressionism, as the name suggests, in expressing inner feelings of the subject; critics believe that projecting the psychic forces was firstly done in Expressionism in order to reach to this aim. According to Hern, in Streetcar the audience can find out the “contradictory and guilt feelings” of Blanche which is projected indirectly:

The Aristotelian “terror” comes from the audience`s recognition that Blanche`s destruction is inevitable, that she cannot free herself from the contradictions of her own nature nor shake off the burden of guilt she has carried ever since her husband`s death. (xxxix)

The autobiographical implications are a common feature in Williams works as a whole, and Williams acknowledged that he never developed a character that did not contain some quality of his own personality – elaborated and developed for theatrical purposes.
Interestingly, Patricia Hern alleged:

Williams used his plays as a way of translating himself and creates the close connection between his writing and the surrounding of his life. The foundation of his work is laid down on earlier experiences of his childhood and adolescence. (xiv)

Camille Paglia emphasizes the similarity between Blanche and Williams, both are displaced from their Southern hometowns and they are forced to live in exile (3).

It is worth nothing that Williams like Blanche is suffering because of being trapped between his own pure feelings and desires and the role he should play in order to be accepted by the society. Gross says:

In an article entitled “On a Streetcar Named Success” which appeared in The New York Times a few days before Streetcar`s opening, Williams described his awkward assumption of a public identity, “an artifice of mirrors,” which alienated him from his private and relatively anonymous identity as a literary struggler “clawing and scratching along a sheer surface and holding on with raw fingers.” (51)

Besides, Critics believe that what Williams and Blanche both desired is finding protection from a strange public self forced upon them and achieving re-establishment of a private natural one. Gross says: “Williams attempted to dramatize the rescue of a private self from a degraded collection of imposed public identities”(52). Considering Blanche’s condition Gross believes leaving the family house in Mississippi, Belle Reve, resulted in losing her past reputation and status (54). He continues:

This degradation pushed Blanche out of the home onto a series of conveyances, from Laurel to New Orleans, from the streetcar named Desire to the one called Cemeteries, and finally to Elysian Fields. Her search for companionship, in the person of the least sexually defined man in the play, Mitch, a...

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