Colours, lighting and Music in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ have many uses, and symbolize the tension between the two main protagonists in the text – Blanche and Stanley. These two characters are constantly trying to win the attention of Stella by vigorous arguments and confrontations with each other. Throughout the text, Blanche is represented by light or subdued colours. These light colours are meant to portray her innocence and her ignorance of her own thoughts and the real world around her.
Stanley is represented by more vivid and almost obnoxious colours, which are meant to represent his prejudiced, harsh and jealous nature. The colour schemes between the two characters clash, just as their personalities do in the story. Inward emotions are also presented to us by certain sounds or music throughout the text. A wide spectrum of light, colours, and sound give us the structure of each of the characters and there conflicts. The ‘Blue piano’ plays a key role in the tension felt between the characters in the story as well as it reflecting the overall attitude of the text.
The key points in the plot are also emphasised by the music and the volume at which it is played. It is stated in the beginning of the drama, that “this ‘Blue piano’ expresses the spirit of the life which goes on here” (Scene 1). New Orleans is the setting to the drama, but the spirit of life which is being referred to is the feeling or spirit between the main characters in the drama. The ‘Blue piano’ grows louder when the characters’ spirits grow. When Stella finds out that Blanche has lost ‘Belle Reve’ the ‘Blue piano’ becomes louder.
When Blanche finds out from Stanley that Stella is pregnant, the ‘Blue piano’ again grows louder. At the end of Scene 7, the ‘Blue piano’ “goes into a hectic breakdown” when Blanche is aware that Stanley and Stella are withholding information from her. This ‘breakdown’ represents the eventual fall of Blanche and the beginning of Stanley’s conquest over her. In scene 9, Mitch no longer holds an interest in Blanche and she has no more support beams to cling onto. Stanley has taken them away by telling Mitch the dirty, yet true, rumours about her.
When Mitch confronts Blanche with these rumours at a time in which Blanche is probably the most vulnerable, the ‘Blue piano’ gets softer. After Blanche proposes marriage to Mitch, he calls her dirty and says he no longer wants to marry her. The stage directions then state “With a startled gasp, Mitch turns and goes out the outer door, clatters awkwardly down the steps and around the corner of the building. Blanche staggers back from the window and falls to her knees. The distant piano is slow and blue” (Scene 9). The ‘Blue piano’ grows slow, just as Blanche’s spirit is slowly beginning to desert her.
During her ‘final destruction’, the ‘Blue piano’ plays at a distorted volume and as Blanche is being raped by Stanley, the ‘Blue piano’ seems to lose control – just as Blanche does. The battle is over and Stanley has won. Stella refuses to believe Blanche’s story about the rape and she calls the mental hospital. When the doctor and the matron from the mental hospital pick up Blanche, the ‘Blue piano’ finally fades out. This could be seen as the fading out of Stella from Blanche’s life or the fading out of Blanche’s spirit. Miss Dubois is represented through very specific shades of colours in the play.
When Blanche is first introduced in the story, she is in white and described in the text as follows. “Her delicate beauty must avoid strong light. There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggests a moth” (Scene 1). Although they may be curious creatures, moths are shameless, white and frail insects. She could have been described as another white animal such as a polar bear, rabbit or dove. But Tennessee Williams chose a moth. There is certain unknown element to her and despite her efforts – she does not make a good butterfly. She is a perfect moth.