Saturday, 10 September 2011

Paper as a Metaphor in A Streetcar Named Desire



[M]ortgages, foreclosures, directions, letters, poems, telegrams, newspapers, appraisals, songs, even moons (Kolin 1)." What do these all have to do with each other? Paper and A Streetcar Named Desire. Philip C. Kolin points out this metaphor in his article " 'It's only a paper moon': The Paper Ontology' in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire.'" Kolin has found that Williams has used paper as a metaphor to describe Blanche's and Stanley's faults and desires. Kolin finds this to be a common thread in Williams' work but mainly focuses on Streetcar.

Williams himself finds paper to be an interesting creation: "In Williams' own words, paper, when properly inscribed, can be sacred, yet when it is subjected to corrupt or untruthful imprints it is profane" (2). It's true paper seems to play a very important role in this play.

One of the first things Stanley does is throw a "red-stained swatch of butcher paper" (3), at Stella. After reading or viewing this play, a bloodstained paper and Stanley definitely seem to intertwine with each other. Kolin argues Stanley uses paper for strength while Blanche uses it to disguise.

Kolin then goes onto Blanche and the importance of paper in her life. She's associated with many, many different important pieces of paper, the telegram, the directions to "Elysian Fields," her box of love letters, her quoting from poems, and of course the papers from "Belle Reve." Blanche is described through the papers she carries, the love letters from her dead husband, the literary knowledge and romantic notions as she quotes poems, and of coarse the ultimate failure of her life losing "Belle Reve."

This is all very understandable and obvious but then Kolin takes a twist. In scene four Blanche decides to write a letter to her lost love and hopeful savior, Shep. Instead of picking up a normal piece of paper she picks-up a Kleenex and eyeliner pencil and begins to write. Kolin takes the Kleenex and carries it to the invisibility and weakness of Blanche. "Porous and easily decomposed, the sheet of Kleenex, appropriated into Blanche's paper universe, is nearly invisible, just like her lover-Shep" (5).

Kolin looks at this as Blanche's way of recapturing the schoolgirl romantic life she once had. By trying to reclaim this, she's trying to make-up for everything she's lost.

The Chinese lantern is also discussed. This is also her way of making everything seem better and not quite how it is.

She tries to redefine existence for herself, Stella, Stanley, and Mitch-with the paper lantern. Ostensibly, she wants to dilute and to neuter Stanley harshness, the power of his glaring male gaze, by shadowing and thereby diminishing the intensity of the light bulb. (7)

The transparency of the papers Blanche uses is Williams' way of showing the transparency of her and her life, argues Kolin. He goes very in-depth with Blanche's and Williams' use of paper to show the real her. He just simply states Stanley uses paper for strength using the "Belle Reve" papers, Napoleonic Code, and Blanche's bus ticket as examples. Kolin proves paper might have been a meaningful metaphor for Williams and his most famous work, A Streetcar Named Desire.


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