A Streetcar Named Desire

The Presence of “Expressionism” and “Plastic Theatre” in A Streetcar Named Desire 12th Grade

Expressionism was key in many of Williams’s plays – so much so that it was he who came up with the term ‘Plastic Theatre’. Throughout his plays, and particularly in A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams uses expressionism to show emotions or themes which may not be wholly obvious from just the dialogue. In particular, he uses expressionism (which comprises of the use of costume, lighting, props etc.) to relate his plays to a sense of fraught, edgy emotion. Without the purely physical elements that define its characters, A Streetcar Named Desire would be robbed of some of the expressive subtlety and power that makes Williams's work so memorable.

One of the central ways in which Williams uses expressionism is with costume, which he uses to portray different characters, and in particular to show the contrast between various characters. The “work clothes” Stanley first appears in represent how stereotypically male he is, as the breadwinner of his family. Williams also uses the “bowling jacket” to emphasise his superiority as they symbolise a proficiency in sports typical of an alpha male character. The same idea is continued with other male characters. When they gather together they are dressed in “primary colours” to represent the...

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