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Williams uses the color of white for things other than clothing in the play. It is noteworthy that Stanley's radio, which Blanche switches on time and again, is also white. When he flings its whiteness out of the house in anger, it foreshadows the fact that she will also be cast out of the house. The white cake, which Stella is decorating for Blanche, is filled with irony. While Stella is making plans to celebrate Blanche's life (her birthday), Stanley comes in and destroys Blanche's life by revealing the truth of her past. Just as the white cake will be cut or disfigured, Blanche, on this very evening, will also be disfigured with Mitch. He will pull her into the light to expose the truth and then toss her away, like leftover white crumbs from the cake. It is fitting that after Mitch leaves she dresses in a soiled and crumpled white satin evening gown. Symbolically, her dreams have been destroyed and she has been forced into the light to accept the truth of her soiled self. The pity is that Stanley's brutal hands will further soil it later that night.
Red is the color most often associated with Stanley. He wears a red jacket to go bowling. He also carries a stained red meat package, an obvious sexual symbol, which he tosses at Stella. Finally, he is portrayed as almost blood thirsty in his pursuit of destroying Blanche.
Blanche is constantly bathing. Hardly a scene goes by where she is not seen entering or emerging from the shower, or being heard from it. Her pre-occupation with washing herself is a symbolic attempt to cleanse herself of her past sins. The bath is never a quick and simple matter for Blanche. She spends hours, cleansing herself thoroughly, as if to make a fresh start in life, hopefully with Mitch. Ironically, when she emerges from the shower, Stanley is usually present, bringing her quickly back to the real world. The bathing angers Stanley because Blanche uses too much water and the steam from the shower adds to the heat in the cramped, tiny flat.
The Moth Motif
Williams describes Blanche as a moth, for she is flighty in movement and frail in appearance. Like a moth flitting around, Blanche makes senseless, nervous gestures, displaying the fact she is tense and high-strung. She also has delicate features and wears light, airy clothing. Like a moth, Blanche always avoids light bulbs. Just as the moth is scorched by contact with a bulb, her illusions are destroyed in the bright light of truth that Stanley and Mitch force her into.
Light is used as a symbol by Williams to emphasize the differences in people's approaches to life. Being able to face a "naked light bulb" means the ability to confront life directly and with honor. It shows an ability to face the truth, however bitter it may be. A desire to shun light indicates a desire for illusions, magic, and shadows. Dreams are only possible in semi-darkness.
Blanche who pursues dreams cannot stand bright light. She has made the mistake of being dazzled by Allan's entry into her life. But his suicide left her in desolation and darkness. Ever since his death, she has avoided light, the symbol of truth. Light is an enemy to her, for she knows it can destroy her illusions. In fact, when Mitch pulls her into the light to expose the truth of her appearance and age, Blanche's dream world is destroyed. She is left with no hope and no future and leaves her no past and no future. The headlight of the locomotive frequently passing outside, brings on the same fear of exposure. That is why she either crouches or shuts her ears, when she hears it approach. Blanche cannot face anything harsh and real. Hence she always gasps when she sees her reflection in a mirror.
a) The Varsouviana, or polka music, runs off and on throughout the play. It is played in the background off stage in order to indicate that Blanche is hearing it in her head. Her response to hearing it is to drink heavily, in attempt to drown out the sound. The Varsouviana was the music being played at the time of Allan's death. So when Blanche hears the music in her head, she also hears a gunshot. Whenever she is particularly disturbed, the music starts up in her mind and continues to grow loud and pound. When Blanche has drunk enough to hear the gunshot that signaled Allan's suicide, the music stops. This polka music indicates Blanche's feeling of guilt.
b) The music of the Negro Entertainers can also be heard throughout the play. In a country bar opposite the Kowalski's apartment, different entertainers play a variety of instruments from time to time. These are like soulful comments on the action taking place in the play; for instance, whenever there is some reference to Blanche's past life, the 'blue' piano plays sad, depressing music. It is heard when Blanche tells Stella how Belle Reve was lost, when Stanley asks Blanche for the bill of sale on Belle Reve, and when Stella embraces Stanley fiercely in Blanche's presence to indicate that she has failed in her attempt to distance her from her husband. The trumpet and the drums also play at time when tragedy is about to strike Blanche. When Stella takes refuge with Eunice at the end of the third scene, the entertainers are playing "Paper Doll" in a slow and blue manner. At the same time, Stanley cries out, "My baby doll's left me!"
c) Blanches' singing: Another ironic high-point in the play centers on music. Blanche is in the shower singing, "it wouldn't be make- believe, if you believed in me!" At the same moment, Stanley is outside telling Stella about the horrid details of Blanche's past. Blanche seems to be unconsciously making an appeal for trust; she wants others to see the reality of events from her angle, for then it would not seem like make-believe or lies.