Tennessee Williams Uses Clothing To Characterise In A Streetcar Named Desire, Whereas Atwood Uses It To Define In The Handmaid’s Tale.

1288 words - 6 pages

Tennessee Williams uses clothing to characterise in A Streetcar Named Desire, whereas Atwood uses it to define in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Clothing is an instrument used by many authors and playwrights to communicate different themes and motifs explored in texts. In The Handmaid’s Tale, author Margaret Atwood uses clothing as a tool to describe a world where a patriarchal, dystopian society forbids individual identity. Similarly, dramatist Tennessee Williams published A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947, which explores the battle between fantasy and reality, as well as the dependency on men. The objective of clothing in A Streetcar Named Desire and The Handmaid’s Tale overlap in some areas as well as contrast. Both writers achieve the aim of accentuating characteristics through clothing. However, in The Handmaid’s Tale, clothing appears to define and confine characters; whereas idiosyncratic features of characters are emphasised and highlighted to create identity and personality through the use of clothing in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Williams uses costume, colour and context to exhibit the development, or deterioration, of characters. Her “white suit” and “fluffy bodice” draw a picture of a reputable woman. Typically, these colours are used to portray innocence and purity, to illustrate a woman of dignity and class; her attire suggests that she is a typical “southern belle”, emblematic of the 1950s. This view is broken into pieces in scene 9 when she changes into a “scarlet satin robe” that is undoubtedly worn with the ostentatious aim of promiscuity. The development then takes a backwards turn back to “soft” colours which is echoed by the “rapid, feverish…Varsouviana tune” which suggest that her vulnerability is a result of constant rejection. She seems to change her clothing constantly, as if moving from personality to personality; perhaps keeping up appearances for so long has reached her inner-self to an extent where she herself cannot distinguish who she is anymore. Her confusion suggests that she may be entering denial of her panic from her fading beauty, her fading reputation and fading sanity. Williams purposely juxtaposed these two completely different perceptions of the same woman to emphasise the second version of her character. Her debauched and promiscuous natures are highlighted after the shock of moving from one version of Blanche to the true version. The fact that Blanche needs clothing to illustrate that she is an innocent “southern belle” suggests that this is a fabricated facade, rather than her true character, which would come across without the need for specific clothing or costume. This may have been a reference to Williams’ own sister who was considered his “muse” and was continuously disappointed in love. Rose’s weak point was falling in love too easily to be unrequited over and over again was echoed in the despondent character of Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire and Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. This made...

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