Compare the presentation of love and madness within male-female relationships in Wuthering Heights, Hamlet and A Streetcar Named Desire
The presentation of love is closely related to madness within these texts. The similarities between these texts are usually that the female characters experience some form of mental breakdown due to the actions of the men that they love. For example, Blanche’s madness starts with the death of her husband in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and Ophelia’s madness upon the death of her father in ‘Hamlet’. However, madness isn’t always portrayed by women, as Heathcliff shows symptoms of madness after Cathy’s death in ‘Wuthering Heights’.
In ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ there are many references towards the relationship between Blanche and Allan, and his death, being the cause of her erotic behaviour and unhappiness. A repetitive theme is that of the “polka music” or the Varsuviana sounding whenever Blanche is in a difficult situation, which has links to her relationship with Allan Grey as this was the piece that was playing the night he died. It is evident that whenever Blanche thinks of her dead husband, she not only relives this trauma, but she also feels a sense of guilt or responsibility. Due to this guilt she cannot escape her husband’s death; therefore she cannot escape the music. Williams makes it clear to the audience that only Blanche is able to hear the music as Mitch asks “What music?” In the film adaptation with Vivian Lee, the music is played quietly to suggest that the other characters on stage cannot hear it and Blanche’s reactions to it are often those of a tempestuous nature. Although it is up to the director’s discretion, this music is diegetic only for Blanche – when we hear the polka, we are hearing what is inside her mind, which makes the audience feel both sympathetic towards Blanche, as it is obvious she has had a hard life, but also a little awkward, as it is also apparent that she is suffering. The audience will also feel as if they are part of Blanche’s experience, as we can hear the music too, which makes us more understanding towards Blanche than the other characters onstage. This suggests that stressful events, such as the confrontation of Mitch, cause Blanche to relive specific memories regarding the death of Allan Grey. She describes her love of him as “though a light had been switched on”, which, linked with the “polka music”, suggests that she can’t move on without Allan and is stuck in the past. The idea of light and dark suggests that the polka music is the removal of light and happiness for Blanche, as well as showing how dangerous the knowledge of Allan’s true sexuality was on her mental state. This could be another reason why Blanche clings to it, as when she had knowledge (with Allan) it resulted in her being hurt and rejected. The idea of light could also suggest that there were too many shadows during her relationship with Allan that she was blind to, such as his true feelings towards her and his sexuality. Therefore, the polka music could represent her way of grounding herself and seeing every aspect of the situation in hand; a reminder of what happened when she was blinded by love.
The other song that is present in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ is “It’s Only a Paper Moon”, which Blanche sings. The song speaks of a world filled with fantasy and a need for self-delusion as well as a complete dependence on the love of others, which links in with Blanche’s lifestyle. The last line of the song is “If you believed in me”, which sums up Blanche’s feelings throughout the play. She is living her life as a lie, however she is constantly searching for someone to believe in her and show her affection. The connotations of the song are that the singer wants people to believe in them and their version of events: exactly like Blanche does. This is a very important aspect of the play, as throughout the production Stanley is constantly questioning and interrogating...
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