"Who wants real? I want magic!" Musical Madness in _A Streetcar Named Desire_

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2004-04-30

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In both the 1947 play and 1998 opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, both Tennessee Williams and André Previn depict the mental decline of the fragile Blanche DuBois through her desperate cries for human affection, her loss of sanity deriving from the constant struggle between male society's prescriptions for female behavior, and her own internalization of these roles. The constant clash between Blanche's thought and deed her façade of the perfect Southern belle hiding nymphomaniacal tendencies along with her rape, also contributes to her to madness.

In this paper I explore Blanche's character and both Williams's and Previn's use of music to illustrate her lunacy. I then conclude with a consideration of the writings of prominent literary, theater, music, and feminist writers to show how gender roles and sexual violence serve as catalysts for the female madness manifested in A Streetcar Named Desire.

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