The illusion of color; a debate in as whether or not the colors one individual sees is the same as what another perceives. That is, is the red that I see simply a green in your eyes? Perhaps yellow?
This lends itself to the idea that each individual’s truth is unique to them. By the same token, their truth, having departed from another’s reality, will therefore be viewed as a delusion by others.
Her truth; an illusion in his eyes.
His truth; an illusion in her eyes.
If light is the reason why one is capable of perceiving colors, to what extent is an individual allowed to trust colors? This doubt is thoroughly manipulated in the play, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. The reader is introduced to the setting with a soft glow – a glow that may very well attract even the most paranoid of moths – as the sky is painted with a “peculiarly tender blue, almost a turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay.” (13) Subsequently, the atmosphere that has been synthesized is one that reflects impressionistic art; the “lyricism” in the setting is consistently accentuated by the piano in the background, and with each key being pressed by the “infatuated fluency of brown fingers” (13), the note-by-note keys mirrors the small dabs & brushstroke styles that are found impressionism.
However, there remains a profound significance in remembering that a characteristic that defines impressionism is in how shadows were defined and how shapes are formed. Due to the inherent nature of using small brushstrokes to create the unique texture of impressionism, objects in the paintings tend to possess the most clarity from afar; the blur of paint dabs are the most muddled upon proximal observation. Furthermore, impressionist artists strive to use proper colors (instead of black) to paint even the darkest of shadows, and thus utilize blues and purples to form shadows. In such a fashion, when Blanche arrives at Elysian Fields and witnesses the soft blue that framed the building, perhaps she was too close to see the the role it will play in determining her fate, and failed to notice the shadows that come with light. This discovery will come at the end, as “shadows and lurid reflections move sinuously as flames along the wall spaces.” (128)
This was the “trap” that Blanche had walked into.
The transition of impressionism to expressionism is most prominent in scene three, as the setting is defined by the “raw colors of childhood’s spectrum”; “solid blues, a purple, a red-and-white check, a light green” and “yellow linoleum”.
No longer is it is soft; rather, the tableau vivant emanates a “lurid” and “raw” mood.
The strongest emphasis on this, however, is derived from William’s mention of Vincent van Gogh’s painting – “Of the Billiard-Parlor at Night”, or also known as “The Night Cafe”. Expressionism is an art movement that focuses on the feelings within the artist, and was created as a response to a sudden widespread anxiety about humanity’s discordant relationship with the world during the Industrial Revolution. This mirrors Blanche’s worry about her old southern heritage versus the comparably more modern world of the working class; that is, Stanley’s world.
The aforementioned feelings were often defined by the distortion of form and the deployment of strong, albeit simple, colors to convey the passions and anxieties of human society. Thus, it becomes necessary to note how distortion of form parallels the essence of illusions that Blanche herself creates. The irony here lies in how the strong colors of Expressionism contrast Blanche’s desire for “soft” colors, yet also simultaneously reflect the purpose of her delusions. It can therefore be argued that an immersion into illusions will catalyze the arrival at the destination that one was desperately attempting to escape from. The reader is provided clues of this within Van Gogh’s painting due to due the angular point of view that it was created from; it directs and guides the viewer’s eyes deeper into the painting – a dangerous immersion.
As a result of William’s incorporation of two contradicting art movements into the theatrics of his play, it could be argued that impression does not reflect true expression; true expression defies the purpose of delusional impression.
Van Gogh, Vincent. The Night Cafe. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., 1 Apr. 2006. Web. 4 Dec. 2015. <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_076.jpg>.