The paper lantern over the light bulb represents Blanche’s attempt to mask both her sordid past and her present appearance. The lantern diffuses the stark light, but it’s only a temporary solution that can be ripped off at any moment. Mitch hangs up the lantern, and Blanche is able to maintain her pose of the naïve Southern belle with him, but it is only a façade. After Stanley has told Mitch about Blanche’s past, Mitch angrily tears the lantern off so he can see Blanche’s face, and she cries, “I don’t want realism––I want magic!” At the end of the play, Stanley takes off the paper lantern and presents it to Blanche. A paper world cloaking reality also appears in the song “Paper Moon.” While Stanley tells Stella about Blanche’s sordid history, Blanche sings this saccharine popular song about a paper world that becomes a reality through love. Blanche feigns modesty and a coquettish nature, but behind the veneer, she hides a much darker past.
Paper Lantern and Paper Moon Quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire
The A Streetcar Named Desire quotes below all refer to the symbol of Paper Lantern and Paper Moon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the New Directions edition of A Streetcar Named Desire published in 2004.).
Scene 3 Quotes
I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action.
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Scene 5 Quotes
Scene 7 Quotes
Scene 9 Quotes
Scene 11 Quotes
You left nothing here but spilt talcum and old empty perfume bottles–unless it’s the paper lantern you want to take with you. You want the lantern?
Paper Lantern and Paper Moon Symbol Timeline in A Streetcar Named Desire
The timeline below shows where the symbol Paper Lantern and Paper Moon appears in A Streetcar Named Desire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...sonnet. Blanche claims to be younger than Stella, and she asks Mitch to hang a Chinese lantern over the naked electric bulb. Stanley, in the kitchen, seethes at Mitch’s absence from the... (full context)
...attire, saying that he’s been on to her from the start: powders and perfumes and paper lanterns couldn’t fool him. Lurid, grotesque shadows and reflections on the wall surround Blanche. (full context)