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Darkness Made Visible: Miscegenation, Masquerade and the Signified Racial Other in Tennessee Williams' Baby Doll and A Streetcar Named Desire

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2001


Through significant and underscored omission, startling contradictions, heavily nuanced conflict, through the way writers peopled their work with the signs and bodies of this presence – one can see that a real or fabricated Africanist presence was crucial to their sense of Americanness.Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), 6.

Two men wolf-whistle at Baby Doll during the play of the same name: both of these men are positioned in the shadows. We see the one, Silva Vacarro, skulking around the dilapidated Plantation house in ghostly pursuit of Baby Doll, and the other as an anonymous male on Tiger Tail Road, part of a group of “White an’ black mixed.” Both of these men represent an encroaching dark threat to the sexual and property rights of Archie Lee. It is no coincidence that Silva's forced intrusion into Archie's house is mirrored by the sexual trespassing of the anonymous whistler, and Archie himself challenges the invisible agitator: “trespass across my property... [and] I'll blast... [you]... out of the Bayou with a shotgun... Nobody's gonna insult no woman of mine!!” (BD, 74). Neither Archie nor Baby Doll can see the identity of the invisible menacing man, and so the threat from the shadows is communicated through implicit rather than explicit dialogue. Interestingly, these shadows, hovering amidst the domestic and sexual spaces, allegorize a deeper instability permeating Southern discourse: that of the blurring of racial identities and the threat of miscegenation.

Research Article
© 2001 Cambridge University Press

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