A Streetcar Named Desire for Acceptance

     My previous mental image of Tennessee Williams' 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire was centered on the sexual type of "desire." After I saw the 1951 film version, directed by Elia Kazan, however, a different type of "desire" has replaced that previous image.

     This class has taught me to not only look at the action on stage but to re-act to the message the writer may be trying to send. Even though some movies (i.e. Robo Cop) may not be conveying much more of a message than making money, A Streetcar Named Desire seems to be conveying the heartache Tennessee Williams must have been feeling over his sister's mental illness problems.

     To many people, the "desire" in this film is the sexual innuendos between Blanche (Vivien Leigh) and Stanley (Marlon Brando). Reflecting on the film in its entirety, I think that this "desire" could easily have been Blanche's "desire" to be accepted by her last living relatives, or Stella's (Kim Hunter) "desire" to make her sister happy.

     Blanche's past life may have been disreputable, but her "desire" to change should have been accepted by everyone. Blanche's "desire" to keep the past buried is certainly a right that Stanley should have respected. Mitch (Karl Malden) may have been just the right person to watch over Blanche and help her move on to a happier life.

     Even though some people are not mentally able to live in this world without assistance from others, they still have feelings and most often a capacity to love. Stanley's physical abuse of both Stella and Blanche clearly shows he has very little respect for human life (other than his own).

     Stella's struggle to please her sister could also be depicting a "desire" of a loved one to help a mentally ill, unhappy relative to obtain a little happiness. Many people, who do not understand mental illness, see Blanche as a "shameless hussy" out "freeloading" on the relatives. If these same people could understand the intense struggle many mentally ill people go through just to cope with basic life functions, I do not think they would be quite as harsh on Blanche.

     If the right to life outside an institution is based upon a person's potential threat to society, then Stanley should have been taken away along with Blanche. Blanche's lies are no more of a threat to society than Stanley's physical abuse. I think Stella's child could be raised to understand "an eccentric Aunt Blanche" a lot better than the physical abuse from a "an insensitive father like Stanley."

Julie Kinder

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