They Are All Mad

         Elia Kazan's 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire, based on the Tennessee Williams' 1947 play of the same name, deals with madness. Madness touches every scene in the film, and has an effect on every character. While madness makes its appearance throughout the film, the three main characters deal with it the most. How they deal with madness ultimately leads to the most important part, where madness takes the characters in the end.

         The first madness that should be looked at is that of Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh). Fairly early in the film it becomes apparent that Blanche's mental health leaves much to be desired. She tries to hold together, but she is afraid. Her fear of her own past keeps her from telling Mitch (Karl Malden) the whole story about her husband. It keeps her from confessing her scandalous life to herself or others. She is afraid for herself, and this fear controls her. Ultimately it is her fear of her own mad visions that keep her inside to get raped by Stanley (Marlon Brando). Her fear of dealing with her mad life eventually sends her over the edge of sanity.

         While Blanche suffered from a mental madness, Stanley's madness is an emotional one. He shows throughout the movie that he is mad at the world. He gets mad when he thinks he is being disrespected or when he is inconvenienced. He refuses to control his madness, though, because he does not want to deal with a world where he is not in control. Ironically Stanley's refusal to control his madness, and his use of control, which makes Blanche's madness worse, is what makes him lose what he controlled most throughout the film. After putting up with Stanley continually getting mad throughout the movie, his wife Stella (Kim Hunter) leaves him, unlike in the original play.

         Stella was madly in love with Stanley. She married him even though she knew she could have found someone better. She ignores reason by returning to him after his madness leads to abuse. But unlike her sister and husband, Stella conquers her madness. She overcomes her madness by considering others. She considers how her sister was harmed by Stanley, and she considers her new child. By looking beyond herself, she conquers the madness of her heart and leaves Stanley.

Andrew B. Hildenbrand

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