Character Comparisons in Art and Life

         A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams in 1947 and adapted to film by Elia Kazan in 1951, has a weird but interesting story line. New Orleans is a good setting because it is flashy, but it also looks like a dirty city. The street where the Kowalskis live is poor but somehow charming. This fits the sisters' present situation, especially Blanche's (Vivien Leigh). She tries to appear cultured and attractive, but her actions are trashy. Stella (Kim Hunter) has to deal with many different people during her life. I have many different friends and family members who do not really get along with each other, just like Stella and her family.

         She is married to Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando). He is rough and probably looks like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky. Women seem to be drawn to him, but his low character makes him insecure. He wants to be babied one minute and then turns into a brute the next. He probably loves Stella in the way he grew up knowing love. He is the boy from the wrong side of the tracks.

         Stella's sister, Blanche DuBois, is a woman losing her identity. She wants the nicer things in life, pretty clothes and trips to places she has never been. Sadly, her first love could not love her as she loved him. She confronted him with the knowledge he was gay, saying she was disgusted with him, and he killed himself. It seems she lost her spirit then and began sleeping with many men, including a young boy at the school where she taught. She lost her job and the money she needed to live on. This brings her to New Orleans and Stella's apartment. She might have been happy with Mitch (Karl Malden), but Stanley finds out her secrets and reveals them. That is just like life-one cannot trust most people unless one really knows them. I have friends I can trust, so I cannot really relate to her situation, especially when Stanley rapes Blanche the night his wife gives birth. None of my friends would do that. Blanche, from that point on, is broken mentally.

         I do have friends like Stella and Mitch, though. Every movie needs a "good guy." He is a poor chump who falls for Blanche. He is stupid enough to think she could ever love him. Mitch would probably have tried to change her, but Stanley ruins all their chances for happiness. Mitch is like Freddie in George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, sweet and in love. These kinds of characters usually end up hurt and without a woman.

         Stella was raised to know the finer things in life. She loves Stanley because of his strength but finds herself abused. The play and the movie show the ugly side of love and probably are shocking to the public. Stella becomes an abused wife, like so many in real life. In time, she will lose more and more of her old personality and be a slave to his emotions. One can see her transform herself into her role perhaps at the expense of others.

         All the characters in A Streetcar Named Desire are indeed vivid representations of various types of characters so prevalent in both art and life. That is a large part of what makes Tennessee Williams' play and Elia Kazan's movie so indelibly memorable.

Drew Houck

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