The road to a happy, healthy relationship is a rocky one. The ditch alongside love's highway is littered with bad relationships till one meets that one perfect person. When it comes to bad relationships, nobody depicts them better than the classic works A Streetcar Named Desire, A Doll's House, and Washington Square. These works are classic examples of how men treat women like crap. So, ladies, listen up!
No one, neither in fiction nor the real world, can take the horrible-man trophy away from Stanley in Tennessee Williams' 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan. First, let us examine how he treats his wife--not just once, might I add, but several times during the play. Nobody will forget the scene when Stanley, portrayed by Marlon Brando, screams for Stella, depicted by Kim Hunter, to come back and forgive him. Just like almost every domestic violence case, Stella goes back to Stanley. They are in a vicious cycle. The worst part is that it is not even the worst thing that Stanley does. In the story, Stella's sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh), comes to live with them. Blanche only adds fuel to Stanley's fire with her crazy, and I mean crazy, antics. The night Stella goes into labor, Stanley and Blanche are left alone. Tired of her crazy behavior, he rapes her. Ladies, if you had not wanted to hit him before, get in line to hit him now. If you need more evidence that Stanley is probably the worst man alive, you are probably Stella. Let us move on to other, less horrible men.
Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House, filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, respectively, is, in a nutshell, a story about a wife's secret destroying her marriage. On the surface, this story looks as though it would be the woman's fault the marriage falls apart, but once one scrapes off that sugar-coated topping, one sees the truth. The big secret is Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) borrows money to save the life of her husband, Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins). Well, what a great gal, except she breaks the law by forging her late father's name to take out the loan. Everything in her life is going well until Krogstad (Edward Fox/Denholm Elliot) wants his money and job back. When the truth comes out, one would think Torvald would help her. Nope--he decides to take her children away from her and make her keep up the lie that they are in a perfectly happy marriage. Only after his outburst of rage and anger, and the fact that everyone will not find out what Nora has done, does Torvald forgive his wife. Instead of staying in a crappy relationship with a man who will take away her children, Nora decides to leave.
Henry James's 1880 novel Washington Square, filmed in 1949 by William Wyler as The Heiress, has not just one terrible man--it features two. Poor Catherine (Olivia de Havilland)--the man she thinks loves her, Morris (Montgomery Clift), is really a gold digger. Catherine thinks she has a chance for love and comfort with Morris. He treats her like a queen; but the moment her father, Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson), disinherits her, Morris runs for the hills, leaving Catherine with her father. Dr. Sloper is the real villain in this story. Instead of employing physical abuse, like Stanley, or threatening to take away loved ones, like Torvald. Dr. Sloper is the quiet, nice kind of evil. He will just smile while being verbally abusive. Fathers are supposed to be loving and nice to their daughters. For all of Catherine's life, all she has heard is she is not pretty enough, not smart enough, and will never be wed to a good man. After all the years of constant put-downs, Morris looks like Catherine's knight in shining armor. So he may be a gold digger; at least he would have made her happy. Of course her father had to ruin that for her too. Bad relationships are not only confined to lovers, but also extend to family members.
The classic works like A Streetcar Named Desire, A Doll's House, and Washington Square are perfect examples of bad relationships and bad men. I think the only man that could give Stanley a run for his money for the worst-man-ever award is Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) in Emily Brontë's 1847 Wuthering Heights, filmed in 1939 by William Wyler. Ladies, read the classic works and learn from these women's mistakes. When you see a bad man, leave him behind. The highway of love is less rocky without all that trash in the ditches.