Not The Beaver Cleaver Family

         The 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, is about the relationship between a wife, Stella (Kim Hunter), and a husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando). The relationship between this husband and wife shows how disturbed a family can be.

         The book starts out with the typical nuclear family, which in this family is a mother, father, and an unborn child. This family resides in a poor part of the city, with its own special charm, in New Orleans. Stella and Stanley live comfortably in a small one-bedroom apartment with one bathroom, a kitchen and a living room.

         During the day Stanley works, and Stella is a housewife. Stella does not seem to mind staying at home, but she does not always look happy. Stanley drinks most of the time; and, thus, he becomes abusive. This abuse is mostly verbal abuse, but sometimes it becomes physical abuse, as when he hit his pregnant wife after the poker game. As many as 3000 women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends every year.

         Many women, like Stella, stay in these abusive relationships for six reasons. The first reason is low self-esteem. They may fell worthless, stupid and disgusting. These women think that no one else will want them. The second reason is they think their abuser will change. The next reason is that they may feel they have nowhere to go without money and a job. Some women may feel that, if the person they love abuses them, so will everyone else. Other women have a sense of shame and guilt. The major reason women stay in these situation is that they are afraid of what will happen if they leave. Stella stands up for herself sometimes, but most of the time she just lets it be. She makes up the excuse that it is the alcohol's fault. Stella always goes back to Stanley when he apologizes and tells her he loves her. Most women mistakenly think that their male partners really are sorry and that they will not do it again.

         There are many theories that explain family violence, but in this case I think the Patriarchy/Male-Dominance Theory applies. According to this theory, societies where men hold authority and where women and children are defined as the property of men, violence by men against women and children will be more common. I think Stanley feels that he needs to be in control of his wife and his household, which often results in his being so violent.

         I think this was a good play, which was well adapted to the screen, because the versions seem more like real life. I know that many families in the United States live this way, and that people should know and talk about family violence. Tennessee Williams did a good job in showing poverty and family violence in this book.

Jennifer Myers

Table of Contents