From Beginning to End

     A Streetcar Named Desire was a 1951 film based on Tennessee Williams' play by the same name. The 1947 play was written about a common couple of New Orleans and their problems. The play was written to explain in part the oppression of women during this time. It was also written to show the power of love and lust. These aspects are brought out very well in the film adaptation, directed by Elia Kazan. In the film many of Tennessee Williams' metaphors about these aspects come to life in a colorful way.

     When Blanche first comes to New Orleans to stay with her sister, Stella, the differences in their lifestyles are shown very effectively. Blanche's life was in a trunk. All her prize possessions were of a high-class nature and materialistic. She dressed in expensive gowns. Stella, however, had no jewels or expensive dresses. Her possessions where very plain and shabby. Their costumes were chosen very carefully and fit their characters well. Blanche in her light colors tends to signify innocence and tenderness. Stella in her dark colors tends to signify strength, and knowledge. It was very clear by just the appearance of these two women how different their lives were. However, they did see eye to eye on many things.

     Both of these women were fools for love. They both had big hearts and the ability to love blindly. However, they dealt with their love problems in different ways. When Blanche lost her love, she introverted all her pain. She became delusional and materialistic. When Stella had problems with Stanley, she yelled at him or threw something.

     Blanche had fallen in love with a gay man who had killed himself. He had killed himself at a party one night. This scenario is alluded to many times throughout the film. At different times voices, music, or a gun shot is heard in the distance when Blanche is thinking of this boy. This effect shows how powerful a moment it was in Blanche's life. When she thinks of this boy, she is practically reliving the experience. Elia Kazan uses the sound effects I mentioned above to take us there with Blanche. For a moment, the audience has a peek at what is going on in Blanche's brain.

     Elia Kazan uses other sound effects of this sort throughout the movie to take the viewer into Blanche's mind. At one point when Blanche is completely losing touch with reality, the speech of others is duplicated. This duplication of speech helps the audience to perceive how far away Blanche really is. The viewer becomes aware that Blanche is operating in a different reality.

     Love took Blanche to an alternate existence. Without the love of her life she could not live, or at least not in the world most people know. She could not go on without him, and this shows how powerful love can be.

     Blanche's world of delusion is brought out in many other ways throughout the film. When Blanche is first moving into Stella's apartment, she puts a shade over a light bulb. She later proclaims something about adding a little romance to life. This was a sort of foreshadowing metaphor that is later referred to. Blanche later proclaims, when talking about the shade, that she does not like seeing things the way they are. She says she would rather see them the way they should be. In the end of the movie, Stanley throws the lamp shade at her. With this action Stanley is telling Blanche to get her delusional ways out of their lives.

     Stanley and Stella live in a much different way from Blanche. Although one can question whether Stella really love Stanley, they deal with their problems extrovertedly.

     Stanley, as explained in Jannelle Zech's "Seeing Green" of the Montage is a very brutish and controlling man. Many of his actions throughout the movie prove this. Stella is expected by Stanley to do many things, and put up with obnoxious behaviors. Their relationship is fairly shallow and disastrous. This is brought out in many different metaphors and actions throughout the film.

     One metaphor that was used was the breaking of an appliance. The appliance was broken during a fight of Stella's and Stanley's. The appliance was broken at the same time when Stella was being dumped on by Stanley. In the morning after they had a good night of making-up, Stanley proclaims that the appliance can be easily fixed. The appliance was as easily fixable as their relationship. However, a little later he takes this statement back. The appliance cannot be as easily fixed as he thought, and neither can their relationship. The appliance was a sort of symbol of Stella and Stanley's relationship. It was used to represent the abuse Stella took from Stanley.

     There were many other situational metaphors used throughout A Streetcar Named Desire. A Streetcar Named Desire was a brilliant film that used all the senses for really feeling the movie. Many other films studied this semester also accomplished this aspect of film as well. However, A Streetcar Named Desire was quite unique in that the whole film was a metaphor from beginning to end. The whole work was about desires of people.

Elizabeth Satterwhite

Table of Contents