You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

     Running from the past--we hear about it all the time. People have done something in the past that they are not proud of or want to avoid; and, try as they might, it keeps coming back--over and over and over again.

     Blanche in Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire, directed as a film in 1951 by Elia Kazan, is a prime example of this. As played by Vivien Leigh in the movie, she has had many things happen to her that she would rather no one ever discover. She tries and tries; but her past seems to be right around the corner, waiting to sneak up on her and deal her one more blow.

     Perhaps the biggest blow, and the one that affected her the most, was the death of her young husband--an event that was glossesd over in the film because the gayness was left out due to censorship. In my opinion, it was probably a double blow, given the fact that her husband was gay. She found him in bed with another man, and when he killed himself, Blanche lost it. It was simply too much for her to take, and she began a long slide down a slippery slope.

     Another big thing that contributed to Blanche's demise was the loss of the family plantation, Belle Reve. This came about in part because of illness in the family. Her parents and other relatives became ill over time, and Blanche suffered through their illnesses and subsequent deaths. She had little money, as she was a schoolteacher, and was forced to eventually give up the plantation because of debt. Another blow to her psyche and further down she goes.

     It is also apparent that Blanche has become a whore. She is fired from her job as an English teacher because she has taken up with one of her students. Stories of her escapades at a hotel called the Flamingo are apparently well known and widely circulated. Denial is part of her armor. If she denies it, at least, in her own little world, it never happened...or it is easier to pretend that it had not. It is apparent that she shows up in New Orleans because she has nowhere else to go. Again, she is running from her past; and it is only a matter of time before it catches up with her.

     Little does she realize how going to the house of Stella, her sister's (Kim Hunter on screen) would be a very big mistake. Not only does she disapprove of the way her sister lives, but Blanche also encounters Stanley (Marlon Brando in the film), who sees right through her. Perhaps it is the same baseness in the both of them that allows him to do this. Her past starts to catch up with her when Stanley starts sprouting nonsense about the Napoleonic Code, which gives him rights to half of Stella's inheritance, and when she starts to fall, in her own twisted way, for Mitch (acted in the movie by Karl Malden). The fact that she cannot stand light is also a big indicator that she knows this.

     She knows how she truly is but does not want anyone to realize what is actually going on. She is trying to cling to the last vestiges of her dignity and southern gentility, and it just is not working. Her past is staring her right in the face, knocking on the door.

Sarah Fuchs

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