Blanche: Victim or CEO?

         There are many different types of women in the world. There is the strong, independent type; these are usually the ones who (in today's world) are career-oriented and have the potential to excel in any field they choose. There is the weak, submissive type, who will bend to the will of their bosses or husbands (or whoever else has any sort of power over them). These two types may coexist within the same person, and the type of person they grow to be is entirely dependent on the situation in which they live. Given the opportunity to be independent, a woman may become successful and productive. Put in a situation where she is unable to grow or progress, a woman may become feeble and unable to do anything on her own.

         This is the case of Blanche, whose remnants of her sad and broken life are finally shattered in Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire. In the 1951 film version of the play, directed by Elia Kazan, Blanche's (Vivian Leigh) vulnerability and broken spirit are brought fully to life in a story that can only provoke apathy in the viewer.

         Blanche comes to the apartment of her sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), hoping to pull together what is left of her shattered life. We learn through dialogue that Stella married her husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando) and moved away, leaving her older sister, Blanche, to wait by their parents' side when they were on their deathbed. After the death of her parents, Blanche created more and more problems for herself; first by losing the family estate and later by becoming involved with a seventeen-year-old boy. Blanche's personality reveals a person of great potential, with great emotions and feelings for other people, whose spirit has been destroyed over and over by people more powerful than she. The final catalyst for her downfall is embodied in Brando's character, Stanley.

         Stanley is rough, explosive, and violent. He supposedly loves his wife; however, his rape of her sister near the end of the movie suggests that Stanley is anything but faithful to Stella. His rough treatment of Blanche breaks her, and at the movie's end we see a mental unstable Blanche being led away to a mental institution.

         The question remains, had the roles been reversed and Blanche been the sister who had been able to move away from Belle Reve instead of Stella, would Stella have been left to go crazy while Blanche pursued a lucrative career? Chances are that, in a better world, Blanche might have been sitting in an air-conditioned office, overseeing the construction of massive building projects and luxury hotels.

Charissa Acree

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