Crazy on a Streetcar Named Desire

     In Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire, we (the readers) are introduced to Blanche DuBois, a woman of high class order who has recently had the unfortunate loss of her parents and home, Belle Reve, and is introduced to lower-class society. Her sister, Stella, had been raised in the same high-class system but had found love in the low class and had resorted to this lifestyle several years before her family's loss. Blanche comes to live with her sister for a short period. While putting up with her, Stella's husband, Stanley, learns of the loss and is upset by this because, under the Napoleonic code of Louisiana, he feels it is his loss too and that his loss has something to do with Blanche.

     Stanley begins to investigate how Blanche lost Belle Reve and soon finds out more than he had expected to. For the past several years since the death of Blanche's young husband, she has been sleeping with anyone who would have her and even going so far as to have a relationship with one of her young English students. Stanley confronts Blanche about her past. The strain of this, plus losing her job, Belle Reve, her parents, her young husband, and the man that she had hoped to marry, starts her on a fast-paced descent on a downward spiral to insanity.

     The 1951 film adaptation, by Elia Kazan, gives flesh to the play. It is hard as a writer to portray insanity in a work; but, when the work is set to film, one feels as though he or she may be going insane. Words in a book cannot show true feeling the way a person on the stage or screen can, and the words by themselves cannot help one hear a song either.

     Blanche, played by Vivien Leigh in the film adaptation, does such a wonderful job of portraying her character that one has to ask oneself if she is truly going insane. If it were not for the fact that this is a film that has been planned and enacted, one might even wonder if someone had not just gotten this descent by accident on film.

     To add to Ms. Leigh's performance is the more important key in one's own questioning of insanity, the soundtrack. Each time Blanche is reminded of her deceased husband, an eerie song begins to play in her head. One gets to hear this song repeated so often that one finds oneself singing along with it. Once Blanche reaches the bottom, every word that is said to her by those around is repeated as if it is echoing down a long corridor, which makes one realize that she is lost somewhere in that long hall. She has been lost, and there is no way of bringing her back.

     Feel crazy yet? If you do not, and you want to go to the brink of insanity and be able to come back from it, read and then watch and listen to A Streetcar Named Desire.

Clint Todd

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