Desire Is More Than a Streetcar

     We are all motivated by our emotions to do things that rationally we would never consider. Some are motivated to change their lives and get married because of love, some are motivated to find a career that will make them successful because they are greedy, and others are motivated to kill because of anger. For Blanche DuBois, however, the emotion of desire motivates her to come to her sister, Stella, in New Orleans. Through Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, we find that there are many desires that Blanche DuBois is yearning for.

     With the loss of Belle Reve, Blanche was looking for something to fill her needs. I believe that because of not only her loss of her first true love, but also of her family and her home, she was thrown into a downward spiral of depression. Therefore, her sanity began to slip also. If you had lost your family, home and marriage, can you say that you would not do the same? This is a woman who saw her life crashing down before her very eyes and struggled to find something to fill the void. Therefore, Blanche desired love. She desired someone to take care of her and needed someone to help her. Perhaps this is why she keeps seeking love in all of the wrong places.

     We see the same examples of Blanche's desire throughout both the play and the 1951 film by the same name, directed by Elia Kazan. From the very beginning of this play and movie, we see a simple one-dimensional example of desire when Blanche (Vivien Leigh) takes the streetcar named Desire to Stella (Kim Hunter) and Stanley's (Marlon Brando) home. But let us examine the streetcar itself and the underlying meaning of it. Quite literally, Desire (the streetcar) takes Blanche to the scene of what will become her worst nightmare. But also the desire that Blanche is being tormented with takes her not only to her sister, whom she desires to see to help her feel cared for, but also to Mitch (Karl Malden), whom we soon discover she desires also. As we move through the story, we see Blanche exhibit her desire for Mitch, along with other men, including the young boy collecting for The Evening Star and numerous other men from her past.

     As a result of Stanley's investigating into Blanche's past, we learn that Blanche's desire had begun long before she came to New Orleans. Blanche felt desire for one of her English students at the high school she taught at and, as a result was fired from her position, which only adds to her quickly diminishing reputation and life. Now was she not only without a home, family and marriage but also was without a job. Her desire had already turned her to the company of many strangers; and, as she says in the last few lines of the play, she always has "depended on the kindness of strangers."

     Our emotions can cause us to follow strange paths in life. Some of these paths can lead us to a wonderful place. For others, however, the paths taken lead to a terrifying place that cannot easily be escaped from. This is unfortunately the path that Blanche DuBois has taken; a path of desire has led her to New Orleans, and ultimately driven her to a terrifying place of insanity. Instead of explaining her desire and her pain to her sister during her visit and seeking help for her problems, she turned to men that only used her and left her. Perhaps this is a warning to us all to think a little more before we throw caution to the wind and follow our own desires.

Erica Hulse

Table of Contents