Did Blanche Ask for It?

         The character Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire is undeniably troubled. Just how troubled is open to interpretation, however. I believe that during the course of Elia Kazan's 1951 film adaptation of Streetcar, Vivien Leigh portrays Blanche as a woman living on the edge. On one side, she has a reality where she has a checkered past--a victim of circumstance. On this side, she has a steady boyfriend in Mitch (Karl Malden), who also needs someone; thus it seems as though there is the slightest sliver of hope in her that she can make a life for herself. The other side of the edge is a total descent into madness, where she can live out her beautiful dreams without outside interference reminding her of what has happened earlier in her life. It is this side I feel that she ultimately wants; and, perhaps subconsciously, she uses Stanley Kowalski as a tool to get her there.

         Once settled in at Stella's (Kim Hunter) home, Blanche is immediately targeted by Stanley's friend, Mitch. She enters into a relationship with him, but seems as though she is dragging her feet. They do not kiss until one night, after being confronted by Mitch about her distance; Blanche reveals to him the details of her initial fall. You can tell even talking about it hurts her, and she falls into Mitch's arms.

         After that it seems like everything might be well and good until Stanley (Marlon Brando) discovers the rest of Blanche's secrets. He informs Mitch of Blanche's sordid former (current?) life, and her makeshift "normal" existence with Mitch is dashed upon the rocks. After that, she retreats to her dreams until one night, after Stanley pulls her kicking and screaming back into reality, he rapes her. After this, Blanche makes no attempt lead to her normal life, confining herself to her room. I believe this is really what she wanted; a kind of suicide, and the rape was merely a means to an end.

John Null

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