Two Different Courses

         A Doll's House and A Streetcar Named Desire have many similarities. Both works contain powerful women that seek freedom from the shackles of a male figure. In the case of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House, filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) is restrained by Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins). In Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, Stella (Kim Hunter) is restrained by Stanley (Marlon Brando).

         Both the works also contain a character that disrupts the flow of the everyday lives of the main characters. In A Doll's House, Krogstad, played on screen by Edward Fox and Denholm Elliot respectively, interrupts the unscripted lives of Torvald and Nora by demanding that Nora must secure his shaky position at work or else he will tell Torvald of her having forged her dead father's signature to secure a loan to save her husband's life. If Krogstad had not threatened Nora as he did, then the story would have taken an entirely different turn; and I doubt very much that Nora would have been triggered to leave her husband and children. Likewise, in A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche (Vivien Leigh in the film) arrives and disrupts the routine of Stanley and Stella, thus causing Stella to leave (temporarily it may be) and take residence upstairs with her neighbors.

         With such similarities between the two works, it is difficult to believe that the two main female characters take completely different paths in life. Nora grows from an under-appreciated pet to a strong-hearted woman determined to restart her life anew and for the better. Stella, on the other hand, has great beginnings at Belle Rêve and potential for happiness but ends up as dependent upon Stanley and concerned about her sister's well being. In addition to all of this, Stella must also make a life for her new baby.

         In the written work of A Streetcar Named Desire, the reader is left with some uncertainty of whether or not Stella will return to Stanley; but, alas, Stanley's comforting words, "Now honey, now love, now, now love…" leave the reader with little doubt that Stella will indeed return. In the filmed version of A Streetcar Named Desire, there is a bit more uncertainty in the eyes of the viewer as the movie shows the interactions of Eunice and Stella against Stanley, whereas the book does not. Even so, I believe that Stella will return, for she simply has nowhere to go and no one to turn to besides Stanley.

         In the case of Nora, she has taken care of the children (the nanny will deal with them); and she more than likely has some spare money "squirreled away" from Torvald. I do not see Nora returning to Torvald. She is young and capable, as we have seen from her dealings with the bank; and she could provide a decent life for herself that will allow her to become better educated for a life in the real world. In the case of this story, I found no significant differences between the actual play and screen adaptations that would make me to believe that Nora would do otherwise.

         What I see in Stella's future is a repeat of the Torvald/Nora situation. Stanley will beat the independence out of Stella, and she will become a type of pet or trophy similarly to what Torvald has made of Nora. It is a shame that Norway and New Orleans are not closer--Nora and Stella could certainly learn a great deal from each other.

Caitlin Summers

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