Disaster from a Stranger

         The final words of Blanche (Vivien Leigh) in Elia Kazan's 1951 cinematic adaptation of Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire represent the cause of all the destruction and strife and finally leading to the demise of herself. "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers," she says to the doctor (Richard Garrick) as he leads her to the hospital, but the underlying idea, which spills from amidst her delusions and insanity, was creeping in the background action, which has led Blanche to New Orleans.

        "Yes, I've had many intimacies with strangers," Blanche tells Stanley (Marlon Brando) during their final confrontation. This is the reason that she has been forced to move down to New Orleans, in search of redemption and escape from reputation. Everyone back home knew of her promiscuity, and her adventures in sexual escapades around town. She had disgraced herself, by admitting strangers to the bed; in search of what, only her subconscious knows. After losing the house and reputation, she was forced to begin again, yet her reputation followed. Such stories run rampant between towns; people are intrigued by impropriety.

         This history is also what compels Stanley to convince his wife, Stella (Kim Hunter), of the nature and possibly shady intentions of Blanche's visit to her sister's. Stanley condemns Blanche and is impressed by his own achievement, but his disdain eventually erupts once more into violence and sexual assault (but that is for a different paper). Once again Blanche is confronted with her past actions, and this time in a place where nobody other than her family and close friends knows her. These events compound as she stays at Stella's, leading to an eventual breakdown.

         Not only did these encounters with strangers tarnish Blanches' reputation; they also had a decaying effect on her mental stability. In New Orleans Blanch begins her search for redemption, but also reconnecting with a man on more than a sexual nature. This desire is not withheld with the paperboy (Wright King), but she does show restraint with her new interest, Harold Mitchell, or Mitch (Karl Malden). She abstains from sleeping with him, yet he becomes infuriated when he hears about her past and becomes frustrated that he however, has not had a chance to be thus pleased. As the possibility of the two united dissipates, so does her mental stability, culminating after her rape. After which she loses contact with reality, believing that a wealthy suitor from far away is courting her.

         At the end of the play/film, Blanche is once again depending on a stranger to correct the mental problems contained within her mind and self-confidence. Unlike the attempt to quell her pain from losing her old love, this stranger actually has the ability to possibly help Blanche regain herself and overcome the issues festering within.

Taylor Sutton

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