Rape Doubt

     In A Streetcar Named Desire, the 1947 play by Tennessee Williams and the 1951 film by Elia Kazan, I doubted if Blanche was raped. In the film, with Vivien Leigh playing Blanche, it looks more like rape, but in the play I really wondered.

     Blanche had time to leave the apartment when Stanley went to change into his nightclothes. One can argue, "Where would she have gone?" But why did she not go to her sister in the hospital? She could have waited in the waiting room or gone into the room to comfort her sister. One can argue, "She was scared to leave," but she could have gone upstairs to the neighbors. They were not total strangers because she had stayed the night there before. Blanche saw Stanley as an animal, and in the play she asserted the only way a woman can live with him was to go bed with him. So why should she stay? With this attitude one can wonder if she did not let him have his way. She showed fear of him, and yet she stayed.

     She was desperate to find a place to stay, which one sees more strongly in the movie and her reactions to the thought of going back to Laurel/Oriel. Her plans to get Mitch (depicted by Karl Malden) to marry her have failed. She had nowhere else to go because of her past wildness, but guilt and bad nerves took her over the edge of sanity instead. But I wonder if her going crazy was not a way to finally get Stella (played by Kim Hunter) to leave Stanley (portrayed by Marlon Brando) and go away with her. Stella would then be able to care for her, without Stanley always interfering.

     Rape is a serious subject. In an ideal world there would not be such a thing. Everyone would have control of his/her passions. When someone says stop, no matter how far in foreplay, a person can stop, but in real life it is not so easy. How does one decide if someone likes it rough, or he/she is serious and wants you to stop? Blanche is a liar, and she tries to manipulate men by flirting. In the movie one can hear a fleeting doubt in her voice in the interest between her and Stanley in her dialog to Mitch on their last date.

     In the movie one can see Blanche's fear and hear her say no, and it is not hard to believe she was raped, but it would not be hard to imagine the doubt that must have plagued Stella about what really happened. I was glad she left him in the movie, but in real life I cannot picture this woman doing that. She has a child with him, and she loves him. Stella saw her sister going crazy and knew she told lies to get what she wanted. In her place would anyone not have doubts?

Tammy Wheeler

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