Elysian Fields: The Address of Desire

         One word can best describe what Tennessee Williams' 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, is about, desire. Every character in the play wants or desires something or someone. The three main characters, Blanche DuBois, Stella DuBois Kowalski, and Stanley Kowalski, have an unfamiliar relationship. Stella is caught in the middle; she has her husband, Stanley, on one side and her sister, Blanche, on the other. Blanche and Stanley hardly see eye to eye on hardly anything, which forces then to argue all the time. This also causes problems with Stella, her marriage, and her relationship with her sister, Blanche. The housing arrangement does not help any either because all three live in a two-room little apartment in New Orleans. What better location could there be for a story of love, lies, and distrust to take place than the city of sin, where there is plenty of desire and corruption? This drama is a very well-thought-out and well-written play that had the readers and playgoers talking about it for quite a while.

         What got more attention than the play was Elia Kazan's 1951 movie version of the play under the same name. When A Streetcar Named Desire was being made, the censors made the directors and producers come up with more appropriate scenes so that people would not be offended by them. A husband and wife could not sleep in the same bed together, so one or the other is shown in the bed, not both at the same time. What really brought the play to life were the actors and the way they played their characters. Marlon Brando gave one of the best performances, as Stanley Kowalski and fit Stanley's character perfectly. Indeed, one would never have thought that Brando could look that good as manly man. He has that muscular body, that hair that one would just want to run one's hands through, and he is also good looking. Brando would be a man many women would desire. Vivien Leigh also fits the part of Blanche DuBois perfectly. Leigh portrays Blanche as the sweet, gentle, innocent, southern lady that is Blanche's front she puts up to everyone. Stella, as played by Kim Hunter, is not the girl one would picture Stanley with, but she plays the part most effectively. Stella is depicted just as she is in the play, a girl that was pulled down off the high society pillars to live in a more primal world filled with love and passion. Stella is the housewife thrown between husband and sister.

         The topic of desire is found through out the whole movie with the main characters. It all starts with Blanche wanting to be desired by men, her desiring them, the yearning for men's attention and affection. When she first arrives in New Orleans at Stanley and Stella's apartment, she does not want Stanley to see her yet because she has not freshened up yet. Then she tries to fish for a compliment out of Stanley but gets nothing really nice. Blanche realizes that she is not going to get much out of Stanley, but she still tries and playfully flirts with him when Stella is not around. One gets the underlying feeling that Blanche wants more then a compliment from Stanley, but who would not when Brando plays him? Blanche then turns her desires to Mitch (Karl Malden). He finds her attractive, interesting, and charming. With Mitch, Blanche finally gets what she desires and even a marriage request, but it all turns sour for Blanche when Stanley uses his desires to reveal her past and the desires that come with it. In the end, Blanche is lost in the world; her desire is gone; and so she becomes insane; for there is nothing left living in the shell because her life, her desire is gone.

         Stanley's desire is shown in many ways throughout the movie. His main desire is to a man, to protect his home, to make sure his wife is taken care of and to have fun. Plus Stanley is desirable. The first time we see Stanley's desire he has just found that Belle Reve has been lost. Stanley believes his wife has gotten cheated out of her rights, so therefore he has gotten cheated. He stands up and demands the papers from Blanche to look over. What Stanley desires the most is also to have things his way. Blanche comes in and starts changing his and Stella's life so that it is no longer done his way totally. Stanley's desire is also seen when he rapes Blanche. Through this act he states that he is a man, it is his house, and he is doing what he wants his way not Blanche's. This eventually kills Blanche's desire, and it hurts Stanley's desire in the long run.

         Stella's desire is for her husband, Stanley, and her sister, Blanche. Stella is torn between the two while they all live together; but her desire for her husband keeps Stella there. One would desire to stay with him in the movie version. Stella wishes that Stanley and Blanche could get along or understand each other because that is all the family she has left. Stella desires to be a good wife and sister, but it is hard. She takes up for Blanche and Stanley but gets stepped on by both. Stella gets faced with sending Blanche to a mental hospital, which destroys some of her desire then because she cannot save her sister. Stella also loses desire for her husband because he has raped Blanche, and now Stella has neither one of them to have a real true desire for.

         In the end all the characters lose some or all of their desires no matter what they were. They have all helped the other one do this, and so it is the dead end of the desires that once were found at Elysian Fields. All that is left now are heartache, lies, and distrust; and, through it all, Stella was and still is caught in the middle. Desires can be helpful, but also hurtful, so pick yours carefully to avoid losing them or being lost to or by them.

Crystal Newsom

Table of Contents