Desire: Streetcar and Emotion

     From the moment the play A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams in 1947, opens, desire seems to be the main focus. The movie, made in 1951 by director Elia Kazan, cannot contain the sexual lust, even for the censors.

     Throughout A Streetcar Named Desire the "rough charm and primitive mannerisms," described by Brian Gray in his essay "Stanley Kowalski or Marlon Brando," of Stanley helps to bring the desire to light. Stanley's sweaty clothes cause Blanche to be taken back when she first meets him. Stanley has a macho image, and sexuality comes through in the movies in the 1950's.

     The setting of the play and movie also helps produce the effect of desire. Set in the Quarter in New Orleans, the play is saturated with the atmosphere of drinking, sex, and humidity. The movie adds to this environment by showing the open windows and long flowing white curtains. The laid-back atmosphere gives the desire a place to breed.

     Of course, with the humidity comes, sweating and bathing. Blanche (Vivien Leigh) takes many baths in the play and movie. When Stanley waits to confront her about Belle Reve, she has just gotten out of another bath. Although the play tells us she asks him to button up her dress, the true sensuality is shown on screen. To see macho Stanley trying to button small fragile buttons, shows their differences and brute attraction.

     Stanley and Blanche are shown as opposites in the movie by not only their upbringing and beliefs, but also by appearance. Stanley is a strong, overbearing man in his prime. Blanche is a fading beauty who has been used and needs somebody to take care of her. The brute strength of Stanley makes Blanche seem like easy prey.

     The play and movie both have Blanche arriving in a white dress with gloves. This shows her innocence, perhaps not to sex, but to desire for Stanley. Stanley's working clothes are a sharp contrast to Blanche's. The movie shows him taking his shirt off and sweating. Although the two are distinct opposites, the attraction is obvious.

     The desire may have tried to be contained by the 1950's censors, but the use of Stanley, the setting, attraction of opposites, and clothing proved to be too much. The desire most certainly escaped from the play to the movie.

Angie Butler

Table of Contents