A Family With Issues

         If I were to teach a film-literature course to follow a particular agenda, such as women's issues, abusive relationships, and psychological studies, I would most likely use A Streetcar Named Desire, directed in 1951 by Elia Kazan. This story, based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, is a great example of the previous characteristics.

         Stanley (Marlon Brando) and Stella (Kim Hunter) have a great marriage until Stella's sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh) comes to stay with them for a while.

         Blanche, a flaming manic-depressive, comes to New Orleans and basically ruins her sister's marriage. She is a perfect example for a nursing student or a psychology major who is studying psychological disorders. Blanche shows many examples of a person with bipolar disorder in this story. She is always pacing around the house nervously. She makes up stories that are not true.

         Stanley realizes Blanche is not telling the truth. When he confronts her about it, she acts as if she has no idea of what he is talking about. She tells Stanley and Stella that her old boyfriend is taking her on a cruise. Blanche is no longer in reality. She has created her own little world, as many manic depressives do.

         It breaks Stella's heart seeing her sister act this way, but Blanche causes many problems between Stanley and Stella. Stanley becomes very abusive toward Stella after Blanche comes to live with them. He comes across as an alcoholic in both the film and the book. It seems that the only time he is abusive is evident when he has been drinking.

         Stanley seems to yell throughout the entire film. He is always mad about something that Stella or Blanche has done. For Blanche's birthday, they are all eating dinner and cake; and the next thing I know, Stanley is throwing his plate across the room. This is a great example of abuse in this story.

         Between Stanley and Blanche, Stella is stuck in the middle. Her sister has a very serious mental disorder, and her husband is an alcoholic who is putting up with it! The two do not mesh well at all! This leaves Stella in a bind. She loves both of them very much.

         Toward the end of the story, Stella calls a mental institution and has a couple of the staff come and pick up Blanche. She knows that Stanley cannot take any more of Blanche's crazy talk. It is driving their marriage into the ground. Another thing that did not help is the secret Blanche tells Stella. Blanche tells her that Stanley had raped her.

         It seems that, when things start to shape up, something happens to turn the situation upside down. Stella is absolutely heartbroken over this. She seems lost without her sister and her husband. She sends Blanche to an institution, and leaves Stanley. There is a baby involved, however. She has gone back to him one hundred times already, so I am sure she will come back to him again after the movie ends.

         I do not think Stella should go back to Stanley. That would add to the list of abuse, psychological problems, and, of course, dumb women!

         But this movie is a perfect example of reality. Things such as abuse, alcoholism, and disorders occur in everyday life. If I were to teach a course that included these things, A Streetcar Named Desire would be a perfect pick. I will keep this story in mind as I proceed further into psychology courses.

Caitlin Summers

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