In Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, I find Stella (Kim Hunter) to be an especially tragic character. Not only does she live in an incredibly oppressive environment, but she also chooses (in the play, anyway) to stay in it. There really is no light at the end of the tunnel for her, and I just ended up feeling sorry for her after I read the play.
Stanley (Stella's husband, portrayed by Marlon Brando on stage and screen) is a controlling man who does not allow her to live her own life. At one point she even has to ask permission to go down the street to watch him bowl. This is not an environment that is conducive to her growing as a person. The situation goes from bad to worse after Stella's sister Blanche, depicted by Vivien Leigh in the film, comes to live with the couple.
Blanche and Stanley have a dynamic relationship. She craves male attention; and he sees her as she really is, a woman who is less than chaste and teetering on the brink of insanity. The fact that he sees through her drives Blanche crazy, and the relationship between them grows darker. Eventually, Stanley drives Blanche insane by raping her. Any man that can commit a crime as heinous as rape has it within him to do anything to anyone, including murder. It simply becomes a matter of time and situation, and Stella would most likely end up on the wrong end of both of those things.
In the rape we find yet another reason for Stella to leave while she can. She is married to a cruel, controlling man who has now shown that he has the capacity for extreme violence and has no conscience. This is a situation that nothing good can come out of, and the only real option that Stella has left is to take the baby and get out while the getting is good.
The actors in the film really demonstrate the relationships in a convincing manner. Marlon Brando plays a strangely likeable anti-hero as Stanley. I found myself wanting to cheer for him at times, yet I was incredibly repelled by his actions at others.
Kim Hunter, the actress who played Stella in the film, also did a commendable job. She acted as the glue that held all three main characters together and was quite believable as the oppressed wife who still loved her husband. Vivien Leigh was excellent as Blanche, playing the role of both the real character and the front she tried to put up rather well. Overall, the characters in the film were well developed and demonstrated the hopelessness of Stella's situation very thoughtfully.