A Hand of Demeaning Kings and Tolerant Queens

         Very similar marital relationships exist between the Elia Kazan's 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire, based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, and A Doll's House, filmed in 1973 by Joseph Losey, based on Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play. Unworthy tolerance, years of lenience, degrading habits, and the mistreatment of fear are all characteristics which carry through both films.

         Stanley, played by Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Torvald, performed by David Warner in A Doll's House, view their wives as objects who are quickly reminded to not show any signs of disrespect to their profound manhood. Nora, depicted by Jane Fonda in A Doll's House, and Stella, performed by Kim Hunter, in A Streetcar Named Desire, both present themselves as belonging to the colony of mediocre housewives at their men's beck and call. Neither woman seems to desire a need to establish equality and respect in the relationships with their husbands until the very end of the films. One may feel some discouragement to even place that much blame on the husbands because in both relationships, the women did not put up any type of fight against their husbands, nor did they show many signs of displeasure in their husband's ill mannerism until the very end of the films. It was no surprise the husbands continued to act the way they did. Nora acted chipper all of the time, hopping around like a squirrel, even when Torvald demeaned her intelligence. Stella saw the signs of Stanley's short temper and violent ways yet still seductively paced back to him showing undisrupted admiration towards his outlandish behaviors.

         Stella's signal to fold from her game of marriage, played with an overly tolerant routine with an aggressive, animal-like man, occurs when she finally sees through Stanley after he had Blanche (Vivien Leigh) committed and sent away from his palace. Nora's signal to fold from a life with her negligent husband took place when Torvald discovered the secret loan she took out and the sin of the forged signature of her father. This loan undermined his manhood because Nora was the one who had to help him, contrary to their current lifestyle. As a result, he felt the need to put his little woman back into her insignificant role in his house. This role was only suitable for the companionship of a mindless doll. He did this through declaring her tainted doll-like qualities were now unsuitable for their children.

         A pair of weak queens and unruly kings definitely is not a hand I would bet money on to triumph over in the game of a happy marriage. Stella ran up the stairs to escape her Stanley. However, those stairs are the same stairs she paced back down only to embrace him again upon her return. Nora will not be able to obtain money from her husband after she has left him. She is going to have a hard time making it out on her own without any real job experience. My consensus is that when these women start thinking about a life without their man, they are both going to realize they are in dismal need for some money and will come back for another round in the game.

Janna Tanner

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