A How-Not-to Guide to Love

         There are how-to books available on many topics, but what is rarely seen is a how-not-to book. The best way to see how not to have a successful relationship is to read either A Doll's House or A Streetcar Named Desire. Both books show exactly how one should not approach relationships.

         Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play A Doll's House is a perfect example of how deceit can ruin a marriage. In the 1973 film version directed by Joseph Losey, we see exactly how the lies presented by Nora (Jane Fonda) destroy her marriage. She keeps vital information from her husband, Torvald (David Warner). She refuses to share with him that she had borrowed money by illegally signing her dead father's name. Instead, she tells him that her father left her money after his death.

         Nora spends all of her time and effort trying to be sure that Torvald never finds out about her true desires. She goes to great lengths to be sure no one else ever finds out her secret. She even goes so far as to stand up for Krogstad (Edward Fox), who threatens to expose her to Torvald.

         By the end of the movie, we see a major explosion when Torvald finally finds out about Nora's crime. He immediately treats her as a common criminal that is no longer worthy of his love. However, that does not matter much to Nora because she no longer loves him at all. She finally sees Torvald for the controlling, insensitive man she had never noticed was there. She finally becomes truthful to Torvald and tells him she no longer loves him. As she turns and walks away, finally in control and honest, Torvald realizes that he is not. He is alone and vulnerable. Their marriage is over.

         Another classic example of how a relationship should not be is in Tennessee Williams'1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire. There are three main relationships shown in Elia Kazan's 1951 film version that are not healthy. The first unhealthy relationship is between sisters Blanche (Vivian Leigh) and Stella (Kim Hunter). Blanche has a lot of resentment toward Stella because she had been forced to stay at their family home, Belle Reve, while Stella had thought of herself and moved to New Orleans.

         Throughout the movie, we find numerous lies that Blanche tells Stella. Blanche says she decided to take a leave of absence from work, when in reality she was fired for improper relations with a 17-year-old male student. Blanche also tells Stella a lie as to whether she has been living and working at a questionable hotel called "The Flamingo."

         Aside from those larger lies, she also tells smaller lies to Stella. She hides the truth on what really happened to Belle Reve, along with how much alcohol she drinks. It is apparent in both the film and play that the relationship between Stella and Blanche is not one of normal sisters.

         The second unhealthy relationship in Streetcar is between husband and wife--Stella and Stanley. The number one thing wrong with their relationship is physical abuse. In the beginning of the play, we see a scene in which Stanley beats a pregnant Stella because she refuses to turn the radio off. By this one instance, we see that Stanley has an anger management issue.

         Anger and abuse are not Stanley and Stella's only problem, though. Stanley also has a major drinking problem and spends most of his time getting drunk, playing poker with friends, and embarrassing Stella. Stanley rarely takes Stella's feelings into consideration, which is the main reason she ends up leaving him by the end of the movie. She no longer feels as though she knows him or can trust him as she has in the past.

         The last main unhealthy relationship in Streetcar is between the in-laws Stanley and Blanche. The first time Stanley meets Blanche, there is an unnatural chemistry. Blanche immediately becomes flirtatious with him. It is never evident if she acts this way in order to hide her secrets or because she is out of control when it comes to men. This is not the only inappropriate action between Blanche and Stanley, though. Stanley becomes immediately suspicious of the story she has been telling Stella, and he decides to investigate. Once Stanley finds out Blanche has an addiction to men, he feels he can take advantage. Stanley ends up raping Blanche, showing complete lack of consideration for Blanche, Stella, and their marriage.

         Both of these books and film adaptations are perfect examples of what people should not do if they want their relationships to succeed. Trust and respect are as important to a relationship as love is. In all cases, one should not follow the advice given in these plays. These are what not to do.

Elizabeth Barrett

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