Influences

         Many times people let their friends, relatives, or colleagues influence major life decisions. These influences can often be on marriage, careers, and even large purchases such as a house or car. People need to think for themselves because this approach often makes them even unhappier than when they had started.

         This is the case in the play, A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams in 1947. The movie A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan in 1951, also presents the same problem. Stella (Kim Hunter) and her sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh), have grown up in a rich family on a large plantation named Belle Reve. They always have nice things and live in a large house. When the two get old enough to marry, Stella moves away to New Orleans. She marries a "common" man who works hard for his money, but who does not have much to show for it. Blanche stays behind with the family, taking care of them as one-by-one they all die.

         The two sisters keep in touch, but Stella always stretches the truth about her life with Stanley (Marlon Brando). She does not want Blanche to know she is married to a "common" man because she knows Blanche's standards are higher than that. Stella is perfectly happy with her life. She enjoys being with her husband and has many friends. All this changes when Blanche comes to stay with her after Belle Reve was repossessed.

         Blanche travels to New Orleans to stay with Stella until she finds somewhere to live. When she arrives she finds Stella's apartment to be nothing like the way Stella had described it. It is run down and old. When she meets Stanley, he is drinking and being a loud mouth. It appalls Blanche that her sister is living this way, and she tells her so.

         Stella holds her ground when Blanche starts in about the apartment and Stanley. She explains to Blanche that she is perfectly happy living the way she is, that she is madly in love with Stanley, and that they are going to have a baby. Stella remains convinced of her own happiness for the first few months Blanche is staying with her.

         After a few months of living with Blanche, Stella's behavior towards Stanley changes. She is constantly requesting that he not be so loud or that he help pick up the table. These are tasks that well-bred men normally perform, but Stanley is not well bred. This angers Stanley, and he becomes violent after enduring a couple months of it.

         Because Blanche is the instigator of all Stanley's anger, he eventually takes it out on her. While Stella is in the hospital with the baby, Stanley rapes Blanche; but no one believes her. This is the point at which the ending of the play and the movie differ.

         In both versions Stella decides to send Blanche to a mental hospital because of her claims against Stanley and other behavior that has been reported. However, in the play Stella stays with Stanley after Blanche is taken away. In the movie Stella realizes what Stanley really is and leaves after Blanche is taken away.

         If Blanche had never come to stay with Stella and Stanley, they would have probably lived a happy life. However, with the influence of Blanche back in Stella's life again, Stella's original upbringing has been brought back to the surface; and she has realized Stanley was not what she wants, although she resigns herself to him at the end of the play. Allowing Blanche to influence her life has only brought her trouble she was not looking for.

Paige LeFan

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