Should I Stay, or Should I Go?

         What pushes a person to make the decision to leave a situation and then later decide to stay away for good or to eventually return to the situation that he or she has left? When reading the plays--Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House, filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, and Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Name Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, one can see situations in which would be appropriate for the female characters to leave.

         In A Doll's House Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) is a housewife who puts up with verbal abuse and degrading speech all the time. She is treated as if she is Torvald's (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins) pet, ready to play whenever he wants to play. In order to get money from him, Nora must act and play as if she were a school girl, even doing squirrel gestures Garland's version in order to get Torvald to hand over the money.

         Nora is forced to keep a secret of a loan as well as the forgery of her dead father's signature, she had taken out in order to care for Torvald's health when he was ill. She has been secretly paying off the loan; but, when Torvald finds out about the loan, he goes wild. Nora has seen a side of Torvald she had never known before because he has yelled at her, yelling at her calling her names, and degrading her. In fact, Anthony Hopkins' Torvald even hits Claire Bloom's Nora, while calling her a stupid woman.

         Later when he finds out the situation has been taken care of, he apologizes to Nora and tells her he would forgive her. Nora, shocked at the situation does not want to be forgiven; she had only done what she had to do save Torvald's life; and she wanted him to appreciate that. After the rage of Torvald has been inflicted upon Nora, her eyes were opened to the fact that she has been unfairly treated and she realized she was being treated as a child and wants more for her life. She informs Torvald that she is leaving him and the children as well. And in the last scene she walks out the door.

         In the play and movie of A Streetcar Named Desire, Stella (Kim Hunter) is a young woman who is abused by her husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando), constantly. Stella knows Stanley has a bad temper, yet she remains to return to him over and over again after he abuses her. One incident occurs when Stella and her sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh), come home at a late hour and Stanley and his buddies are still playing poker. Stella gets in trouble when she talks too loudly to Blanche, while playing the radio at a high volume. The drunken Stanley goes into a fit, throws the radio out the window, grabs Stella, and throws her around, as he punches her.

         After that abuse, Stella runs up to her neighbors' house and stays until Stanley cries at the bottom of the stairs for her. Then Stella seems to forget everything that has just happened and runs lustfully into his open arms. Throughout the play and movie, Stanley does very mean things to her and her sister, when he rapes her; but Stella keeps running back. At the end of the play and movie Stanley sends Stella's sister to the crazy house and yells at Stella when she throws a scene. In the play, Stella remains with Stanley; but, in the movie, at the insistence Stella runs up the stairs with their newborn baby, insisting that she will never go back.

Britney Darnell

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