Living a Lie

     In the play A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams in 1947 and filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, Stella Kowalski and Blanche DuBois are sisters. However, they do not have anything in common but lies. Stella (Kim Hunter on screen) refuses to leave Stanley (Marlon Brando in the film), her husband, even though he beats her and she is pregnant. Blanche (Vivien Leigh in the movie) is a constant liar who begins to believe her own elaborated stories. Although Blanche is the one ultimately taken to a mental hospital, a question of Stella's sanity must also be raised.

     Stella lives in a fantasy world as much as Blanche, although Blanche is much more outrageous about her lies, and Stella lies to herself. Blanche shows up in a white suit with white gloves and a hat. This is in grave opposition to her true reputation. Blanche likes to pretend that admirers have helped her to live, and she plans to live off future ones. Although this seems insane, Stella's lies are just as fantastical. After Stanley beats her, she goes back to him and forgets what has happened. She knows his promises of not having poker parties will not hold, but she attributes it to her liking the movies and bridge. Stella also admits that the desire she has for Stanley makes other things seem unimportant. Her desire makes her blind to Stanley's real brutality.

     As Blanche sings in the bathtub about the phony world around her, Stella learns of Blanche's lies. She also learns that Stanley has told Mitch (Karl Malden on screen), Blanche's love interest, of her bad reputation in Laurel/Oriel. Instead of telling Blanche that everyone knows about the lies, she lets Blanche find out the hard way. Stella continues to lie when Blanche confronts her about something being wrong. This shows that they both refuse to admit the truth in their lives. They had rather go along with the lies.

     When Blanche accuses Stanley of raping her (although rape is never mentioned, it is hinted at), Stella decides to send her to a mental hospital. Stella again chooses to live in her fantasy world by choosing to live with Stanley in the play. The reader is given a hint that although she chose to believe Stanley, she has doubts. "I couldn't believe her story and go on living with Stanley" shows us that she felt she had to choose, believe her sister or live with Stanley. Unlike her cinematic counterpart, Stella chooses to keep living the lie, while Blanche's last hope for happiness is demolished. Blanche is sent to a mental hospital; but she is better off than Stella, who must live with Stanley.

Angie Butler

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