Desire Is Blanche’s Middle Name

         In Elia Kazan's 1951 film version of Tennessee Williams' 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) is soaking in desire. Throughout the entire play Blanche displays her desire of everything… especially men, baths, and alcohol.

         Blanche finds herself in hard times at home.  She has lost her childhood home Belle Reve; most of her family has died; her husband committed suicide in front of her; and she lost her job because her desire of a seventeen-year-old male student had overcome her. Having to deal with all of these, she seeks comfort from her sister and brother-in-law, Stella (Kim Hunter) and Stanley (Marlon Brando) Kowalski.

         However, from the moment Blanche arrives, Stanley is immediately cautious of her. He believes that there is more to the story than she is sharing with them. Blanche has told Stanley and Stella that she had left her job on a leave of absence because of stress, not because she was fired. Stanley immediately begins to investigate what really had happened at her previous home.

         Blanche becomes interested in Stanley's friend Mitch (Karl Malden) and wants to marry him. She spends a lot of time with him but never allows him to know what has really happened in her past. Because of Stanley's strong dislike for Blanche and Mitch's relationship, he begins asking more and more questions about Blanche's past to find out what has really happened in her past.

         In an effort to cover her desire for men, Blanche leans on two other things she desires, baths and alcohol. Blanche spends a lot of time soaking in the bath tub at the Kowalski's apartment maybe in an effort to wash her sins away. It also seems that what time she does not spend in the bath; she spends drinking alcohol drinking away her problems.

         The problems get worse for her instead of better, though. Stanley eventually finds out the truth about why Blanche is here and shares the information with Stella and Mitch.  The news that she was fired for having an affair with an underage student and was sleeping around with numerous men at the Flamingo Hotel does not go over very well with Mitch, and he soon leaves her. All of the problems that Blanche has with desire eventually drive her crazy, and she is taken off to a hospital to recover and move on from her desires.

Elizabeth Barrett

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