Stella and Blanche Polar Opposites

         Very rarely does anyone see sisters so dissimilar than in the 1951 film version of Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan. Stella Kowalski (Kim Hunter) and Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) are sisters only a few years apart, but the viewer would never guess they were sisters when watching how they act, speak, and look.

         Stella and Blanche were both married very young, but Blanche's husband had died; so after a short period of time, she decides to visit her sister and brother-in-law, Stella and Stanley (Marlon Brando) in New Orleans. It is evident at the first look at Blanche that she is a fragile individual and thinks highly of herself. After finding Stella at the bowling alley, Blanche immediately begins talking about herself and does not let Stella get a word in edgewise. This continues all the way back to Stella's house, in which the viewer sees that Blanche thinks only of herself with all her trunks of clothes, jewelry, perfume, and salts for the bath. Stella, however, allows Blanche to ramble on without saying anything.

         Another difference between Stella and Blanche is that Blanche is constantly fishing for compliments about her appearance, which the viewer learns in the end this may be part of her ploy to attract men. She repeatedly asks Stella and Stanley if they like how she looks. What was extremely interesting was to watch Blanche when Stanley would answer her. Stanley does not care how she looks and does not put any thought into his blunt answers.

         The key difference between the two sisters and one I did not understand at first is that Blanche always wants the rooms to be dim. She even goes and buys a lampshade for one of the lights. In the end, we do see Mitch (Karl Malden), the latest of Blanche's suitors, finally finding out from Stanley that she had a very sordid past at the Flamingo Hotel and at her high school, at which she had seduced a young boy. He is so mad that he rips the lampshade off, and the viewer is eventually able to see Blanche's face in the light. She appears old and frightened. At this point in the movie I thought that Blanche truly has become very crazy, especially when she begins talking to Stanley about telegrams from Shep Huntleigh, an old beau, and trips that were never offered to her. The viewer never sees Stella act in this manner. She never worries about her appearance, which may be because she has a husband, who does not really care; but the viewer also never sees her with perfumes, expensive jewelry, or extremely nice clothes.

         Upon watching both Stella and Blanche, I find that it is amazing that they are sisters. I have never seen two people act so differently. It is evident throughout the movie that the two love each other; but, other than that, love seems to be the only thing the sisters two have in common.

Jill Hawanchak

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