Abusive Relationships

         If I were to teach a group concerning the specific category of abusive relationships, I hope that I would be awarded a pretty lengthy class period. Just from the literature that was presented in class, there are several examples of relationships being abusive. Of all of the films seen in class, I believe that A Streetcar named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan in 1951 and based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, William Wyler's 1939 movie of Emily Bronte's 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, and 1949 movie The Heiress, based on Henry James's 1880 novel, Washington Square, are the three most obvious examples. Thankfully for the reader, these stories were not written during today's society. If they had been, I believe that all three couples would have received counseling, making all three stories a whole lot less interesting.

         Obviously, Stanley (Marlon Brando) from Elia Kazan's movie A Streetcar Named Desire is the prime example of what today the nation refers to as a "wife beater." As in the 1947 Broadway play, also directed by Tennessee Williams, Stanley is absolutely heartless, showing no remorse whatsoever for the way he acts. In both the play and the movie, Stella (Kim Hunter) returns for more. This drives Stanley to keep acting the way that he is without change. I mean honestly, who would not? The man gets what he wants, listens to nobody, treats his pregnant wife lower than life itself, and yet has absolutely no repercussions at all. For a man like Stanley, this is the perfect life.

         When Stella's sister Blanche (Vivien Leigh) moves in, it all starts over again. Now, just by simply looking at either the Broadway show or the movie, one realizes that it is rather easy miss the other relationship that Stanley is part of. Regardless if it is explained or not, Blanche and Stanley are also in a relationship. Just because the relationship is not a love affair and is not sexual (mutually consented), that does not mean that abuse cannot happen. Blanche is a prime example of this. She comes to Stella's home because of the trouble she has had in her past. She has left herself vulnerable because of this. From the moment that Blanche walks through the door of Stanley's house, Stanley abuses her. First, it is merely mental. Stanley would give subtle hints of her not being welcome. That moves on to verbal abuse. Stanley blatantly tells Blanche to leave and never to come back.

         Why she does not leave then, instead of staying and keeping herself in a dangerous situation, is beyond me. When things finally boils over, it becomes rather easy to see the abusive relationship between Stanley and Blanche. While Stella is in the hospital having Stanley's baby, Stanley is at home, raping her sister, Blanche. Although this scene is relatively omitted from the screenplay, by context, it is pretty self-explanatory. To top it off and end the abusive relationship between Stanley and Blanche, Stanley convinces Stella to send Blanche away to a mental institute.

         Near the end, Stella realizes the truth. Stella decides to leave Stanley. Personally, this is a great move. She has done what Blanche should have done but had not had the strength to do. She has taken herself out of the abusive relationship, which probably in the long run saves her life, as well as the life of her baby. In my opinion, Stanley has got what he deserves.

         The 1939 movie of Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler, is another example of a story that contains an abusive relationship. As also seen in the 1847 novel Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is quite the womanizer by today's standards. In the movie, Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) abuses basically every woman that he comes in contact with. However, the type of abuse that Heathcliff dishes out is far different from the abuse that Stanley from A Streetcar Named Desire administers. The first, and most easily noticeable sign of an abusive relationship is that of Heathcliff and Catherine (Merle Oberon). Catherine is the love of Heathcliff's life throughout the entire novel and film. Knowing that she would never have a decently prestigious life with Heathcliff, she marries Edgar Linton (David Niven), a rich man who, in my opinion, loves Cathy just as much as Heathcliff does.

         As a means of spite and desperation, Heathcliff marries Linton's sister, Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Although Isabella truly loves Heathcliff, the marriage is not good. Heathcliff uses this marriage to not only stay close to Catherine but also to make sure that he is never out of Catherine's life, thus guaranteeing that she is miserable due to the fact that she married someone else. This is the type of abusive relationship that Catherine and Heathcliff have. Just because there were no bruises or bumps, that does not mean that Heathcliff has not abused her.

         To think that abusing Catherine was not enough, Heathcliff sets in on his new wife. Unhappy in her marriage and realizing the mistakes that she had made, Isabella wants out. This is the point that it becomes extremely apparent that Heathcliff has set his sights on making Isabella's life a living hell. Heathcliff would not let Isabella out of the marriage, saying that she had married him and that she has obligations to stay with him, regardless of if she likes it or not. In my opinion, the abuse that Isabella has endured is far more than what Catherine has had to deal with.

         The tables have totally turned on Heathcliff. He never does get to be with Catherine, since he realizes that the only time that he has had with her has the time he has used to torment her on her decision to be with someone else. Like Stanley from A Streetcar Named Desire, Heathcliff has made the decision to abuse the women in his life, and has been required to pay the price for it.

         Although it is not as apparent as the prior two examples, I believe that, in the 1949 film The Heiress, Morris (Montgomery Clift) is definitely abusive to Catherine (Olivia de Havilland). Again, the abuse that is administered is not physical. The abuse is totally mental, which in most cases can be more catastrophic that any other type of abuse. It is totally obvious that Morris' intentions to marry Catherine exist only because of the money, $20,000, that she would inherit from her father (Ralph Richardson). When Morris catches wind of the loss of that money, he runs full throttle the opposite direction. What makes this absolutely horrifying is the fact that he has done so without any notice. He actually blatantly lies to Catherine, telling her that he is going to pick her up. This scars her for life, which is expected. Because of this, she refuses to make amends with her father before his death. I feel that after his death, Catherine regrets never settling things with her father and blames this solely on Morris.

         When Morris hears that Catherine's father had passed, he comes crawling back to her. Personally, it is the best thing that Catherine could have done--locking Morris out while he has the impression that the two of them are to run off and get married. It takes a brave woman to turn down an offer that she had been so hurt over for long. Like the other two men, Morris has got what he deserves.

         By no means am I saying that I am the perfect catch for any woman that I cross. However, I do respect people more (especially the that I care for) than the men of these three screenplays. Simply stated, abusing relationships are wrong, whether it be physical, verbal, or mental. All three of these men have displayed signs of abusing their loved ones, some of the men in multiple ways. In my opinion, the treatment that Stanley, Heathcliff, and Morris have administered is reason enough for all three of them to live unhappily for the rest of their lives.

Aaron Mosier

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