Save the Best for Last

         It was not until the very end of this semester that my favorite film-literature combination was decided upon. I love Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire and Elia Kazan's 1951 cinematic version. Both are down-to-earth with no extra garbage included.

         The events in both the play and the movie, which are basically identical, can and do happen in everyday life. To me, the whole story line is based on relationships such as husband/wife, brother-in-law/sister-in-law, sisters, neighbors, strangers, and newfound lovers. Each of the characters in the story has a major role at some point. This expression of friendship, love, anger, sorrow, and sometimes even hatred are all expressed through these characters and their relationships. There is not a person in this world who cannot put himself/herself in the shoes of a least one of the characters and a situation he/she faces with in the story.

         The relationship of husband/wife is of course in reference to Stanley (Marlon Brando) and Stella (Kim Hunter). Their relationship centers on love, anger, and sorrow. Sometimes these emotions are presented individually, while at other times they can be viewed as a mixture. Stanley is a typical husband. He goes out with the guys and does his own thing then comes home and complains. Stella is a very devoted wife who is submissive to Stanley. They have spats, but they always make up and hang in there together.

         Stanley and Blanche (Vivien Leigh) are two people who love the same person very much but do not get along. Brother-in-laws and sister-in-laws can sometimes have strange relationships. In this case, the relationship is not the best. Stanley does not trust Blanche from the minute she walks in the door. He claims she is a liar, a thief, and very self-centered. Blanche tries to get along with Stanley in the beginning but cannot hold out to the end. Her respect for Stanley continues to dwindle as she is a bystander to his and Stella's relationship. When Stanley yells, abuses, and threatens Stella, Blanche cannot stand it.

         Even though Blanche and Stella have their moments and have not seen each other in years, they are still sisters. I really do think Stella and Blanche love each other. Stella is willing to take Blanche in and is at her beck and call the entire time she visits. Blanche may not show her love and admiration for Stella on a regular basis or even in an up-front manner, but one can see her feelings when Stanley goes on a drunken rampage. At these moments, Blanche wants to be there to protect Stella and repeatedly tries to get her to flee her husband's abuse. At the end of the story, especially in the film, Stella is very reluctant about her decision to send Blanche off, and I think her reluctance shows a strong sense of love and connection.

         If one of these circumstances has been one that someone cannot relate to, no one can escape the relationship of the neighbors. Stanley and Stella have neighbors who live above them. When things are rowdy, Eunice, the lady upstairs, beats on the floor and yells. But when things are rocky between Stanley and Stella and Stanley goes into a rage, Eunice is kind enough to take Stella in for the night or at least until things settle down.

         The relationship of strangers is another circumstance no one can deny having been a part of. When Blanche first moves in, she knows no one except Stanley and Stella. This all changes, though, on Stanley's poker night. Blanche meets Stanley's buddies and acts as if she has known them for years. Another total stranger Blanche has an encounter with is the young boy. Granted, almost anyone with morals and in his/her right mind would not likely present himself/herself to a total stranger as Blanche did in this situation. However, she does have encounters with strangers throughout the story up to the end when she is introduced to the doctor and nurse who take her away.

         Blanche does have the opportunity between meeting the strangers and meeting the nurse and doctor to get to know one of the strangers on a more personal level--so personal that love is brewed and a wedding is scheduled. This relationship between Blanche and Mitch (Karl Malden) reveals love, anger, pity, and deceit. "It was love at first sight," as the old saying goes. But toward the latter part of the story, it seems Mitch does not get a good "first sight." Throughout Blanche's relationship with Mitch, she is not completely truthful; she never wants him to see her in direct light in fear of her age showing, and her self-centeredness gets to Mitch. Mitch, with Stanley's help, decides Blanche is not right for him after an engagement has taken place. The engagement is called off, but at some point Mitch is happy about letting Blanche go. But, "All is fair in the game of love and war."

         One can see that relationships are the entire theme of the play and film. I like the book and the movie's parallels with each other because I think the movie is able to take the words from the book and capture them in personal feelings demonstrated in the film. This makes it worthwhile to me to view these emotions and relate to at least some of the relationships, whether my relation is positive or negative. I guess this just makes the story a little more personal in a way that no other literary work and/or movie can do for me.

Christina Coursey

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