Setting in A Streetcar Named Desire

         In addition to a fantastically acted movie with fascinating characters, Elia Kazan’s use of setting in his 1951 adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire also lends to the greatness of the film and helps it achieve the effect he wants it to achieve.

         I suppose partial credit for this achievement goes to Williams. It was he, after all, who decided to set his play in New Orleans, but I believe Kazan did an excellent job of making that setting come to life on the screen.

         After coming from her Mississippi plantation, when Blanche first arrives in New Orleans, she immediately feels as if she is in a foreign place, a place she takes a dislike to and does not seem to feel comfortable in. This is understandable on her part, but I think it is symbolic of other feelings Blanche might be having. She is leaving her comfortable world of pompous pretense, where she can act her way through life, into one that is unabashedly real. New Orleans is likely a microcosm of what is going on in America at the time. People of foreign cultures coming into the country and assimilating themselves made were resented by the traditional upper class.

         Marlon Brando’s Stanley Kowalski and Vivien Leigh’s Blanche immediately clash, and that clash could be representative of each of their bigger roles in society. Blanche is desperately trying to hang on to a perfect world she has concocted in her head that only exists superficially. Stanley recognizes this and tries to antagonize her by rushing along the shattering of that world of pretense.

         Furthermore, the fact that both characters’ sanity disintegrates by the end of play makes it even more natural that it would take place in New Orleans, a place known for its weirdness and strange customs and behavior. The film takes on a hysterical feel by its end, and the setting only seems to perpetuate that.

Tommy Dillard

Table of Contents