Showing a Feeling

        Probably, most parents would not want their children to grow up to be like Blanche or Stanley from Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire, written in 1947, and filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan.

        The audience immediately dislikes Stanley (Marlon Brando) through his crudeness and chauvinism; I probably would not be alone is saying that he could use some anger management. Blanche (Vivien Leigh, however, is a bit different. We meet this wide-eyed character with a feeling of adoration. She gives the immediate impression of a cultured, refined belle who cares deeply for her younger sister, Stella (Kim Hunter). It is not until we observe her roundabout interactions with other characters and her attempts to blanket a troublesome past that we know she is a victim of psychological problems. The instability of the two characters is provoked even more through their encounter, as they are two very different people. Although Blanche’s feminine, styled manner clashes with Stanley’s crude, rough ways; the two have something in common. Both Stanley and Blanche are mentally unhealthy, yet Stanley manifests this indirectly and Blanche does so directly.

        Stanley’s temperamental problems are blatant by his physical and verbal expressions. We see this from beginning when he aggressively questions Blanche about her wealth; he continues to be verbally abusive when he yells at Stella. His aggression escalates through his physical violence, when he “clears” the table by throwing dishes, and even rapes Blanche. Blanche’s inability to protect herself from Stanley signifies how ruthless he is. While Blanche is the innocent victim in this case, she is more than the dainty, lady-like figure that meets the eye . . . she has psychological problems of her own.

        While Blanche’s actions are more subtle than Stanley’s, she also is unstable. A viewer can detect this through the interactions she has with other characters such as her Stella and Stanley. Her insecurity with her own fading appearance is shown when she back-handedly insults her sister, as when she mentions that she has gained weight. This vanity is further proven when she fishes for compliments, as when she asks Stanley if he could believe at one point people considered her to be attractive.

        Blanche’s more serious problems are shown later in the play through her delusions of a man coming to take her away and her dressing of fine clothing in the middle of the night. This is her mechanism to escape her tragic past and rejection from Mitch. Rather than fighting her issues like Stanley, she deals with them through denial.

        Through Stanley’s violence and Blanche’s delirium, we see that mental instability can be expressed in various ways. This play not only entertains the audience through the multitude of interactions and personalities that meet the stage but also informs the audience that showing that people are complex. A troublesome past will affect each person differently, and anger can be expressed in a multitude of ways.

Shauna Dillon