Tricks on the Mind

     In the 1951 movie version of Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan, Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) goes crazy as the movie progresses and eventually loses her mind at the climax. Blanche's breaking point seems to be the moment when Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando) questionably rapes her. I feel that it was Blanche's previous lifestyle in Laurel, Mississippi, that led to her craziness.

     After losing her family’s beloved plantation at Belle Reve, Blanche arrives in New Orleans to visit her sister, Stella Kowalski (Kim Hunter), and her husband, Stanley. Blanche already seems to have insane tendencies upon her arrival. She takes a bath every free moment she gets and does little but talk about herself and how good she looks. She is also very flirtatious and does not like for men to see her in the light. Blanche constantly talks about her former boyfriends and the men that used to call on her. One thing that is very noticeable about Blanche is the way she seems secretly attracted to Stanley. She always flirts with him and glances at him passionately. Blanche does this with all the men that she comes into contact with, including Stanley’s friends and even a young newspaper salesman. It is Blanche’s past in Laurel, which Stanley uncovers about her that leads to her flirtatious ways. It seems that Blanche used to be a whore at a hotel in Laurel called the Flamingo.

     I believe that the reason Blanche gets crazier as the film progresses is due to the fact that she had contracted syphilis while turning tricks at the Flamingo. Syphilis is the same disease that had caused Al Capone, the famous mobster, to lose his sight and go crazy. It is also the same disease that many believe had led to Hitler's insanity. I feel that the reason Blanche left Laurel was that not only had she gotten a name for herself and lost Belle Reve, but also she had contracted syphilis, and no one would sleep with her anymore. That is why she came to stay with Stella and Stanley in New Orleans. Blanche was hoping to start a new life, but the syphilis started to affect her mind too quickly. She bathed often in scalding water because I believe she thought that would help get rid of her disease. Little did Blanche know that medicine is the only cure for this disease. I also believe that is why she would not sleep with Mitch because she did not want to infect him with syphilis. When Stanley attacks Blanche, and they have intercourse I do not think he knew she had syphilis.

     I think this will have long-term effects on Stanley, causing him to become more insane and masochistic toward Stella and other women. It could also lead to him infecting Stella with the disease. Stanley may have gotten rid of Blanche, but she has left him with an eternal gift.

Cullan Couleas

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