A Streetcar Named Desire

streetcarTennesse Williams – A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)

STELLA: You have no idea how stupid and horrid you’re being! Now close that trunk before she
comes out of the bathroom!
[He kicks the trunk partly closed and sits on the kitchen table.]
STANLEY: The Kowalskis and the DuBois have different notions.
STELLA [angrily]: Indeed they have, thank heavens !–I’m going outside. [She snatches up her
white hat and gloves and crosses to the outside door.] You come out with me while Blanche is
getting dressed.
STANLEY: Since when do you give me orders?
STELLA: Are you going to stay here and insult her?
STANLEY: You’re damn tootin’ I’m going to stay here.
[STELLA goes out on the porch. BLANCHE comes out of the bathroom in a red satin robe.]
BLANCHE [airily]: Hello, Stanley! Here I am, all freshly bathed and scented, and feeling like a
brand-new human being!
[He lights a cigarette.]
STANLEY: That’s good.
BLANCHE [drawing the curtains at the windows]: Excuse me while I slip on my pretty new dress!!
STANLEY: Go right ahead, Blanche.
[She closes the drapes between the rooms].
BLANCHE: I understand there’s to be a little card party to which we ladies are cordially not
STANLEY [ominously]: Yeah?
[BLANCHE throws off her robe and slips into a flowered print dress.]
BLANCHE: Where’s Stella?
STANLEY: Out on the porch.
BLANCHE: I’m going to ask a favour of you in a moment.
STANLEY: What could that be, I wonder?
BLANCHE: Some buttons in back! You may enter!
[He crosses through drapes with a smouldering look.] How do I look ?
STANLEY: You look all right.
BLANCHE: Many thanks! Now the buttons!
STANLEY: I can’t do nothing with them.
BLANCHE: You men with your big clumsy fingers. May I have a drag on your cig?
STANLEY: Have one for yourself.
BLANCHE: Why, thanks! … It looks like my trunk has exploded.
STANLEY: Me an’ Stella were helping you unpack.
BLANCHE: Well, you certainly did a fast and thorough job of it!
STANLEY: It looks like you raided some stylish shops in Paris.
BLANCHE: Ha-ha! Yes–clothes are my passion!
STANLEY: What does it cost for a string of fur-pieces like that?
BLANCHE: Why, those were a tribute from an admirer of mine!
STANLEY: He must have had a lot of—-admiration!
BLANCHE: Oh, in my youth I excited some admiration. But look at me now! [She smiles at him
radiantly.] Would you think it possible that I was once considered to be–attractive?
STANLEY: Your looks are okay.
BLANCHE: I was fishing for a compliment, Stanley.
STANLEY: I don’t go in for that stuff.
BLANCHE: What–stuff?
STANLEY: Compliments to women about their looks. I never met a woman that didn’t know if she was good-looking or not without being told, and some of them give themselves credit for more than they’ve got. I once went out with a doll who said to me, ‘I am the glamorous type, I am the glamorous type!’ I said, ‘So what?’
BLANCHE: And what did she say then?
STANLEY: She didn’t say nothing. That shut her up like a clam.
BLANCHE: Did it end the romance?
STANLEY: It ended the conversation–that was all. Some men are took in by this Hollywood
glamour stuff and some men are not.
BLANCHE: I’m sure you belong to the second category.
STANLEY: That’s right.
BLANCHE: I cannot imagine any witch of a woman casting a spell over you.
STANLEY: That’s–right.
BLANCHE: You’re simple, straightforward and honest, a little bit on the primitive side I should
think. To interest you a woman would have to– [She pauses with an indefinite gesture.]
STANLEY [slowly]: Lay … her cards on the table.
BLANCHE [smiling]: Yes—yes–cards on the table. … Well, life is too full of evasions and
ambiguities, I think. I like an artist who paints in strong, bold colours, primary colours. I don’t like pinks and creams and I never cared for wish-washy people. That was why, when you walked in here last night, I said to myself—-‘My sister has married a man!’–Of course that was all that I could tell about you.
STANLEY [booming]: Now let’s cut the re-bop!
BLANCHE [pressing hands to her ears]: Ouuuuu!
STELLA [calling from the steps]: Stanley! You come out here and let Blanche finish dressing!
BLANCHE: I’m through dressing, honey.
STELLA: Well, you come out, then.
STANLEY: Your sister and I are having a little talk.
BLANCHE [lightly]: Honey, do me a favour. Run to the drugstore and get me a lemon-coke with
plenty of chipped ice in it!–Will you do that for me, Sweetie?




The Social Conflict Between Appearance and Reality

Blanche had freedom of expression, but only at the inward disdain of the others. Stanley was a very blunt, rough, and authoritative. He was not not used to Blanche’s personality, he disliked her because he felt that she threatened his authority.

Stanley (more so than the other characters) realizes that Blanche’s outward appearance and personality were merely facades which she created in order to protect herself. Stanley attacked Blanche’s weakest link: her reality. He sought to destroy Blanche by exposing her to the world.

(Stanley speaking) “Some men are took in by this Hollywood glamour stuff and some men are not” (Williams, A Streetcar…).

(Stanley speaking) “There isn’t no millionaire! And Mitch did not come back with roses… There isn’t a [explicit] thing but imagination!” (Williams, A Streetcar…).

As the play progresses, Stanley’s scheme works. Stella and Mitch slowly gravitate away from Blanche. They judge Blanche and her past at face value; they focus only on discovering her past mistakes and flaws. They see that Blanche was immoral in her past relations with men and looked no further. Their dislike and mistrust of her grows. They did not see the pain, loneliness, struggle, unhappiness, and rejection that Blanche experienced.

Stanley, Mitch, and Stella did not see Blanche as she really was because they were blinded by the differences they found with Blanche. The judged her quickly, only caring to look at one side of the evidence. They did not want to see Blanche as a good person, they did not want to feel sorry for her. Therefore, they made her look as bad as possible.

The Personal Conflict Between Reality and Fantasy

Blanche is illusive because she does not accept her circumstances; she does not accept her reality. Therefore, she lives in a fantasy. However, in order to do that she hides her true self. The audience is allowed to see that Blanche longs for true acceptance, yet never finds it. She lives in the mistakes of her past, and desires a brighter future.

“Both Blanche’s drinking and her endless hot baths suggest that she is attempting to wash away her past and emerge through a sort of watery purgatory” (Spampinato, 294).

Blanche has a flawed view of happiness…

Blanche firmly believes that only men bring happiness, and therefore, she never goes out on her own to find happiness.

“I cannot be alone! Because- as you must have noticed –I’m- I’m not very well….” (Williams, A Streetcar…).

She wants to return to the happiness she had before her husband committed suicide (which occurred as the result of Blanche accusing him for being homosexual). Therefore, Blanche puts forth much effort in attempt to attract the attention of young men; for example, she never appears in the light in order to hide her actual age.

“BLANCHE- ‘How do I look?’ STELLA- ‘Lovely, Blanche’” (Williams, A Streetcar…).

“And disgust and self-hate result in her life of destructive lust for young men. Thus her loving desire becomes brutal desire, unloving desire. It becomes that sheer lust which is a kind of real death” (Spampinato, 295).

Blanche tried to adapt her external circumstances to her inward fantasies, and that backfires on her.

“Yes, I had many intimacies with strangers. After the death of Allan, intimacies with strangers were all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with… I think it was panic, just panic, that drove me from one to another, hunting for some protection” (Williams, A Streetcar…).

Like her sister Stella, Blanche believed that the only way to gain stability and happiness was through the attention, appreciation, and adoration of men. Blanche saw her possible marriage to Mitch (who was much more of a gentleman than Stanley) as the only guarantee for her survival. Blanche did not really love Mitch, who at first believed that Blanche was a legitimate woman. However, after hearing Stanley’s accusations, he distanced himself from her.

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Elia Kazan – A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Directed by Elia Kazan. With: Vivien Leigh (Blanche du Bois), Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski), Kim Hunter (Stella Kowalski), Karl Malden (Mitch), Rudy Bond (Steve), Nick Dennis (Pablo), and Peg Hillias (Eunice).

Out of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, which gathered up most of the drama prizes that were awarded when it was playing on Broadway, director Elia Kazan and a simply superlative cast have fashioned a motion picture that throbs with passion and poignancy. Indeed, through the haunting performance England’s great Vivien Leigh gives in the heartbreaking role of Mr. Williams’s deteriorating Southern belle and through the mesmerizing moods Mr. Kazan has wreathed with the techniques of the screen, this picture, now showing at the Warner, becomes as fine, if not finer, than the play. Inner torments are seldom projected with such sensitivity and clarity on the screen…

…Mélees, titanic and degrading, within the filthy New Orleans slum where Blanche comes to live with her sister and her low-born brother-in-law have been staged by the prescient director with such tumultuous energy that the screen fairly throbs with angry violence, before settling sharply into spent and aching quiet. Hate-oozing personal encounters between the lost lady and the brutish man have been filmed with such shrewd manipulation of the close-up that one feels the heat of them. And with lights and the movement of his people and the conjunction of a brilliant musical score with dialogue of real poetic richness, Mr. Kazan has wrought heartache and despair.

In this dramatic illustration, which makes vivid, of course, a great deal more than a fundamental clash of natures between a woman and a man—which transmits, indeed, a comprehension of a whole society’s slow decay and the pathos of vain escapism in a crude and dynamic world—we say, in this dramatic illustration, Miss Leigh accomplishes more than a worthy repeat of the performance which Jessica Tandy gave on the stage.

Blessed with a beautifully molded and fluently expressive face, a pair of eyes that can flood with emotion, and a body that moves with spirit and style, Miss Leigh has, indeed, created a new Blanche du Bois on the screen—a woman of even greater fullness, torment, and tragedy. Although Mr. Williams’s writing never precisely makes clear the logic of her disintegration before the story begins—why anyone of her breeding would become an undisciplined tramp—Miss Leigh makes implicitly cogent every moment of the lady on the screen…

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