Free A Streetcar Named Desire: Play and Film Essay Sample

A Streetcar Named Desire is a play that was first written by Tennessee Williams, in the year 1947. Though the play was at first meant for the theatres and had changed the whole aspect of American theatres during that time, it was later produced as a film in the year 1951. In addition, during that time, the film production industry saw the play as an instant success: this was based on the fact that it was already popular to the general public, given its success as a stage play and production; it also brought out the American culture, thus, its popularity. The film was a big success and this put Tennessee Williams to be seen as a highly respected modern play writer.

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The play, A Streetcar Named Desire, first played at the theatre, called Ethel Barrymore towards the end of the year 1947. After its release, it was believed to have brought about a lot of controversy: moreover, the following days most of the media industry had different reviews of the play and its writer Tennessee Williams; although, there were negative reviews, most of the reviews were highly positive and in praise of both the writer and play itself. It was believed that Tennessee Williams brought out a new category of play in the theatres: he used new stylistic aspects of the stage to its optimum and this might have led to a change from the usual drama attributes that were dominant in the theatres. In addition, though the film may be perceived as tragic by many, there is also an as aspect of comedy, hence, leaving the audience in a state of dilemma (Yacowar, 1977).

The film, which is based on the current state of the American society, defined by sexuality and immorality, is a story about a young southern lady, called Blanche Dubois, who came from a wealthy family of Mississippi planters: she is believed to be delicate, fragile and repressed and these traits lead her to be in a state of emotional and mental disorder, even though she was determined to make it in the modern society. This happens in her sister’s place; a one bedroom French Quarter apartment, she is married to a husband who is a drunk and violent. In addition, the modern society was defined by brutal force, ignorance and lust aspects that she did not believe she would be met with. The arrival of Blanche to her sister’s place may have caused a state of instability between her sister and her brother-in-law. Given that she had been escaping her past, whereby she had been involved with a minor student and got fired as a teacher, her brother-in-law found out and in an effort to confront her, he raped her and sent her to a mental institution. This act may have led to Blanche’s sister to leave her husband and make a vow never to go back to him (Tischler, 1961).

The play is made up of ten major characters, including Blanche Dubois; she is the main character who arrives at her sister’s place after her ancestral home is destroyed and her indiscretion in her previous job as a teacher. Stella Kowalski, she is the sister to Blanche Dubois and is married to an abusive husband. Stanley Kowalski, he is the husband of Stella and is a war veteran who is aggressive in nature. Harold Mitchell, one of the poker players who is attracted to Blanche, proposes to her but their relationship does not work because of Blanche’s past. Steve Hubbell and Eunice Hubbell, they are the neighbors of the Kowalski family and live upstairs of the Kowalski’s apartment building. Young man has a flirtation scene with Blanche as he comes to collect money for newspapers. Pablo Gonzales, he is a player in the poker game. Colored woman, a neighbor of the Kowalski family, brought in to show the diversity of races in the city of New Orleans. Mexican woman also brought in to show diversity of races and acts as a street vendor. Doctor and nurse, they take part in the institutionalization of Blanche as a mental patient (Williams, 1951)

The play is also made up of eleven major scenes that sum up the play. The first scene is about the arrival of Blanche Dubois from her ancestral home to her sister’s place. The second scene is about how Stanley finds out about the plantation that was lost and is a scene, where there is preparation for the poker game to take place. The third scene is about how the poker game is going on and Stella and Blanche come back from there night out; it is also the scene, where Blanche meets Harold Mitchell. Scene four is about how Blanche perceives Stanley and argues with Stella about him: he comes in unnoticed and listens to the argument between the two sisters and shows Blanche that he has control over her sister. The fifth scene is about how Stanley confronts Blanche about her past and is also where Blanche flirts with the young man, collecting money for newspapers. In addition, in this scene, there is also an argument between the neighbors of the Kowalski family. The sixth scene is where Harold and Blanche open up and have a conversation: Blanche talks about her past and Mitch proposes to Blanche. The seventh scene takes place in a scenario, where several months have passed by; Stanley is still unpleased by Blanche and argues about her with his wife; confronts Blanche and tells her that he had told Harold about her past and that he had called off the wedding. The eighth scene is about the birthday party for Blanche; Mitch does not show up and Stanley gives Blanche a ticket to go back to her home as her birthday present. The ninth scene is about Harold, coming to confront Blanche about the lies that she has been telling him. Mitch tells Blanche that he cannot marry her because of her past but goes on to try and ask her to sleep with him. This gets to Blanche and she is irritated and furious and asks Mitch to leave. The tenth scene is about how Stanley confronts Blanche and goes on to rape her. The eleventh scene, which is the last scene, is about how Blanche is preparing to go to the countryside; her sister has already given birth and is helping in the preparation: a doctor and nurse arrive and take Blanche away to a mental institution. This, in turn, makes Stella to leave her husband (ARTHEA, 2004).

The play was highly based on sexuality and this may have caused a lot of controversy among older people and the religious people. This, in turn, during the production of the film may have led to certain scenes being left out, but as the years progressed, so has the remake of the film, bringing out the scenes that had been edited, which act as the main plot of the film: for instance, the part, where Blanche’s brother-in-law rapes her, leading to her mental breakdown. Over the years, the films scenes that were cut out have been put back one by one; hence, leading to the play that was originally written by Tennessee Williams, showing the American society back in the late 40s to the early 50s  (Kolin, 1998).

The editing and cutting out of given scenes of the play during the making of the film may have led to certain similarities and differences between the play and the film. These include similarities; the play was believed to be a huge success and received the awards of Pulitzer and drama critics circle as was the film produced and had a number of academy awards such as best supporting actress and best actress. Another similarity is that the actors and the crews that made the film and play were mostly the same. The plot and words in both the film and the play are more or less the same, as they go word to word, based on a standard script that was written by Tennessee Williams. On the other hand, looking at the differences a person might see that though the lead actors were ladies, the one in the film is different from the one in the play. The film was shot in different locations, while the play is staged in a single theatre, whereby only the background is changed. Another difference is that in the film, some of the scenes had been censored or, left out but in the play nothing was left out; in addition, in the film, the issue of homosexuality was changed unlike the play, whereby it was in accordance to the script. The scenes of rape and given moral issues in the film were changed, but in the play nothing was changed.

Since the introduction of the play, A Streetcar Named Desire, there have been several critical reviews, written about the play. There is a belief that most of the critics perceive the play to be based on the theme of social drama, but there is no known critic who has defined the type of social drama category that the play falls under. Some believe that the roles of Blanche and Stanley define archetypes of species and culture; hence, it can be said to be a socio-historic drama. This group further subdivides their view into:  Nietzschean Apollonian or, Dionysian dichotomy, Chekhovian Naturalism, and Strindbergian and Darwinian natural selection. Another group of critics perceive Blanche and Stanley to be more of stand-out individuals, rather than types of species. In addition, they see the audience as voyeurs in relation to the personal conflict between the two actors. Moreover, this group of critics further divides their view into three aspects, which include: study of antihero versus hero, study of the knowledge of Lawrentian blood and study of victim versus villain. The group of critics that views the play A Streetcar Named Desire as a dramatization of types of human nature, look at it in the sense of sexual desire for propagation and protection and not in the sense of ideology. For the case of Darwin natural selection, they view Blanche and Stanley as two disputing animals of a similar species, fighting for survival (BAK, 2004).

In conclusion, I believe that the play was set to bring out how the American society was doing at that particular time, following the end of the Second World War. Although, in film it was seen as immoral in certain scenes, it became a big success and has been filmed in different regions over the years.


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