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Extra Credit: A Streetcar Named Desire analysis

Filed under: Extra Credit — Natalie Bernabe at 3:29 am on Friday, December 9, 2011

All rights to wrcoe who uploaded the video on Youtube

WARNING: Spoilers will occur in this analysis.


A Streetcar Named Desire – Kindness of Strangers

This 1951 film is an adaptation derived directly from the 1947 play, with the same name of course.  It is a story of a disturbed, older southern woman named Blanche DuBois who moves in with her sister, Stella, and her brutish brother-in-law, Stanley, in New Orleans, all the while fighting to bury her ‘loose’ past and deal with her unstable grasp on reality. The scene I decided to evaluate was the final scene; after Stanley has raped Blanche (which means white btw!) and has sent for personnel from an insane asylum to take her away. She had just taken a bath, which could signify her desire to ‘wash away’ the act of Stanley’s rape, which has caused her to have a clear nervous breakdown. She had told Stella (which means star) what had happened, but she didn’t believe her, and agrees to have her sent to the asylum. A bunch of stuff occurs, like Blanche’s certainty of a savior to whisk her away, and the personnel coming in and the shadows and jungle music going on in the background.

The scene I chose, which is 2 minutes and 55 seconds long, is where the older doctor enters and speaks above her while she is on the ground looking up at him. He orders the nurse to let go, and she reaches out to him, and he lifts her up. He takes off his hat, and holds his arm out for her. The look in her face (well done Vivian Leigh!) is staring admiringly up at him, and it is clear she has deluded herself to thinking that this is her ‘chivalrous savior’.  She then utters a memorable line, “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”. This can be taken in two ways; the fact that she has had to depend on numerous sexual partners in order to feel wanted, and desired, and that she no longer looks to the kindness of her immediate family, aka Stella and her past relatives, to help her.  The doctor bows his head, and they walk out with her face still staring up at his, past the men who stare at her walking by, and past Stanley and Stella. The music has been a long violin melody that emphasizes her departure of reality and her descendent into madness.


As Stella watches her sister walk away and calls after her, Stanley intercedes and she tells him never to touch her again. He briskly walks away (which is so unlike his character), and we see Blanche willingly be driven away in a black car and Stella watches it turn the corner.  With tears in her eyes, we hear her newborn baby cry and her hold him while Stanley calls out to her. She quietly vows never to return to him, and we hear his cries as she runs up the stairs to her neighbor’s house. That’s the end. But it really shouldn’t be. This is where the analysis really begins, for although there is a nice independent woman ending here, it totally contradicts what the play had initially depicted. The movie more or less followed the pay, some parts having to be cut because of the Production Code, still close enough though. In the play, Blanche’s and Stella’s separated relationship is clearly seen in the play, although the movie shows Blanche ignoring Stella as well. However (and stay with me here), in the play, Blanche’s lost grasp on reality, and Stella’s dependency on Stanley, has allowed Stella to justify having her sister committed to the hospital. She doesn’t want to believe her husband raped Blanche, and would rather make her sister stay at a mental institution than have HERSELF face that harsh reality. In turn, Stella has begun to lose her grip on reality as well.

Not only that, but her staying with Stanley reveals how life for poorer women in the South have to stick it out with their husbands no matter what he may do, which includes him beating her and raping her sister. She depends on him because she has no life without him. Which is why the film version has mocked the play in this way; it is trying to give woman a tougher feel when the play’s objective was to depict a more realistic circumstance and reaction of a woman like Stella. The intense shedding of her tears (in the play) her realizing what she has done to her sister, the denial of her husband’s actions, and how she will continue to live (and probably suffer) with him. The conclusion of the play comes to full circle that ‘life will go on’ and never change their household completely, just keep turning in a never ending cycle, although there will be rifts along the way, such as Blanche’s stay. With Stella freeing herself of her husband, it completely changes the storyline and the depiction of life in the South for women like Stella and Blanche.


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