Blanche DuBois comes to visit her sister Stella in New Orleans. The two of them come from a family of plantation owners who have been slowly but steadily going bankrupt. Now their plantation (Belle Reve) is gone and Blanche, who has always been a nervous type, is falling apart due to her alcoholism and the fact that she can’t really deal with her growing age and fading looks. Stella is happy to see Blanche, but Stella’s husband Stanley, a factory worker, doesn’t trust Blanche or her story about how Belle Reve was lost. Blanche herself is shocked about the circumstances Stella lives in. As Blanche’s and Stanley’s worlds collide, something has got to give.
A Streetcar Named Desire is one of my absolute favorite plays. I must have read it five times already, at least. It’s been a while since I read/saw it (and I actually never read/saw it in English before now) and I’m going to see it shortly, so it was the perfect time for a re-read. And it is still absolutely awesome.
On a sidenote: I have never actually seen the film. I don’t know how that happened, but I plan to rectify it soon. I mean, damit, just look at that picture above: Brando was hot. For that alone it’s gonna be worth watching.
Blanche is such a fantastic character, I don’t even have words for it. And every time I hate her in the beginning of the play and then she slowly and steadily wins me over until I love her in the end. Every time. Stanley, on the other hand, is an asshole right from the start and only gets worse.
For me, it was always clear that Stan is abusive and that Stella stays with him for the usual reasons that victims of abuse stay with their abusers: she can’t imagine herself anywhere else. [Williams does a freakishly good job in describing the dynamics of that relationship, actually.] Unfortunately the afterword in the edition I read, this dimension of the play was completely ignored. In fact, as they tell it, Stanley basically only becomes abusive when he rapes Blanche (before that, when he hits Stella and is generally insufferable, he’s only being aggressively male). And they take Stella at face value when she says that she really wants to stay with Stan.
Fortunately, you can just ignore the afterword (or not buy the Reclam foreign language edition) and just enjoy the play, which is well-written (even with beautiful stage directions), absolutely intelligent and totally engaging.