Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Rating: ★ 1/2 stars


This play has been on my shelf for a few years now and yet I am still trying to figure out why I haven't read it until now. It has only been recent that I have been fascinated by plays and for years I have heard about this play about a million times. If it wasn't mentioned in movies then somehow it was featured on tv and the only reason why I heard about this play and why I wanted to read it is because of one person and that is the only reason I kept persevering to finish this play:

Setting: New Orleans, 1947

In the beginning, we are introduced to Blanche DuBois, who is traveling to New Orleans to visit her younger sister Stella. When she arrives at Stella's small hole-in-the-wall apartment, right off the bat we notice something is wrong with Blanche. Stella wasn't at home but the owner of the complex lets Blanche inside and immediately she starts snooping around and finds a liquor bottle in a closet and she pores herself a drink as if she is an alcoholic.

Once Stella arrives back home from her husband bowling game, they are both excited to see each other at first and learn a little about one another since they haven't seen each other in years. Blanche is a teacher who has supposedly taken a break from teaching because of nerves and as they are getting along, I feel as though Blanche is showing her true colors and tries to put guilt on Stella especially how she abandoned her family at a moment of crisis. Blanche and Stella apparently were rich growing up in this plantation called Belle Reve and the moment when their parents both died, Blanche wasn't able to keep up with the house and in the end she mortgage the house and lost it to the bank. 

Immediately I do not like Blanche because she gives off this scent that she is a liar, superficial, and a woman who is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. As they are having this discussion, here walks in Stanley Kowalski who is Stella's Husband. In the very beginning of this encounter, Blanche likes him with mixed feelings but the hatred that she will come to express begins when Stanley notices that his liquor bottle has been touched. He questions her and she lies to him and at that instant it becomes clear for Stanley that she is only going to bring trouble for his family.

As the story progresses, Blanche becomes annoying and keeps telling Stella that Stanley is garbage because he is a Polack (not true), he is a common man, and that Stella has betrayed her morals because she lives in a sink hole and not to the standards for Blanche which is living in a mansion. Since nobody is practically getting along, Stanley takes it to his attention that something is off about Blanche and immediately searches through her stuff to find anything that can be worth of money, and tells her the secret news that Stella is pregnant.

One night during poker night, the girls have gone to the movies while the men play their poker game. They drink and smoke excessively and when the girls come home only impending doom will be their fate. Blanche and Stella keep bothering Stanley either through incessant talking or music and it reaches the point of his drunkness that he turns into an animal and beats his wife in the face. I was shocked by the horror of this like Blanche but then again I forget that this takes place a long time ago where it was normal and acceptable to beat up with your wife (which is completely unacceptable regardless of time period). Blanche goes into a frenzy and both Stella and her go to the flat above to get away from Stanley and to let things cool off.

It is interesting how the men try to stop Stanley after he punches his wife but at the same token they didn't flinch or did anything about it until the actual act of violence. Stanley feels awful about the whole thing and since this is normal behavior for everyone (minus Blanche), he begs for Stella to come back home and without a second glance she goes back and sleeps with him. 

The next day Blanche goes off on a rant to Stella telling her to leave her husband because he is no good, that she knows a wealthy man in Dallas who can take care of them, and that everything will be fine once they leave home. Stella refuses this notion and secretly Stanley was outside listening to the whole conversation. Instead of going mad and on a rampage at what Blanche said to his wife, he uses his fake ignorance to his advantage and decides to do a little research on Blanche and the reason why she arrived to New Orleans and haven't left.

Getting off sidetrack we get a tiny bit of romance between Blanche and Mitch. Mitch is Stanley's best friend who they fought in the war together, work together now, and are practically blood brothers. Mitch has a dying mother who wishes that he could be married before she passes away and he becomes infatuated with Blanche. She believes he is perfect for husband material and the whole story sounds pleasant and positive until a gross act is committed. 

The paperboy who is a teenager comes to Stanley's place to receive his payment and there is no one around except for Blanche. He decides he will come later to get money from the Kowalski's and right before he leaves, Blanche forces herself on him and gives a kiss. At that moment I honestly believe that she is not mentally well if she's doing acts that would lead to child molestation.

After months go by we finally get to Blanche's birthday in September and that is the day that everything will go incredibly wrong. Stanley as a loving surprise comes to Stella and reveals that her sister is full of crap telling lies to everyone. When Blanche lost the house, she kind of went off the deep end and had a sexual relationship with one of her students. When the boy reported it to his parents, they immediately spoke to the Superintendent and they got her fired. With no employment or home to go to, Blanche checks herself into a hotel that is known for prostitutes. 

She sleeps with practically every man of the town and gets labeled as the town's whore. She slept with so many men that even the military base nearby has a nickname for her called "Out of Bounds". The mayor of the city of Laurel practically banishes Blanche from town and telling her never to come back and that is why she came to New Orleans. With this reel of information, Stanley wants nothing to do with her and bought her a bus ticket to go back to Laurel. Stella is heartbroken by this information and cannot believe it is true and on top of that Stanley told Mitch so that wedding deal is now gone to the crapper.

No one tells Blanche that they know the truth during dinner and she becomes frighten when Stanley gives her the bus ticket. Between the arguing and the intensity of the silence in the room, Stella goes into labor and Stanley takes her to the hospital. Blanche knows something is wrong with Mitch because he didn't show up to dinner and later on he does but it is only to confirm if she is whore. Interestingly enough she does tell him the truth in a weird psychotic way like as if she has woken up from a daze state and she tells him that all this drama started when she was a teenager in love with this boy who manipulated her and became the foundation for her mental breakdown.

When Mitch leaves, Blanche goes off the deep end and starts drinking heavily, looking like garbage between the tears, the makeup, and the mess she has created and then here walks in Stanley. She starts to panic because she is home alone with him and he tells her that Stella is still in labor but the doctors do not need him for now and to just go home. He questions her about Mitch and ofcourse she lies about everything what has happen earlier and that is when Stanley shows his true colors. He is so sick and tire of Blanche and her lies and finally the moment of her breakdown arrives, Stanley rushes to the bedroom and gets a hold of Blanche and puts her on his bed and he rapes her.

The final scene is weeks after that incident, Stella has a baby, the men are having a poker game, and Stella has called the mental institution for them to pick Blanche up since she has arrived at a psychotic state in which she believes this imaginary rich man she supposedly met will rescue her. We have this intense ending in which every one is in tears or a state of pity over Blanche and they live happily ever after. The End.

My issue with this play was for the first half is utterly blah. I extremely dislike Blanche, I found her to be annoying and full of sh@t! I honestly believed this was going to be a love story between Blanche and Stanley and I was completely wrong. What I will admit is starting from the moment of Blanche's birthday to the end is what grab my fascination and made me change the ratings for this play. I was going to rate it 3 stars and call it a day but I am glad that I persevered and finished this play.

When it comes to this play, I have this understanding of Tennessee Williams that he does not like to showcase good vs bad people. I believe he has this understanding that within all of us no matter how good we are there is evil within us and given with the certain situations and state of mind we can all fall off the deep end. What I find creepy within myself is that I loved Stanley the entire time up until the rape. I thought he was the hero of this story but I find him to be a troubled individual as well. 

Some may say that he was evil starting from punching his wife but I believe the evil is only that moment of rape. I do not believe anyone deserves to be raped regardless how shitty you are as a human being but I felt like in Stanley's mind it was justice to rape Blanche as a way to shut her up for the all the lies that she spews and since she was the town whore it wouldn't bother her to sleep with him. I honestly believe that I won't be reading this play anytime soon and I do not recommend this play for anyone unless you love these twisted dramas.

What I did love was the dialogue towards the end of the play and especially the last scene I felt like I was physically in the apartment watching this drama ending and I actually almost cried when Stella kept calling Blanches name in tears and I admire that I could feel the intensity of those words and I applaud Williams for bring that emotion out of me but that is pretty much about it. 

P.S. If you enjoyed this play or want a modern loose adaptation of this play then you should watch Blue Jasmine by Woody Allen. Blanche reminded me so much of Jasmine and it made me realize that this play was not going to end happily ever after. I somewhat enjoyed Blue Jasmine and I would prefer watching that instead of reading this play again.

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