A Streetcar Named Desire is one of my favorite plays. Some of you may recall that back in 2009, I debated for a long time over whether or not to review this play or playwright Tennessee Williams' other masterpiece The Glass Menagerie. I ultimately decided on The Glass Menagerie, but I reread Streetcar for my American Lit 2 class last semester and SweetTart-Girl asked me if I'd do a review, seeing as she'll be studying it this semester in one of her classes. *Zella waves magic wand and grants wish because she fancies herself as a book genie* :D
This play is a masterpiece of dramatic tension, as Blanche and Stanley face off constantly over every petty scenario known to man. I think the tension rings true just because it is so realistic. Even if your family does get along well, who hasn't had a family argument turn nuclear over something inanely stupid? Despite Williams' effective use of tension, this play is still primarily a character-centric work, not plot-driven. All of the characters, except for maybe Blanche's potential love interest Mitch, are grotesque and troubled. It's hard to find one character to unequivocally root for, which is why I think some readers dislike the play. Even though Blanche is the main character and is quite pathetic, she's far from a traditional heroine. I like complex characters, so for me, the fact that there is no clear-cut good guy (though Williams clearly intends for us to sympathize with Blanche, even if we don't understand or agree with her) is a plus.
I am a hug fan of reading plays, but plays were still written with the intention of being performed. Soooo . . . your Streetcar experience will not be complete unless you watch the 1951 film version with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. You must watch this one! Brando originated the part of Stanley on stage. It's what made him contender! I am making you an offer you can't refuse! Who me? An obsessive Brando fan? Erm . . . maybe. (Bonus points if you recognized the two Brando quotes in this paragraph.) But the original film version is easily the best, if not just because all of the actors are so good. I will warn you that even though the film version stays remarkably close to the play, the ending was changed to appease movie censors, who demanded that the bleak tragedy had to have some redeeming value.
If you're looking for complex characters and an intense story line, definitely read A Streetcar Named Desire. This play is one of the most famous written in the past sixty years . . . and for good reason, in my opinion. Not to mention that reading it is the perfect excuse to indulge in a Brando marathon afterwards. ^^
Next Time: Art Spiegelman's Maus.
This Week in Literary History: 27 January 1302 Political enemies exile Dante Alighiere from Florence. Though this may have seemed like a bad thing for Dante at the time, his banishment ended up being a good thing for literary history, for he wrote his masterpiece The Divine Comedy during this period.
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