A Character Named Stanley: A Comparative Investigation about Characterization in the Adaptations of “A Streetcar Named Desire”

Larissa Bougleux


A Streetcar Named Desire is a Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1948) winning play written by one of the most influential American dramatists of the early 20th century, Tennessee Williams. A Streetcar Named Desire broaches themes of madness, sensuality, violence, and explores critically the roles played by women and men in society. Mainly grounded on David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s filmmaking perspectives (2013), this article makes a short aesthetic analysis of characterization in a comparative study among the source play and two film versions of the same narrative. In order to accomplish such task I utilize the formal elements of film proposed by Bordwell and Thompson. According to Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royale (2004) characterization entails the various processes involved in creating a fictional character. In studying the three guises of the same character, namely Stanley Kowalski, one of the main characters in A Streetcar Named Desire, this article focuses on misé-en-scene and finds in costume, lighting, and acting significant contrast in the construction of this character on the film adaptation versions of Elia Kazan (1951) and Glenn Jordan (1995). The conclusion I reach in this paper is twofold. First, I note that Jordan’s characterization of Stanley is milder than Kazan’s. Second, I remark that adaptations need not necessarily be accurate in relation to its source text and that filmmakers should be allowed the freedom to explore the plot as they find appropriate.


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