A Streetcar Named Desire: Novel Vs Film

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams was a hit at the time it was released (1947) and is still considered one of Williams’s most popular work. It uncovered many issues in the world from the time he wrote it that still apply today such as insanity, domestic violence, compulsive lying, trust issues, homosexuality, etc. (Cite where you got this information)This piece puts light on issues that most people try to avoid. The play was first staged on December 3, 1947 and it received the title of being William’s top seller. It was also his first work to be displayed in the “big screen” after the publishing of the book. The book and film were the same and different in many aspects such as the portrayal of the characters, setting, and the censorship of Mr. Williams’s work.

The novel and movie both share certain qualities but also have their own clear differences from one another. One of the most easily distinguishable similarities was the plot of Williams’s work. In both the novel and film, the plot of the story is presented in the same basic description. They both have similar structure from the beginning to end of the story, with very little detail missing out of them. They both follow the key points of the story; Blanche’s compulsive lying, an insight on the relationship of Stella and Stanley, Blanche’s desire for attention, homosexuality, the rape scene, etc. There were no major scenes added or taken out, mainly because in the making of the play, Williams expressed the importance of every scene in creating the effect that he wanted although there are some minor differences in detail from the book to movie. One of the major differences from the book to film was the censorship of the movie. Censorship laws began to take place to cleanse material for audiences of all ages in theatres, they began taking place in 1950 (the film of Streetcar was first shown in 1951).

The stage was not required to follow censorship laws, but the film was; which is why there are some differences from the play and film and even the novel. In the novel, there were several scenes with foul language but were not counted for in the film. (citation)In addition, the rape scene at the end of the story was almost absent due to its short presence in the story but still had its effect on the audience. The movie industry argued to remove that scene due to its gruesome nature but Williams explained the importance of the scene and settled for a short scene, as long as it was part of the film.

The film was very distinct, yet similar to the book in many ways. To begin, the film did a great job revealing the characters’ true personality traits that Williams intended for them. One of the best depicted is Stanley. Throughout the entire novel, Stanley Kowalski is often described as an obnoxious, addicted to alcohol, selfish man both through his actions and dialogue. He is even described animalistic when Blanche states, “He acts like an animal, has animal habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one!… Yes, there’s something ape-like about him… Thousands of years have passed right by him and there he is- Stanley Kowalski- survivor of the Stone Age!” (Williams 323). The play provides a this clear image of Tennessee’s image of Stanley with his clothing, dialogue, attitude, just the way he is. In addition, the cast does well with portraying Blanche. Blanche is described as over dramatic, problematic, and a liar throughout the novel with actions behind this claim.

The woman who played Blanche (Vivien Leigh) is extremely spot- on with the issues and even the little details such as the tone, facial expressions, and gestures from the novel that describe Blanche DuBois. On the other hand, in the sense of portrayal of the setting, the film took its own path. In the novel, the entrance to the story depicts the setting as a very poor and private setting. Tennessee states, “The section [of New Orleans] is poor… the houses are mostly white frame, weathered grey, with rickety outside stairs” (Williams 3). There is no real description of surrounding buildings in the novel.

However, in the film, there are actually buildings and other objects that display a perimeter of the setting rather than just the building described in the novel. It pictured the housing buildings along with some surrounding buildings such as the well- known bowling alley Stanley attends. Not only that, but the setting of Stella and Stanley’s home is also different. The film shows the house to be very small and suffering from claustrophobia. Although the novel did describe the house to be lacking in availability of space, the audience can argue that the stuffiness of the home in the film was much larger than expected.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams was a very successful piece considering it is existing in three forms; novel, play, film. All three forms have had success, each with its own style and form of Williams’s work. Between the film and book, they were similar and different in multiple different ways such as the portrayal of the characters, setting, and the censorship of Williams’s work. Personally, the book is the better form of A Streetcar Named Desire mainly due to the excessive detail it provided about everything and everyone. Williams provided many descriptive notes (A.KA. narrator comments) in the novel that were able to paint a better picture in my mind than the actual film did. It almost seems as if the directors of the film didn’t quite follow the descriptions Williams provided which made it less favorable.

The novel provides insights into the characters minds, describes specific tones in which phrases are said, and just contributes more detail to the reader’s mind than the film was able to. One way the film could possibly overrule the book would be with the direct interpretation of the novel, following it exactly as it is printed (scenes, dialogues, character descriptions, etc). But even then, the book would still be better because due to the censorship laws, a few of the more important scenes would be illegal to include, whereas in the novel they are not.

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A streetcar named desire: novel vs film. (2021, Jun 22). Retrieved August 10, 2022 , from

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