Question: How are Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan different in their portrayal of Blanche as a character who can be sympathized with?
* Reading the play one sympathizes less with Blanche than when watching the movie. This is a deliberate choice by the two artists and thus, they use certain means to achieve the effects they want to achieve.
* Has got to do with the differences in the art form, the audience and reach as well as the difference in background of the two artists – Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan.
Why do I feel so?
* Tennessee Williams portrays Blanche as we would truly imagine her to be – haughty, arrogant, acting to be feeble in the face of danger, easily irritated, always instigating others and truly a double-faced person. With such descriptions we find it hard to sympathize with her.
* Instead, we get the feeling that she truly deserves the types of treatment which Stanley gave her (except the final rape, which can never be justified). While it may seem incorrect, there is a great possibility that a large part of the cause of the rape was Blanche herself (constantly demonizing and thus instigating Stanley, trying to turn Stella against him etcetera).
* Elia Kazan on the other hand, presents Blanche as a character who can be more sympathized with. In the movie, Blanche is shown to be a truly feeble character. We, as critics of the movie, get the feeling that life has not been fair to Blanche and that she is a creation of circumstances.
* We believe that if so much had not gone wrong in her life, Blanche would not have become who she is shown to be in the movie. In this way, we seem to be able to sympathize greatly with Blanche. We see Stanley as being a bully and Blanche the meek victim who cannot seem to ever get out of a mess.
How do they do it?
* Reading the play we cannot truly understand the sentiments and emotions that are going through Blanche’s mind. This way there is a slight personal bias which comes into the picture. In other words, when reading the play, I see Blanche the way that I want to see her, and thus my previous experiences and my previous knowledge plays a large hand in shaping her character.
* In the movie, on the other hand, we get to see Vivian Leigh act out the character of Blanche. In this way, there is very little or no room for personal bias. Elia Kazan shows us what he wants us to see. Thus, he makes deliberate choices such as perhaps by directing Vivian Leigh to create an aura of uncertainty around her which makes us see her as feeble and meek.
Why do they do it?
* Tennessee Williams is at large a realist so wants to portray the truth. In such a case, the obvious truth is that no character is perfect, and thus, Blanche has her own flaws which cause us to feel unsympathetic towards her. We tend to only censure her for her flaws and thus, do not empathize with her.
* The art form of movie does not lend itself well to realism since it’s almost entirely based upon fiction and what ought to be. With this in mind, we can see why Elia Kazan decided to portray Blanche as being someone we can sympathize with – he is just conforming to his chosen art form’s style.
* A play has a smaller reach than a movie. Moreover, it will not be viewed by as wide an audience (in terms of age groups) as a movie. Thus, Tennessee Williams can afford to portray Blanche as being a character who does not deserve our sympathies. Tennessee Williams need not serve any justice since his readers will be mature and can handle the bitter truth of life.
* The movie on the other hand does appeal to a wider audience and thus, Elia Kazan may have deliberately chosen to portray Blanche as being a character who requires our sympathy. Especially considering the ending of the play, where Blanche gets raped, perhaps Kazan wanted to showcase some sort of justice by not demonizing Blanche as much as Tennessee Williams. This is once again caused by the differences in art forms.
* Can be clearly seen why and how the two artists decided to portray Blanche in different ways.
* Eventually, it comes down to a personal bias – others may have different conclusions from mine since the topic is largely subjective.