The film “This property is condemned” (1966) is a movie that was filmed in Mississippi, America. The movie represents a thirteen-year-old girl called Willie Starr who has been deserted by her parents. Willie recounts for a lad named Tom the sad story of her sister, Star, who took care of her until Alva’s untimely death from lung cancer. From her story, it comes out clear that Willie idolizes Alva and wants to imitate her.
Unfortunately, since Alva was a prostitute in her mother’s brothel for railway men, Willie naively but firmly believes that the kind of life Alva led is the only true glamorous existence for any lady. Consequently, there is little doubt at the movie’s end that Willie is condemned to assume her sister’s sordid way of life.
Lessons to be learned
There is more than one lesson that can be derived from this film, the first one being that a child emulates the behavior, whether positive or negative, of the older individual around him or her. This can be shown by Willie, who watches Alva’a flirting behaviors and ends up following the same path as Alva is revealed in her conversation with Tom, in which Willie admits to stripping for one Frank Waters and dating five men with responsible jobs (Erskine, Welsh and Tibbetts 353).
The endorsement of Alva’s behavior by her mother seems to have also played a big role in Willie’s adoption of the same behaviors. This can be explained when Willie’s mother encourages her daughter Alva to go out with an older man with the aim of fully satisfying their customers. Being a family business, perhaps Willie also picked up the same behaviors believing that they were good for their business.
The other lesson is the importance of a complete family in relation to the bringing up of a stable family. Alva’s father had run away when she was a child leaving her mother with the responsibility of looking after the family. Growing up without a father figure could have also greatly contributed to her irresponsible character traits. For as little as a few chocolates and jewels, Alva allows herself to be an object of entertainment for the railway workers.
Also, following Alva’s death, Willie becomes a street urchin in her own home as she rummages through garbage for food. The absence of the guidance and love of a father and mother in Alva’s and Willie’s seems to have resulted in the two leaving such irresponsible lives. In any case, the mother is depicted as being unfit to raise her children when she encourages her daughter to sleep with men just to keep them coming back to their bar.
Alva’s character traits
On examination of Alva’s character, several character traits can be observed. One trait that is clearly displayed is that Alva is a sly character. This can be seen in the examination of her relationships with those around her. Her manipulative mother is portrayed as encouraging her to marry the wealthy Mr. Johnson but she does not seem to like this arrangement and ends marrying her mother’s lover, JJ, out of spite.
The story gets interesting when she steals JJ’s valuables and their marriage certificate on the following morning and escapes to New Orleans where her boyfriend Owen lives. Alva’s mother feels betrayed by her marriage to JJ and the day when both Alva and Owen come home provides her with the opportunity to expose the marriage to Owen.
Feeling that it she has no way of getting out of the sticky situation, she runs out of the house into the rain and cries out of despair. The other trait that can be associated with Alva is that of materialism. Alva is materialistic in that she is ready to engage in any act for small material things such as chocolates and jewels.
Point of view
The storyline is from Willie’s perspective as she narrates about her family to a boy named Tom, who she had met at the railway tracks (Heintzelman and Howard 304). As she narrates the, it appears that the main focus of her story is on her sister Alva, who by then is deceased.
The narration of the story makes some difference in the way the viewers perceive the whole story as it makes them observe the movie from Willie’s perspective. Viewing and listening to the story from one of the character’s point of view makes the audience connect more with the story that if it were to be told by an individual who is not part of the characters.
This property is condemned” is Willie’s way of explaining her life to the world. In the story, she explains how much she adores her deceased sister from who she has learned a lot and wants to emulate. However, as she narrates the story Willie seems to notice the problems this lifestyle has put her through and this is well shown at the movie’s end when she admits to Tom that she indeed lives in a condemned house.
Erskine, Thomas, Welsh, James and Tibbetts, John. Video versions: film adaptations of plays on video. West Port, CT: Greenwood publishing Group, 2000.
Heintzelman, Greta and Howard, Alycia Smith. Critical companion to Tennessee Williams. New York: Inforbase Publishing, 2005.