“A Streetcar Named Desire” By Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire is the story of an emotionally-charged confrontation between characters embodying the traditional values of the American South and the aggressive, rapidly-changing world of modern America. The play, begun in 1945, went through several changes before reaching its final form. Although the scenario initially concerned an Italian family, to which was later added an Irish brother-in-law, Tennessee Williams changed the characters to two Southern American belles and a Polish American man in order to emphasize the clash between cultures and classes in this story of alcoholism madness and sexual violence.

The action of the play concerns the time that Blanche DuBois spends with her sister Stella and Stella's husband Stanley, and the action features Blanche's conflict with Stanley. Blanche's sordid history gradually comes to light, and Stanley's commitments to his wife and his friend Mitch only make him crueler to Blanche as he makes sure that she is unable to start over with a new life in New Orleans.

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Author Biography

Tennessee Williams was born in Thomas Lanier Williams, as a American theater of the A Streetcar Named Desire who received many of the top theatrical awards for his work. He moved to New Orleans in 1939 and changed his name to "Tennessee," the state of his father's birth. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955.

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The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. These two plays were later filmed, with great success, by noted directors Elia Kazan (Streetcar) with whom Williams developed a very close artistic relationship, and Richard Brooks (Cat). Both plays included references to elements of Williams' life such as homosexuality, mental instability, and alcoholism. Although The Flowering Peach by Clifford Odets was the preferred choice of the Pulitzer Prize jury in 1955 and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was at first considered the weakest of the five shortlisted nominees, Joseph Pulitzer Jr., chairman of the Board, had seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and thought it worthy of the drama prize.

There is a streetcar named Desire that Blanche DuBois travel from the railway station in New Orleans to a street named Elysian Fields, where her sister who pregnant and married to Stanley Kowalski that lives in a run-down apartment building in the old French Quarter. Blanche lost her husband, parents, teaching position, and old family home which named Belle Reve in Laurel, Mississippi. Blanche has nowhere to turn but to her one remaining close relative.

Blanche is thirty years old which is emotionally and economically destitute. There was the discovery about her husband wrote a poet whom she had married at the tender age of sixteen was homosexual. He committed suicide after she had taunted him for his sexual impotence in the Moon Lake Casino. Blanche’s subsequent guilt over his death, she found temporary releases in a series of sexual affairs, the latest having involved one of her young students and resulting in her dismissal.

Blanche is horrified at the circumstances in which her sister Stella lives and at the man to whom Stella is married. Stella’s husband who is Polish, uneducated, inarticulate, and working class, but sexually attractive, he has won Stella by his sheer masculinity. Stella has been narcotized by his sexual superiority. Mitch is the fourth important character and Stanley’s poker-playing companion Mitch, is attracted to Blanche. Besides, Blanche is attracted to his kindness to her, for he is gentle in his manner, as Stanley is not. She refers at one point to having found God in Mitch’s arms, a religious reference frequently made by Williams’s characters at important moments in their lives.

There is many important parts that appeared in this story such as the loss of Belle Reve, the acceptance by Stella of a new life, the world of Stanley and the kind but inarticulate Mitch. A Streetcar Named Desire is a dramatization of a heroin with few, if any, peers in her impact on the consciousness of the American theatrical tradition.

A Streetcar Named Desire starts with the arrival of Blanche DuBois that Belle Reve who has lost her inheritance, at the New Orleans home of her sister Stella and her husband Stanley. A conflict arises between Stanley and Blanche, and after several secrets about her past have been revealed, Stanley rapes Blanche while his wife is in hospital giving birth. Stella, refusing to believe Blanche’s accusations, gives consent for the increasingly hysterical Blanche to be placed in a mental hospital.

The first theme will be sex roles. As Blanche’s difficulties can be traced to the narrow roles open to females during the period. Blanches is nonetheless constrained by the expectations of Southern society although she is an educated woman who worked as a teacher. Blanche knows that she needs men to lean on and protect her, and she continues to depend on them throughout the play, right up to her conservation with the doctor from the mental hospital. Blanche known sexual freedom in the past, but she understands that sexual freedom does not fit the pattern of chaste behavior to which a Southern woman would be expected to conform.

The second theme will be violence and cruelty. Violence in this play is fraught with sexual passion. For example, Eunice and Steve Hubbell’s relationships which has this kind of element of violence, and the unnerving suggestion that violence is more common and willingly accepted by the female partner in a marriage. Besides, Stanley is violence to the Blanche and he raped Blanche during Stella is giving birth in the hospital.

Blanche ask Stella to translate the context of sexual passion, and claiming that “What you are talking about is brutal desire – just Desire – the name of that rattle trap street – car that bangs through the Quarter, up one old narrow street and down another.” “Haven’t you ever ridden on that street – car?” asked by Stella and Blanche answers, “It brought me here – Where I’m not wanted and where I’m ashamed to be.” This appear that the connection in Blanche’s past between violence and desire in some way contributes to the events within the time scale of the play. As this is not to do excuse Stanley’s violence actions or to suggest Blanche brings it on herself.

The third theme will be madness that considering how Tennessee Williams’ sister Rose was the recipient of a lobotomy, the theme of madness running through Streetcar in the form of Blanche’s neurosis and self-delusion may reveal some of the playwright’s fears about the instability of his mental life.

There are two types of styles of the story that include scene structure and music. The first is the scene structure as the most striking feature of Streetcar’s dramatic structure is its division into scenes rather than acts. There are some scenes that make up the play ends in a dramatic climax, and the tension of each individual scene builds up to the tension of final climax. This scene structure give the audience to focus on emotions and actions of Blanche that is the only character to appear in every scene.

The second style will be discussed which is music. Music play a very important role in this stage craft of the play. There are two types of music dominate such as “blue piano” which associated with Southern Blacks. The second type which is Varsouviana that heard only by Blanche as this music is the signals crucial moments in the development of the plot. This is because this music reminds Blanche the scene when she renounced her husband suicide on the ballroom floor.

Blanche DuBois

Blanche DuBois is the complicated protagonist of the play. She is a faded Southern belle without a dime left to her name, after generations of mismanagement led to the loss of the family fortune. Blanche spent the end of her youth watching the older generation of her family die out before losing the DuBois seat at Belle Reve. This experience, along with the suicide of her young homosexual husband, deadened Blanche's emotions and her sense of reality. Desire and death became intricately linked in her life as she led a loose and increasingly careless life, and indeed, after losing her position as a schoolteacher she is forced to depend on the kindness of her one living relation, her sister Stella. Blanche tries to continue being the Southern belle of her youth, but she is too old and has seen too much, and soon her grip on reality begins to slip. She has difficulty understanding the passion in her sister's marriage and is coolly calculating in her relationship with Mitch - yet barely manages to suppress a latent nymphomania.

Stanley Kowalski

He is loyal to his friends and passionate to his wife. Stanley possesses an animalistic physical vigor that is evident in his love of work, of fighting, and of sex. His family is from Poland, and several times he expresses his outrage at being called “Polack” and other derogatory names. When Blanche calls him a “Polack,” he makes her look old-fashioned and ignorant by asserting that he was born in America, is an American, and can only be called “Polish.” Stanley represents the new, heterogeneous America to which Blanche doesn’t belong, because she is a relic from a defunct social hierarchy. He sees himself as a social leveler, as he tells Stella in Scene Eight.

Stanley’s intense hatred of Blanche is motivated in part by the aristocratic past Blanche represents. He also sees her as untrustworthy and does not appreciate the way she attempts to fool him and his friends into thinking she is better than they are. Stanley’s animosity toward Blanche manifests itself in all of his actions toward her—his investigations of her past, his birthday gift to her, his sabotage of her relationship with Mitch.

Stella Kowalski

Blanche’s younger sister, about twenty-five years old and of a mild disposition that visibly sets her apart from her more vulgar neighbors. Stella possesses the same timeworn aristocratic heritage as Blanche, but she jumped the sinking ship in her late teens and left Mississippi for New Orleans. There, Stella married lower-class Stanley, with whom she shares a robust sexual relationship. Stella’s union with Stanley is both animal and spiritual, violent but renewing. After Blanche’s arrival, Stella is torn between her sister and her husband. Eventually, she stands by Stanley, perhaps in part because she gives birth to his child near the play’s end. While she loves and pities Blanche, she cannot bring herself to believe Blanche’s accusations that Stanley dislikes Blanche, and she eventually dismisses Blanche’s claim that Stanley raped her. Stella’s denial of reality at the play’s end shows that she has more in common with her sister than she thinks.

Other Characters


Doctor escort Blanche to the mental hospital. He is calm, professional, and treats Blanche respectfully in order for her to trust him.

Eunice and Steve Hubbell

The landlords who live upstairs from Stanley and Stella, are a vision of what Stanley and Stella could become. Eunice is overweight and run down from too many pregnancies while Steve is not particularly understanding or supportive of his wife. They are hospitable and neighborly and take Stella in when she seeks refuge from Stanley.

Harold Mitchell

Mitch is noticeably more sensitive than Stanley’s other poker friends. The other men pick on him for being a mama’s boy. Even in his first, brief line in Scene One, Mitch’s gentlemanly behavior stands out. Mitch appears to be a kind, decent human being who, we learn in Scene Six, hopes to marry so that he will have a woman to bring home to his dying mother.

Mitch doesn’t fit the bill of the chivalric hero of whom Blanche dreams. He is clumsy, sweaty, and has unrefined interests like muscle building. Though sensitive, he lacks Blanche’s romantic perspective and spirituality, as well as her understanding of poetry and literature. She toys with his lack of intelligence—for example, when she teases him in French because she knows he won’t understand—duping him into playing along with her self-flattering charades.

Though they come from completely different worlds, Mitch and Blanche are drawn together by their mutual need of companionship and support, and they therefore believe themselves right for one another. They also discover that they have both experienced the death of a loved one. The snare in their relationship is sexual. As part of her prim-and-proper act, Blanche repeatedly rejects Mitch’s physical affections, refusing to sleep with him. Once he discovers the truth about Blanche’s sordid sexual past, Mitch is both angry and embarrassed about the way Blanche has treated him. When he arrives to chastise her, he states that he feels he deserves to have sex with her, even though he no longer respects her enough to think her fit to be his wife.

Works cited

  1. Williams, T. (1947). A Streetcar Named Desire. Signet.
  2. Bloom, H. (Ed.). (2010). Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. Infobase Publishing.
  3. Thornton, L. (1996). A streetcar named misogyny: The repression of Blanche DuBois. University of Kansas Press.
  4. Leverich, L. (1995). Tom: The unknown Tennessee Williams. Crown Publishers.
  5. Spoto, D. (2005). The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams. Da Capo Press.
  6. Adler, T. P. (1995). A Streetcar Named Desire: The Moth and the Lantern. Twayne Publishers.
  7. Reilly, J. (Ed.). (1999). Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Streetcar Named Desire: A Collection of Critical Essays. Prentice Hall.
  8. Maun, I. (2009). Understanding Tennessee Williams. University of South Carolina Press.
  9. Bryant-Jackson, P. (2004). The Blanche Dubois Stock Character: Always a Victim. College Literature, 31(2), 95-107.
  10. Murphy, B. (2007). Sexual politics in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. In R. R. Bigsby (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Drama (pp. 151-166). Cambridge University Press.
Updated: Feb 18, 2024
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“A Streetcar Named Desire” By Tennessee Williams. (2024, Feb 18). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-by-tennessee-williams-4-essay

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