A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams

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Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the restless years following World War Two, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is the story of Blanche DuBois, a fragile and neurotic woman on a desperate prowl for someplace in the world to call her own. After being exiled from her hometown of Laurel, Mississippi for seducing a seventeen-year-old boy at the school where she taught English, Blanche explains her unexpected appearance on Stanley and Stella's (Blanche's sister) doorstep as nervous exhaustion. This, she claims, is the result of a series of financial calamities which have recently claimed the family plantation, Belle Reve. Suspicious, Stanley points out that "under Louisiana's Napoleonic code what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband." Stanley, a sinewy and brutish man, is as territorial as a panther. He tells Blanche he doesn't like to be swindled and demands to see the bill of sale. This encounter defines Stanley and Blanche's relationship. They are opposing camps and Stella is caught in no-man's-land. But Stanley and Stella are deeply in love. Blanche's efforts to impose herself between them only enrages the animal inside Stanley. When Mitch -- a card-playing buddy of Stanley's -- arrives on the scene, Blanche begins to see a way out of her predicament. Mitch, himself alone in the world, reveres Blanche as a beautiful and refined woman. Yet, as rumors of Blanche's past in Laurel begin to catch up to her, her circumstances become unbearable.

Characters:

Blanche Dubois: Blanche Dubois is the older sister of Stella Kowalski who visits them in New Orleans and stays throughout the summer. She was a schoolteacher of English in Mississippi and presents herself as very prim, proper, and prudent. Her name is French and she says, 'It [Dubois] means woods and Blanche means white, so the two together mean white woods. Like an orchard in spring!' (Act III, pg. 177). She was married to a young man named Allan, who committed suicide when she was very young. She drinks and smokes and tells lies. She suffers from continual delusions of hearing polka tunes and gunshots. Stella loves her dearly, but Stanley is in direct opposition to her false appearance and selfish attitude. Blanche cannot be around direct light and is overly concerned with her appearance, accessories, bathing, and age. She has a brief romance with Mitch and is later committed to a mental institution.
Stanley Kowalski: Stanley is Stella's strong and good-looking husband.

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He works in a factory and has little 'proper' upbringing. Stella loves him dearly, as well, but he has trouble controlling his temper. He is smarter than he appears and is the first person to see through Blanche's facade. He plays poker, bowls, drinks, and is completely in love with Stella. He is often referred to as a Polack and a commoner.
Stella Kowalski: Stella is Blanche's baby sister and young wife of Stanley. She moved to New Orleans from Mississippi when she was young and fell in love with Stanley. She is pregnant during the course of the play and is completely torn between her strong love for her husband and her devoted love to her sister.
Harold Mitchell: Mitch is one of Stanley's friends from the factory as well as one of his poker buddies. He develops a romance with Blanche and believes her to be unique, beautiful, and proper. He dumps her after he discovers her torrid past. He has never been married and lives with his beloved, sick mother. He is described as clumsy, more refined than Stanley is, but still somewhat common.
Minor Characters
Eunice Hubbell: Eunice is the upstairs neighbor in the Elysian Fields house. She constantly fights with her husband, Steve. She helps Stella when she leaves Stanley after the poker night fight and also helps Stella when Blanche is eventually committed.
Steve Hubbell: Steve is Eunice's husband, with whom she is always fighting. He is also one of Stanley's poker buddies who is present during the first big game and the final scene. He seems to be weaker than his wife.
Negro Woman: The Negro woman lives in the same Elysian Fields area as Stanley and Stella do. She meets Blanche in the beginning of the play when she arrives looking for her sister. She represents the racially mixed society of New Orleans in the fifties.
Mexican Woman: The Mexican woman is a flower girl on the streets of New Orleans. She enters the play at specific times, forcing Blanche to remember her dead family.
Young Collector: The young collector for the Evening Star newspaper knocks on the door of the house, looking for money. Blanche sees her young husband in him and seduces him. He represents part of Blanche's tawdry past.
Pablo Gonzales: Pablo is also one of Stanley's poker buddies.
Shep Huntleigh: Shep Huntleigh never appears in the play, but is mentioned by Blanche repeatedly. He is a Texas oil millionaire Blanche used to date in college. Blanche believes that she is to go on a Caribbean cruise with him and that he will save her from the New Orleans trap in which she currently lives.
Nurse/Matron: The Nurse arrives in the last scene to take Blanche away to a mental institution. She is very strict and harsh.
Doctor: The Doctor also arrives in the last scene to take Blanche away to a mental institution. However, he becomes a human being to her when he takes off his hat and offers her his hand to walk away. He represents goodness in the world.
Mitch's Mother: Mitch's mother is also never seen in the play, but is important to Mitch. He has never been married and lives with his mother. She is very ill and this weakness becomes part of Mitch's character.
Blanche's Young Husband: Allan is Blanche's dead husband. He is never seen in the play, either, but affects the rest of her life. He loved her dearly, as did she him, but he made love to a man. Blanche saw him and told him so. In response, he committed suicide.
Shaw: Shaw is a friend of Stanley's who is never seen in the play. He travels through Laurel and knows about Blanche and her reputation. He tells Stanley much of the information on her past that he uses against her.
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