Introduction Streetcar Named Desire centers on desolated by renata.vivien1

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									Introduction: A Streetcar Named Desire centers on a
desolated woman named Blanche DuBois. Reared in Old South
aristocratic traditions, she lived elegantly in the family
homestead, married a man she adored, and pursued a career as
an English teacher. But her life fell apart when she discovered
that her husband, Allen Grey, was having a homosexual affair.
Disgraced, he killed himself. Blanche sought comfort in the
arms of other men, many men. After she had relations with one
of her students, a 17-year-old, authorities learned of the
encounter and fired her. Meanwhile, relatives died and she
could not keep up the family home. Eventually, creditors seized
it. The play begins when Blanche arrives in New Orleans to stay
with her sister, Stella, and her crude, outspoken husband,
Stanley Kowalski. Though scarred by her past, Blanche still
tries to lead the life of an elegant lady and does her best, even
lying when necessary, to keep up appearances.

                                .
                         Plot Summary
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.......It is just after dusk in New Orleans on an evening early in
May after World War II. In front of a shabby apartment
building on a street named Elysian Fields, a white and a black
woman are sitting on the steps while piano music plays in a
nearby tavern. The white woman, Eunice, lives in the building’s
upstairs apartment. The black woman lives nearby. Two white
men in work clothes–Stanley Kowalski and his friend Mitch,
both no more than 30–round the corner.
.......Stanley and his wife, Stella, about 25, occupy the first-
floor apartment. After Stanley shouts for her, she steps out
on the landing and he throws her a package of meat. He and
Mitch then reverse direction to go bowling at an alley around
the corner. Stella decides to follow and watch them.
.......A moment later, Stella’s sister, Blanche DuBois, rounds the
corner with a valise after arriving from Laurel, Mississippi. She
checks an address on a slip of paper, then looks in disbelief at
the apartment building. Could Stella really live in such a run-
down dwelling? Blanche, about 30, is elegantly attractive but
somewhat fragile and vulnerable. In her white suit,
complemented by pearl earrings and white gloves, she is out of
place in this working-class neighborhood. When Eunice asks
whether she is lost, Blanche says, “They told me to take a
street-car named Desire, and then transfer to one called
Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at–Elysian Fields.”
Eunice confirms that Blanche has come to the right street and
right address, 632. The black woman goes to the bowling alley
to fetch Stella.
.......After the sisters reunite and exchange pleasantries,
Blanche looks for liquor and finds it, and Stella does the
pouring because Blanche is shaking. Blanche assures her sister
that she is not a drunkard but “just all shaken up and hot and
tired and dirty.”
.......Blanche says she is on leave from her job teaching English
at a high school in Laurel. In fact, she was fired for
promiscuous behavior with a teenager. Pretentiously
aristocratic, Blanche bemoans her sister’s plebeian
surroundings. The apartment is run-down and spare, with only a
kitchen and a bedroom–separated by a curtain–and a small
bathroom. Blanche fishes for compliments about her
appearance, asks for another drink, and wonders whether it will
be proper for her to stay in such close quarters with Stella’s
husband roaming about. Stella tells her that everything will be
fine, although she cautions Blanche that Stanley’s friends are
common and unrefined.
.......Blanche then informs Stella that creditors back in Laurel
have seized their family homestead, Belle Reve, even though
Blanche “fought for it, bled for it, almost died for it.” She
scolds Stella for not staying behind in Mississippi to help
manage the property.
.......“You just came home in time for funerals, Stella,” she
says.
.......The upshot is that Stella will never inherit a single cent
from her share in the property, because there is no property.
After Stanley arrives home and hears the news, he demands
evidence of the property loss. He is crude and mouthy, not at
all afraid to speak his mind, and suspicious. Blanche allows him
to see the appropriate legal documents, which she has brought
with her, that confirm the loss. Stanley says he will have a
lawyer examine the papers, adding, “You see . . . a man has to
take an interest in his wife’s affairs–especially now that she’s
going to have a baby.” It is the first time Stella has heard of
her sister’s pregnancy, and she congratulates Stella.
.......Stanley’s friends–Mitch, Steve, and Pablo–arrive for a
poker game on the kitchen table. Hours later, at 2:30 in the
morning, while the boys are still playing cards, Stella
introduces Blanche to Mitch–Harold Mitchell–who works in the
spare-parts department at the plant employing Stanley.
Blanche seems interested in Mitch. Unmarried, he lives with
and watches over his ailing mother. After he asks Stanley to
deal him out, he talks with Blanche. She tells him that she’s
younger than Stella (although she’s five years older) and that
she is in New Orleans to look after Stella–“She hasn’t been
well, lately”–even though she is there because she has nowhere
else to go. She also says she is an old maid schoolteacher
(although she was married once to a homosexual who
committed suicide), and that she teaches high school English
(although she was forced out of her job for having an affair
with a student).
.......When Blanche plays a radio and dances suggestively, Mitch
imitates her movements. Irritated by the noise, Stanley–now
full of drink–throws the radio out the window. Stella scolds
him and Stanley moves menacingly toward her. She runs. He
follows and strikes her. After the other men restrain Stanley,
Mitch says, “Poker should not be played in a house with women.”
Stella goes upstairs with Blanche to Eunice’s.
.......After the card game, Stanley enters the hallway and calls
upstairs repeatedly for “my baby.” Eventually, Stella comes
down and they embrace tenderly on the steps, and Stanley
carries her to bed. When Blanche later comes downstairs, she
glances in at Stanley and Stella in carnal passion and runs
outside. Mitch materializes from around the corner, and he and
Blanche have a cigarette, sit down, and talk. Romance
blossoms.
.......The next day, while Stanley is out getting the car greased,
Blanche tells Stella that she’s married to a “madman” and urges
her to abandon Stanley. Stella, however, shrugs off Stanley’s
violent behavior of the night before and assures Blanche that
he is really gentle and loving. Blanche says she “trembles” for
Stella. A train rumbles by while the sisters continue their
conversation in the bedroom. Stanley returns, unheard and
unseen by the sisters, and overhears Blanche criticizing him:
“He acts like an animal, has an animal’s habits. Eats like one,
moves like one, talks like one!”
.......Over the next several months, Stanley and Blanche become
mortal enemies, and Stanley dedicates himself to her
destruction while she keeps company with Mitch. Opening up to
Mitch, she tells him about her deceased husband, Allen Grey,
who killed himself after she found out he was a homosexual and
told him he disgusted her while they were out dancing a polka
called the Varsouviana. Meanwhile, Stanley probes Blanche’s
past and gets “the dope” on her from a supply man at his plant
who regularly travels through Laurel and stays at the Flamingo
Hotel there. He has told Stanley that Blanche carried on
affairs with many men while living at the Flamingo, a second-
rate hotel, and was evicted because of her promiscuous
behavior.
.......“Did you know,” he says to Stella, “that there was an army
camp near Laurel and your sister’s was one of the places called
‘Out-of-Bounds’?”
.......While Stanley is laying out the dirty details, Blanche is
bathing in the bathroom, singing the lyrics of "Paper Moon":
"It's only a paper moon, Just as phony as it can be– / But it
wouldn't be make-believe If you believe in me."
.......Stanley also tells Stella that Blanche is not on a “leave of
absence” from her teaching job but was “kicked out” of the
high school before the end of the spring semester as the
result of an affair with a 17-year-old. Stella says she doesn’t
believe the stories but admits that Blanche did “cause sorrow”
at home and was always “flighty.” While defending her sister,
Stella says Blanche suffered a devastating blow when she was
young and married to a young man (Allen Grey) who wrote
poetry. She worshipped him but found out he was a
“degenerate.”
....... While talking, Stella pokes candles into a cake, saying it is
Blanche's birthday and Mitch has been invited. However,
Stanley says Mitch won’t be attending. It seems Stanley has
tattled on Blanche to Mitch and, Stanley says, Mitch has
“wised up.”
.......“He’s not going to jump in a tank with a school of sharks,”
Stanley says.
.......Later, Stanley gives Blanche a birthday gift: a bus ticket
back to Laurel. His behavior upsets Blanche. Suddenly ill, she
retreats to the bathroom. While Stella rebukes Stanley for his
cruelty, she goes into labor pains, and Stanley takes her to a
hospital.
.......Hours pass. Blanche drinks and packs her clothes. In the
giddiness of her drunken state, she dresses in a white evening
gown, a pair of silver slippers, and a rhinestone tiara. While she
is in the bedroom admiring herself, Stanley returns after
stopping at a bar for a few drinks and two quarts of beer. He
tells Blanche that Stella is still in labor and that the baby will
not come until morning. Stanley removes his shirt and opens a
quart of beer, then enters the bedroom to remove pajamas
from a bureau drawer. He asks Blanche why she is wearing
“those fine feathers.” She fabricates a story, saying she has
received a telegram from an old beau, Shep Huntleigh, inviting
her on a Caribbean cruise. She says Huntleigh is a millionaire
who lives in Dallas, “where gold spouts from the ground.”
.......“Well, it’s a red-letter night for us both,” Stanley says.
“You having an oil-millionaire and me having a baby.”
.......After Stanley returns to the kitchen, Blanche tells him
that Huntleigh respects her and that she, as an intelligent and
cultivated woman, has much to offer him. Then she insults
Stanley, saying, “I have been foolish–casting my pearls before
swine. . . . I’m thinking not only of you but of your friend, Mr.
Mitchell [who] came back [and] implored my forgiveness.” But,
she says, she bid farewell to him.
.......Stanley asks, “Was this before or after the telegram came
from the Texas oil millionaire?”
.......“What telegram?”
.......Her response gives her away. Stanley says was she lying not
only about the Caribbean cruise but also about Mitch’s return
visit because “I know where he is.” Then he says, “Take a look
at yourself in that worn-out Mardi Gras outfit, rented for
fifty cents from some rag-picker. And with that crazy crown
on! What queen do you think you are?” He answers his own
question, saying, “The queen of the Nile! Sitting on your throne
and swilling down my liquor!”
.......Stanley reenters the bedroom and goes into the bathroom.
Frightened, Blanche picks up the phone receiver and requests
the number of “Shep Huntleigh of Dallas,” who she says is so
well known that she need not provide the operator an address.
Moments later, she cancels the call and asks for Western
Union to send a message that she is in “desperate
circumstances.” Stanley emerges from the bathroom in his
pajamas. He leers at her. She smashes the top of a bottle and
threatens him with the jagged edge. He subdues and rapes
her.
.......Weeks later, Stella packs Blanche’s belongings while
Stanley plays poker with Mitch, Steve, and Pablo. Eunice comes
down and asks about Blanche, who is bathing. Blanche is now
deeply disturbed–in fact, insane. Stella answers that she told
Blanche arrangements were made for her to rest in the
country. Stella also says, “I couldn’t believe her story [about
the rape] and go on living with Stanley.”
.......When a doctor and a matron (nurse) arrive for Blanche,
Blanche struggles against them. Stella says, “Oh, God, what
have I done to my sister?” Stanley soothes Stella as the
doctor and matron take custody of Blanche for treatment in an
institution. The poker game continues as Steve says, “This
game is seven-card stud.”
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Characters
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Blanche DuBois: Neurotic central character who lives in a
fantasy world of Old South chivalry but cannot control her
carnal desires.
Stella Kowalski: Blanche’s down-to-earth sister who seems
satisfied with her life as the wife of a factory worker
Stanley Kowalski: Stella’s churlish husband and the bane of
Blanche’s existence
Mitch, Steve, Pablo: Stanley’s poker partners. Mitch,
Stanley’s best friend, woos Blanche until he finds out about her
seamy past
Eunice: Stanley and Blanche’s upstairs neighbor
Allen Grey: Deceased husband of Blanche. His homosexual
affair and suicide deeply scarred Blanche.
Young Man: Collector for The Evening Star newspaper.
Negro Woman
Mexican Woman
Shep Huntleigh: Imaginary beau of Blanche.
Doctor, Matron Physician and nurse from a mental hospital
Setting

The action takes place between May and September in a
shabby apartment building in the working-class district of New
Orleans in the 1940's, shortly after the Second World War.
The protagonist, Blanche Dubois, comes to New Orleans from
Laurel, Miss., the site of the family homestead. Although no
scenes are set in Laurel, the effect of the town and its Old
South culture on the main character, Blanche DuBois, is
important. Laurel is a real town in southeastern Mississippi. It
has a a present population of about 18,000 and is the seat of
Jones County. Laurel, which was named after the laurel shrubs
growing abundantly in nearby forests, prospered early in the
20th Century as a lumbering center. Tennessee Williams, the
author of A Streetcar Named Desire, was born in eastern
Mississippi in the town of Columbus and was well aware of
Mississippi customs and traditions.

Type of Work and Year of Publication

A Streetcar Named Desire is a stage play with elements of
tragedy and pathos. It was published and performed in 1947
and .

Dialogue

The conversations are pruned of irrelevancy. Blanche’s
educated speech and literary allusions contrast with Stanley’s
down-to-earth language and crude–but often effective and
amusing–imagery. The dialogue is rich in imagery, including the
commonplace cliches of Stanley and the literary allusions and
quotations of Blanche.
Themes

Theme 1 The reluctance or inability of people to accept the
truth. Blanche lives in a cocoon of unreality to protect herself
against her weaknesses and shortcomings. including her
inability to repress untoward sexual desire. To preserve her
ego, she lies about her promiscuous behavior in Laurel; she
shuns bright light, lest it reveal her physical imperfections;
and she refuses to acknowledge her problem with alcohol.
Stanley effectively penetrates her cocoon verbally with his
crude insults and physically with his sexual coup de main near
the end of the play. Stanley has his own problem: he lacks the
insight to see what he really is–a coarse, domineering macho
man ruled by primal instincts. Unlike Blanche, though, he is
happy in his ignorance. For her part, Stella accepts the truth–
partly. She acknowledges that Stanley is crude and that her
apartment is cramped and shabby. But, in the end, she refuses
to accept the truth about her sister’s past and about Stanley’s
violation of Blanche. “I couldn’t believe [Blanche’s] story [about
the rape] and go on living with Stanley,” Stella says.
Theme 2 The final destruction of the Old South, symbolized
by Blanche and Belle Reve (the family property seized by
creditors). This theme–not unlike that in Margaret Mitchell’s
Gone With the Wind–begins to unfold in the opening scene of
the play. Two women, one white and one black, sit as equals on
the steps of an apartment building while Blanche arrives on
scene accoutered in the attitude and finery of a southern belle
of yesteryear. She is an alien, a strange creature from another
time, another place.
Theme 3 The despoliation of the sensitive and feminine by the
feral and masculine. Blanche and her first husband, a
homosexual, cannot survive in the world of Stanley and his kind.
Stanley is a robust weed who grows in Blanche’s carefully
cultivated garden of lilies.
Theme 4 Unbridled sexual desire lead to isolating darkness
and eventually death. Williams establishes this theme at the
beginning of the play, when Blanche takes a streetcar named
Desire (sex), transfers to one named Cemeteries (Death), and
gets off at a street named named Elysian Fields (the
Afterlife). He maintains the theme during the play with
references to Blanche’s first husband, a homosexual who
committed suicide after she caught him with another man, and
with Blanche’s literal and figurative retreat into the shadows
after having many sordid affairs. She shuns bright lights; she
dates Mitch only in the evening.
Theme 5 All that glitters is not gold. This Shakespearean
motif manifests itself in Blanche’s inability to grasp how
Stanley and Stella can succeed at marriage without the finer
things of life.


Climax

The climax of a play or another literary work, such as a short
story or a novel, can be defined as (1) the turning point at
which the conflict begins to resolve itself for better or worse,
or as (2) the final and most exciting event in a series of events.
The climax of A Streetcar Named Desire occurs, according to
both definitions, when Stanley rapes Blanche. This brutal act
marks the completion of her mental deterioration, pushing her
over the edge from sanity to madness.

Symbols

Streetcar named Desire is Blanche's desire. Although Blanche
arrives in New Orleans as a somewhat broken woman, she
keeps alive her desire to be with a man and to lead a life as an
elegant, respectable woman.
Streetcar named Cemeteries is the old, disgraced Blanche,
which she left behind–dead, so to speak–in her hometown of
Laurel, Miss., to begin anew in New Orleans. This streetcar can
also suggest that life is over for the new Blanche as well, for
she is damaged property edging toward madness.
Street named Elysian Fields is the new life Blanche is seeking.
In Greek mythology, the Elysian Fields (also called Elysium and
the Elysian Plain) made up a paradise reserved for worthy
mortals after they died. Because Blanche's old self "died" in
Laurel, Miss., she travelled to New Orleans to seek her
Elysium.
Belle Reve This is the name of Blanche's family home in
Mississippi. It represents the "beautiful dream" (the meaning
of Belle Rêve in French) that Blanche seeks but never
experiences.
Blanche's white suit is the false purity and innocence with
which she masks her carnal desire and cloaks her past.
Blanche's frequent bathing is her attempt to wash away her
past life.
Alcohol is another way Blanche washes away bad memories.
Bright light is the penetrating gaze of truth that sees the real
Blanche with all of her imperfections. When she greets Stella
the first time in the apartment, she says, "And turn that over-
light off! Turn that off! I won't be looked at in this merciless
glare!" Blanche avoids bright lights throughout the play.
Blanche: Blanche means white in French, and–in keeping with
her name–she wears a white dress and gloves in the opening
scene of the play to hide her real self in the purity that white
suggests.
Stella: Stella means star or like a star in Latin, although she
lives in a shabby apartment building in a lower-class section of
New Orleans. It could be argued that she is the star of her
husband’s life and the star that led Blanche to New Orleans.
Stanley: Stanley is an Old English name meaning stone field.
Thus, it is possible he represents a cemetery for Blanche.
Stanislaus was the name of a king of Poland. Clearly, Stanley is
the king of his household.
The small Kowalski apartment: The size and plain surroundings
of the apartment suggest the size and plainness of the life to
which Blanche, who formerly lived in a splendid mansion, must
adjust.
Allen Grey: The memory of him symbolizes a gray area of
Blanche's life, between the bright light that she avoids and the
darkness she seeks. She loved him, but he betrayed her. In
New Orleans, she remembers the good and the bad of her
relationship with him.
Paper: Imagery centering on paper represents impermanence,
unreality, or artificiality. For example, the paper legal
documents Blanche brings with her to New Orleans attest to
the loss of the family homestead, Belle Reve. The youth
collecting for the local paper, The Evening Star, represents
the ephemerality of sexual gratification. Apparently, he
reminds her of Allen Grey. On a whim, she suddenly kisses the
youth but then dismisses him, mindful of the disgrace she
brought upon herself with her liaison with a student. The song
Blanche sings while bathing, "Paper Moon," symbolizes the
fantasy world of love.
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Allusions and References

Ghoul-haunted ghostland of Weir: This line, spoken by Blanche
as she looks out a window, is quoted from Edgar Allan's 1847
poem "Ulalume." The poet is attempting to cope with the loss
of his love. Blanche, course, is still coping with the loss of Allen
Grey.
Napoleonic code: Laws established by Napoleon on which
Louisiana based its civil law. Stanley cites this law, telling
Blanche it means that what belongs to a wife belongs to a
husband. Therefore, Stella as part-owner of Belle Reve was
entitled to part of the property. If Blanche mismanaged it or
used proceeds from it improperly, then she mismanaged or
misused property Stanley owned, under the Napoleonic code.
The blind are leading the blind: Blanche speaks this line when
Stella leads her away from the poker game. This is a
paraphrase of Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 15, Verse 14, which
says that if one person leads another blind person, both will
fall into a pit.
And if God choose, / I shall but love thee better–after–death!"
This is an inscription on Mitch's lighter, read by Blanche. The
line is from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Sonnet 43." The
significance is that Blanche still thinks about her deceased
husband, Allen.
Arabian Nights: Blanche tells the young collector for The
Evening Star newspaper that he looks like a young prince "out
of the Arabian Nights." She kisses him, then tells him he must
go because "I've got to be good–and keep my hands off
children." This scene tells the audience that wanton desire still
haunts Blanche.
My Rosenkavelier: Blanche addresses Mitch this way this way
when he brings her a bouquet of roses. Der Rosenkavelier (The
Knight of the Roses) is the title of a 1911 opera by German
romantic composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949).
Pleiades: While surveying the night sky, Blanche says she is
"looking for the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters." The Pleiades
were seven daughters of the Titan Atlas and the ocean nymph
Pleione. Their names were Alcyone, Celaeno, Electra, Maia,
Merope, Sterope, and Taygete. They became a group of stars
(constellation). Unlike the Pleiades, Blanche is alone. She has a
sister, yes, but it becomes increasingly clear that Stella sides
with Stanley against her.
Je suis la Dame aux Camellias! Vous êtes–Armand! Blanche
speaks this line to Mitch. It is from La Dame aux camélias, a
play by Alexandre Dumas the Younger (1824-1895), which he
adapted from his 1848 novel of the same name. The line means,
"I am the Lady of the Camellias! You are–Armand!" In Dumas's
play, the lady is a courtesan (prostitute catering to the
nobility) who forsakes Armand. It may well be that Blanche
foresees the outcome of her relationship with Mitch. Notice
that author Williams uses the English spelling, camellias, rather
than the French camélias.
Huey Long: Stanley, asserting himself against encroachment on
his authority by Stella and Blanche, cites Huey Long (1893-
1935) as saying, "Every man is king!" Long, who was elected
governor of Louisiana in 1928 and U.S. senator in 1932, took
the part of the downtrodden and the dispossessed. Although
he enjoyed popularity among the people, he was dictatorial and
manipulative. He was assassinated in 1935.
Queen of the Nile: Stanley's reference to Blanche that
compares her, in response to her pretensions to elegance, to
Egypt's Queen Cleopatra.


Irony and Contrast

Elysian Fields: The street Elysian Fields is not what its name
suggests, a paradise, but a shabby thoroughfare in a working-
class district of New Orleans. By contrast, a street in Paris
with the same name (but in French, Champs-élysées) is a
magnificent boulevard. Blanche's attempt to see the world
through the eyes of a Parisian is part of the reason for her
descent into unreality and insanity.
White and Black: Blanche is wearing white clothing and gloves,
as well as pearl earrings, when she arrives in New Orleans to
suggest that she has a pristine character. However, she
prefers darkness and shadows to mask her physical perfections
and, symbolically, her sinful behavior.
Old and New, Fantasy and Reality: Blanche comes from an old
fairyland world to live in the real world of a modern
metropolis.
Big and Small: In her old world, Blanche lived in a large house;
in her new world, she lives in a tiny apartment. The size of the
apartment suggests the diminution of Blanche's fortunes–and
her sanity.
Speech: Blanche quotes poetry and speaks the elegant patois
of aristocrats. Stanley speaks the sandpaper language of
reality and brutality–coarse, crude, unvarnished.

Study Questions and Essay Topics


    1. To what extent is Blanche a victim of her own self-
       delusions and Old South attitudes? To what extent is she
       the victim of males who take advantage of her, deceive
       her, or abuse her?
    2. Blanche quotes literature and occasionally speaks French;
       her language is elegant, educated. Stanley, on the other
       hand, uses coarse, sometimes brutal, language. Does their
       speech reflect their perceptions of reality? Explain your
       answer.
    3. Write an essay focusing on how the roles of males and
       females in American society changed between 1947, the
       year A Streetcar Named Desire was published and
       performed, and the present.
    4. Who is the most admirable character in the play?
    5. Comment on the significance of the following quotations
       from the play:
    6. .......“I’ve got to keep hold of myself.” (Blanche, after
       arriving in the Kowalski apartment)
    7. .......“Poker should not be played in a house with women.”
       (Mitch, at the card game)
    8. What is the meaning of the scene at the beginning of the
       play in which Stanley throws a package of meat up to
       Stella? Is it simply intended to show that Stanley is a
       macho male who delivers what women want, sexually, or is
       there more to the scene?

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