Play Summary

A Streetcar Named Desire is a play written by American playwright Tennessee Williams in 1947. The action of the play takes place after World War II (in the 1940s), in New Orleans (Louisiana). It opens in a flat of a young couple, Stella and Stanley Kowalski. The ground floor apartment of Kowalski is in a charming neighborhood in the French Quarter. The play is a study in contrast between Blanche Dubois and her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski. Stella's older sister, Blanche Dubois, arrives unexpectedly and she has some bad news as their family mansion, Belle Reve, has been lost.  

Blanche is an aging southern belle. Moreover, she is a poor alcoholic who has little dignity left. Trying to show that she is a tragic figure, Blanche requires her pregnant sister to dote on her. Stella’s husband, who is a blue collar worker, notices Blanche’s charade and has no respect for her.   

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Tension continues to grow as Blanche and Stanley consider each other enemies. As Stanley suspects that there is some untold truth in the story of the loosing of the family's ancestral home, he starts to investigate the Blanche's past. The symbolism of color and light help the audience to see the contrast and contradiction between these two characters. A lot of unpleasant things and arguments happen during Blanche’s stay at Kowalski’s. Stanley even rapes Blanche, but his wife refuses to believe it. Finally, Blanche suffers a mental breakdown and is taken away to the asylum.      

The underlying theme of the play is a struggle between the fantasy and wishes of Blanch and the reality of Stanley. There is also a struggle between them over the control of Stella. Blanch wants Stella to live in the castle built by her in the sky whereas Stanley wants Stella to remain devoted to him and to be his wife.

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