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A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams

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full title  ·  A Streetcar Named Desire

author · Tennessee Williams

type of work · Play

genre  · Tragedy

language  · English

time and place written  · Late 1940s, New Orleans

date of first publication  ·  1947

publisher  · New Directions

tone  · Ironic and sympathetic realism

setting (time)  ·  1940s

setting (place)  · New Orleans, Louisiana

protagonist  · Blanche DuBois

major conflict  · Blanche DuBois, an aging Southern debutante, arrives at her sister’s home in New Orleans hoping to start a new life after losing her ancestral mansion, her job, and her reputation in her hometown of Laurel, Mississippi. Blanche’s brother-in-law, a macho working-class guy named Stanley Kowalski, is so filled with class resentment that he seeks to destroy Blanche’s character in New Orleans as well. His cruelty, combined with Blanche’s fragile, insecure personality, leaves her mentally detached from reality by the play’s end.

rising action  · Blanche immediately rouses the suspicion of Stanley, who (wrongly) suspects Blanche of swindling Stella out of her inheritance. Blanche grows to despise Stanley when she sees him drunkenly beat her pregnant sister. Stanley permanently despises Blanche after he overhears her trying to convince Stella to leave Stanley because he is common. Already suspicious of Blanche’s act of superiority, Stanley researches Blanche’s past. He discovers that in Laurel Blanche was known for her sexual promiscuity and for having an affair with a teenage student. He reports his findings to Blanche’s suitor, Mitch, dissuading Mitch from marrying Blanche.

climax  · After Stanley treats Blanche cruelly during her birthday dinner, giving her a bus ticket back to Laurel as a present, Stella goes into labor. She and Stanley depart for the hospital, leaving Blanche alone in the house. Mitch arrives, drunk, and breaks off his relationship with Blanche. Blanche, alone in the apartment once more, drowns herself in alcohol and dreams of an impossible rescue. Stanley returns to the apartment from the hospital and rapes Blanche.

falling action  · Weeks after the rape, Stella secretly prepares for Blanche’s departure to an insane asylum. She tells her neighbor Eunice that she simply couldn’t believe Blanche’s accusation that Stanley raped her. Unaware of reality, Blanche boasts that she is leaving to join a millionaire suitor. When the doctor arrives, Blanche leaves after a minor struggle, and only Stella and Mitch, who sits in the kitchen with Stanley’s poker players, seem to express real remorse for her.

themes  · Fantasy’s inability to overcome reality; the relationship between sex and death; dependence on men

motifs  · Light; bathing; drunkenness

symbols  · Shadows and cries; the Varsouviana polka; “It’s Only a Paper Moon”; meat

foreshadowing  · In Scene Ten, Williams takes a brief detour away from events in the Kowalski household to show a street scene involving a prostitute, her male admirer, and a Negro woman. The man follows the prostitute solicitously, there is a struggle offstage, and then the Negro woman runs away with the prostitute’s handbag. This scene foreshadows Stanley’s rape of Blanche, which occurs offstage at the scene’s end. Stanley’s raiding of Blanche’s trunk in Scene Two also foreshadows the rape.

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How was Blanche's rape inevitable

by PoeticProclivity, September 03, 2012

I don't understand your view of how Blanche's rape, In which you stated, "Blanche's most visceral experiences are illusions and repressed memories that torment her, so that her rape seems an almost inevitable consequence of her psychological pain." How exactly, in anyway, is Blanche's rape inevitable? Did she appeal weak stimulating Stanley's carnal desire to conquer Blanche's threatening, bourgeoisie personality?

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109 out of 133 people found this helpful

fundamental gentlemanliness: I don't think it means what you think it means.

by ParisCoffee, March 06, 2014

Wait, wait. Mitch -doesn't rape someone- and that makes him a gentleman? C'mon. That's a pretty low bar for "gentleman" isn't it? That word has a specific meaning and it is for sure not "doesn't commit a horrible, violent crime even though he wants to."

I think the wording you're looking for there is something other than "fundamental gentlemanliness." There is a whole lot of daylight between simply not being a violent criminal and being a gentleman.

2 Comments

11 out of 13 people found this helpful

Stella?

by kdiepholzeghs, August 28, 2014

I am failing to see how Stella is not a major character -- and especially how Mitch is considered to be MORE major than her.

1 Comments

3 out of 4 people found this helpful

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