A Streetcar Named Desire is a tragic drama. The play is a tragedy because its protagonist suffers an unfortunate fate and is fundamentally destroyed and lost at the play’s end. Streetcar also qualifies as a tragic drama by adhering to the three unities of time, place, and action adapted from the Aristotelian rules for classic Greek tragedy. The story unfolds over a set time period (of roughly six months); it occurs within a single setting (within and around the Kowalski apartment); and it adheres to a single plot (the escalating conflict between Stanley Kowalski and Blanche DuBois). 

Read about another tragic drama, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.

Because Streetcar contains exaggerated emotions, explosive events, and theatrical effects, some critics classify it as a melodrama—more specifically, a sub-genre called Southern Gothic. Developed in the 1920s and typically written by native Southerners, works in the Southern Gothic genre take place in the contemporary American South, which remains permeated by the legacy of the Civil War. An atmosphere of decay, impoverished settings, grotesque characters, and violent or lurid events characterize Southern Gothic literature. Instances of violence, insanity, and sex often figure prominently in the action, and all of these elements are readily apparent in Streetcar.

Read more about the Southern Gothic as it applies to William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily.”