An Analysis of A Streetcar Named Desire

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In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams tells the story of two sisters on vastly different trajectories in life. Stella Kowalski is depicted living a content, married life in urban New Orleans, while her sister Blanche DuBois shows up at her doorstep disheveled and down on her luck. Immediately catching the reader’s attention is Blanche’s disoriented state and her bewilderment at Stella’s current residence. 

Upon seeing Stella’s apartment, Blanche is at first in denial that it is the right place, saying, “This – can this be – her home?” as if disgusted at the mere sight of it (Williams 2). Compared to her southern plantation, it seems as if the place is not up to Blanche’s standards. Clearly not in the right state of mind, she later dismisses Eunice, Stella’s friend, in a rude manner and almost passes out. The primary conflict of the story involved Stella’s husband Stanley and his disapproval of Blanche staying with the two of them. It is revealed that the family home, Belle Reve, has been lost and Blanche is now without a home. Stanley immediately voices objection to the plan, as Stella claims she is taking Blanche out to dinner and her husband asks who will make his dinner for the night (Williams 17). He also questions whether the house has even been sold and requests to see a bill of sale. 

Although conflict builds after it is revealed that the real reason Blanche left Mississippi was that she was cheating with a 17-year-old boy, the true climax comes in scene ten, when Stanley is left alone with Blanche after both are intoxicated. Refusing to let her leave the apartment, Stanley eventually forces her into the bedroom and says, “So you want some rough-house! All right, let’s have some rough-house!” (Williams 98). It is never explicitly stated, but it is strongly implied that Stanley rapes Blanche.

The story is ultimately resolved after Blanche is sent to a mental home, after claiming she is anxious to get out of the house. However, when she claims she is anxious to leave, she believes the two have made arrangements for her to stay in the country with a man named Shep Huntleigh. To her dismay, she walks outside to see a doctor and a woman, and although she tries running into the house to resist, the play ends with her being forced to leave while the men continue playing cards, unaffected by her departure. 

Vocabulary

Stella: They’re a mixed lot, Blanche. 

Blanche: Heterogeneous – types? (Williams 9).

Example: The dockworkers were comprised of a heterogeneous collection of characters, many of which had diverse backgrounds, interests, and political views. 

Stanley: It looks to me like you have been swindled, baby, and when you’re swindled under the Napoleonic code I’m swindled too (Williams 19).

Example: The organizers of the Ponzi scheme swindled away millions of dollars from hard-working Americans through fraud and deception. 

Blanche: What in the name of heaven are you thinking of! What’s in the back of that little boy’s mind of yours? That I am absconding with something, attempting some sort of treachery on my sister? (Williams 25).

Example: After robbing the bank in broad daylight, the man is currently absconding in order to evade arrest and prosecution. 

Blanche: He is insufferably rude. Goes out of his way to offend me (Williams 68).

Example: The men and women who protested the dead soldier’s funeral due to the fact that they object to war were insufferably ignorant and disrespectful.

Blanche: Crumble and fade and – regrets – recriminations… “If you’d done this, it wouldn’t’ve cost me that.” (Williams 90). 

Example: After being accused of murder, the man’s recriminations against his accusers were harsh and adamant. 

Tennessee Williams’ Ability to Engage Readers

Readers have been captivated by A Streetcar Named Desire for decades since its release, hence the reason it is still performed many years later. The action throughout the story is evenly spread out, providing a slow-building climax, a strong conflict, and a definitive resolution. During the beginning, middle, and end of the story, there are segments readers find interesting. 

Near the beginning of the story, one of the first engaging plotlines is Stanley’s doubt as to whether Bell Reve had indeed been sold. He asks to see the thousands of papers she brought with her after she provides a contradictory story as to how the home was lost. He claims he knows a lawyer who will study the papers (Williams 26). It immediately puts doubt into the readers’ minds as to whether Blanche is being truthful. 

One section during the middle of the play that readers find interesting is when Blanche finally breaks down and gives her opinion of Stanley, calling him an animal and claiming there is something ape-like about him (Williams 51). Her description of Stanley not only provides a moment of comic relief, but Stanley abruptly walking into the home just seconds after Blanche finishes her rant is also ironic as the two act as if nothing had happened. It is especially ironic that Blanche questions Stanley’s morality after it is later revealed that her reason for leaving Mississippi is because she had numerous affairs, including one with a 17-year-old boy. 

Lastly, near the end of the story, Blanche describes how she walked in on her husband Allan Grey having a homosexual affair with a person she had assumed to be his friend. Devastated by being caught in the act, Grey puts a gun in his mouth and takes his life. Stanley’s friend Mitch comforts her after she reveals the story to him (Williams 71). The tale provides further insight into the totality of events that eventually led to Blanche’s mental collapse. 

In all, the play is a classic of American literature and an absolute masterpiece that captivates readers and draws them in from the very first page. Williams, as always, does a magnificent job of developing his characters, writing a believable plot, and ending the story with a satisfying, definitive resolution. 

Work Cited

Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. 1947. Web. <http://www.theactingprofessor. com/downloads/files/A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE.pdf>.