A streetcar named desire



Opening- 'incongruous' - Old South vs New South 'suggests a moth' (pg 3). - Truth/illusion

'They told me to take a streetcar named desire and then transfer to once called Cemeteries’ - desire.‘She’s soaking in a hot tub to quiet her nerves’- truth/illusion.
‘Maybe he’s what we need to mix our blood with now’ 
‘Please don’t get up’ ‘Don’t hang back with the brutes!’ (Stanley= primal but new south dominant) ‘You’re a natural gentleman, one of very few left in the world ‘I have old fashioned ideals!’ ’- old south vs new south

‘I can’t stand a naked light bulb anymore than I cans stand a rude remark or vulgar action’ ‘I’m fading now’ ‘It was like you suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been in darkness’ ‘Say it’s only a paper moon’ 'As if a child were frolicking in the tub’ 'The music is in her mind, she is drinking to escape it’ 'He tears the paper lantern of the light-bulb’, The trunk ‘hangs open’ in ‘the centre of the bedroom’ ‘The shadows are of a grotesque and menacing form’, ‘Please don’t get up. I’m only passing through.’. - truth/illusion. 
'Please don’t get up’, ‘Please don’t get up. I’m only passing through.’- class.

‘Thank you for being so kind, I need kindness now’ ‘Temporary magic in order to pay for a night’s shelter’ ‘Don’t even admit your existence unless they are making love to you’ ‘You’re a natural gentleman, one of very few left in the world’, lights/polka music, 'I have always depended on the kindness of strangers’- repression/dependence,

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Opening- “coloured shirts […] as coarse and direct and powerful as the primary colours” This shows his intense, base masculinity, as well as his vibrancy and vivid lifestyle which is energetic. “blue denim work clothes” - Highlights how he is of a lower class compared to Blanche, but is proud of his work and status. Dominant, masculine sexuality: "strongly, compactly built", “power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens” and "gaudy seed bearer". The colours of his clothing reveal how much of an authentic lifestyle he lives and the vivid colours of the working class shows their vitality and energy, as well as suggests they will succeed in life.

masculunity, working class hero, aggression, old south. 
“with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens” (scene 1)

“There is such thing in this state of Louisiana as the Napoleonic code…”
I’ve been on you from the start!”

I am not a Polack. People from Poland are Poles, not Polacks. But what I am is a one hundred percent American, born and raised in the greatest country on earth and proud as hell of it, so don’t ever call me a Polack.” 

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  • 'Stella complies reluctantly' (when Blanche tells her to stand up) 
  • 'She catches his head and raises him level with her' (When she forgives Stanley) 
  • 'He was as good as a lamb when I came back and he's really very, very ashamed of himself' 
  • 'What have I done to my sister?' 

    I just got in the habit of being quite around you” – Scene 1

    ❀ Reflects Stella as being easily manipulated and controlled.

    “try not to – well compare him”

    ❀ Stella is trying to avoid conflict/confrontation with Stanley and Blanche as Stanley is from a different social background.

    “Her little weakness” – Scene 2

    ❀ Stella is trying to avoid conflict and make Blanche feel welcomed.

    ❀ “weakness” is Blanche’s vanity

    “My head is swimming!”

    ❀ Stella upholds hegemonic femininity traits as Blanche’s failure to confront reality reflects in her sister upon emotional turmoil

    “Now close that trunk before she comes out the bathroom! (He kicks the trunk partly closed)”

    ❀ Reveals the couple’s marriage to be on of a constant struggle for control

    ❀ Stella tries to mediate Stanley’s brute nature.

    “It makes me so mad when he does that in front of people” – Scene 3

    ❀ Stella has no power against Stanley as she’s inferior to him

    ❀ Hint domestic violence

    “This is my house and I’ll talk as much as I want to!”

    ❀ Stella speaks up for herself

    ❀ Challenge Stanley’s power and authority

    “You lay your hands on me and I’ll… Stanley charges at Stella. There is a sound of a blow. Stella cries out”

    ❀ Illustrates the powerlessness of women to domestic violence at the time

    ❀ Shows Stanley as animalistic and shows the violence to be primitive

    “I want to go away”

    ❀ Indicates she is a victim of domestic abuse and want to leave however her feelings and sexual attraction for Stanley make her stay.

    Her eyes go blind with tenderness”

    ❀ Stella is blinded by love which makes her blind to the way she is treated

    Her face is serene in the early morning sunlight […] her eyes and lips have that almost narcotized tranquillity that is in the faces of Eastern idols. […] Blanche appears at the door. She has spent a sleepless night and her appearance entirely contrasts with Stella’s” – Scene 4

    ❀ The contrast of the sisters is essentially reverses as Blanche become the, slightly erratic yet, pragmatic one whereas Stella is denying the abusive relationship she finds herself in

    ❀ Perhaps Blanche is rubbing off on her, but such has occurred before so perhaps just adhering to hegemonic traits and expectations.

    “When men are drinking and playing poker anything can happen […] He was as good as a lamb when I came back”

    ❀ Exploits hegemonic traits to justify abuse

    ❀ Blames contemporary society

    ❀ Zoomorphism – “lamb” innocent and childlike.

    “I was – sort of – thrilled by it.”

    ❀ Wedding night links sex & violence

    ❀ She likes the animalistic side of Stanley

    “People have got to tolerate each other habits”

    ❀ Euphemism

    ❀ Stella has accepted Stanley and she’s used to the domestic abuse

    “Stanley doesn’t give me a regular allowance, he like to pay the bills himself”

    ❀ Stella has no financial autonomy nor is financially independent from Stanley even though she comes from a high social status.

    ❀ Highlights Stanley’s ownership and control over Stella.

    “But there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark – that sort of makes everything else seem – unimportant”

    ❀ Stella’s euphemistic language makes the ordeal seem more romantic to disguise the fact that desire is the only thing holding them together

    “I like to wait on you Blanche” – Scene 5

    ❀ Used to her role as a housewife and presents hegemonic femininity.

    ❀ Stella is inferior to Blanche and waited on her when she was younger

    “I grew up in under very different circumstances than you do” – Scene 7

    ❀ Stella grew up in the rich south on plantations and married down her social status.

    ❀ Highlights the difference in class.

    “Your face and your fingers are disgustingly greasy. Go and wash up and then help me clear the table” – Scene 8

    ❀ Emasculated and insults Stanley – almost accreting her power as being of a higher social class.

    ❀ Imperative – Showing her control and power

    “But people like you abused her and, forced her to change”

    ❀ Stella understand why Blanche is the way she is and shows the effects of society and toxic men on a woman.

    ❀ Blanche was forced to put up her façade to protect herself.

    “Take me to hospital”

    ❀ Stella has gone into Labour.

    “We’d made arrangements for her to rest in the country” – Scene 11

    ❀ Stella and Stanley arranged for Blanche to be institutionalised.

    ❀ Contextual link to Tennessee Williams sister who was institutionalized and had a lobotomy.

    “I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley”

    ❀ Stella chose Stanley’s story and decided to stay with him even after she found about Blanche’s **** allegations

    “What have I done to my sister”

    ❀ Stella feels guilty sending her sister to a mental institution.

    ❀ Stella’s anagnorisis.

    “She sobs with inhumane abandon”

    ❀ Stella is punished in the end as she is trapped with Stanley living in disbelief

    ❀ Cry for help.

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“You all are married. But I’ll be alone when she goes” – Scene 3

→ Shows his caring and sensitive nature as he takes care of his mother.

→ Highlights he is lonely and that he has nobody to take care of him.

“How do you do, Miss DuBois?”

→ Feminist discourse as Mitch tries to elevate himself for Blanche’s sake through dialect.

→ He’s old fashioned and respectful.

“There’s a story connected with that inscription… a pretty sad one”

→ Romantic and Sentimental

→ Highlights similarities between him and Blanche as they both have dead lovers.

“She knew she was dying when she give me this. A very strange girl, very sweet—very.”

→ First conversation with Blanche, who has just admired his silver cigarette case inscribed with a quotation from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “And if God choose, I shall but love thee better—after—death.”

→ Reveal Mitch’s softer side and his vulnerability, having lost someone he loved.

Mitch is delighted and moves in awkward imitation like a dancing bear.”

→ The description reinforces the animal nature of men, but a dancing bear contrasts the brutish nature of Stanley as such projects a warm image


“Poker shouldn’t be played in a house with women”

→ Repetition of this reveals Mitch and society trying to justify and convince himself that such is to blame rather than the inherent violent nature of Stanley as blame is projected on the presence of women.

“You just blew your top, Stan”

→ Euphemistic and trying to minimise/ rationalise the violence

“for MITCH is bearing, upside down, a plaster statuette of Mae West, the sort of prize won at shooting-galleries and carnival games of chance” – Scene 6

→ Mae West was a sex symbol and was known for her light-hearted bawdy double engenders and breezy sexual independence

→ The fact that Mitch and Blanche have won here reflects a peak in their relationship as nothing else to strive for.

“I wasn’t giving you much – entertainment”

→ Revels his shy and awkward personality.

→ “entertainment” imply sexual advances

“Can I – uh – kiss you – good-night?”

→ Presents him as a gentleman and respectful of Blanche.

→ Awkward and inexperienced in dating

“I like you to be exactly the way that you are, because in all my—experience—I have never known anyone like you.”

→ Mitch exposes his honest feelings, to himself, to Blanche, and to the audience. Sadly, for him, Blanche’s reaction is an outburst of laughter.

→ His honesty and vulnerability are too much to bear for Blanche, a woman who runs from reality.

“I weigh two hundred and seven pounds and I’m six feet one and one half inches tall in my bare feet—without shoes on. And that is what I weigh stripped.”

→ Mitch’s description of his physical form reveals he is getting comfortable talking to Blanche.

→ He admits that he is self-conscious of perspiring, which is why he doesn’t want to take off his coat and that he has been working out at the New Orleans Athletic Club

→ They are both conscious of their appearances, a fact Blanche could use to develop a real connection with Mitch.

“She wants me to settle down before she”

→ Mitch revels he speaks to his mother about Blanche implying a serious connection between the two of them.

→ Mitch want s marriage to make his dying mother happy.

“You need somebody. And I need somebody, too. Could it be—you and me, Blanche?

→ Mitch asks Blanche if she thinks they could be a couple.

→ His words are at most a proposal of marriage, at least an admission that they are two lost souls who might have found mates.

→ The scene has been a volatile one where Mitch has listened to Blanche’s confession about her first marriage and its tragic end.

→ Seems that Blanche and Mitch have found love, or at least, peace.

“He tears the paper lantern off the bulb” – scene 9

→ Symbolise that the relationship between Mitch and Blanche is broken after he found out about her past in Laurel.

→ Symbolic of the truth coming out and him physically tearing Blanche’s façade.

“I don’t mind you being older than what I thought… That pitch about your ideals being so old fashioned and all the malarkey”

→ Mitch isn’t disgusted by Blanches age or her past, but he is angry about the lies she told him past the summer.

→ He knows the truth about Blanche and tears her faced even more.

“You lied to me”

→ Feels tricked by Blanche.

→ Highlights that he won’t be able to trust her again or forgiver her.

“[fumbling to embrace her] What I been missing all summer”

→ Revels that Mitch wanted sex out of Blanche.

→ Implies that because of her past she is ‘easy’ and he can get something from her.

“You’re not clean enough to bring in the house with my mother”


→ Reveals that he is willing to sleep with Blanche but not marry her or take her to meet his mother as she isn’t ‘pure’ enough.

“ducks his head lower”- scene 11

→ Emphasises his guilt as he is trying to hid away from Blanche.

“You! You done this, all o’ your God damn interfering”

→ Ironic: as Mitch could have saved Blanche but instead tried forcing himself onto her.

→ Sexual Connotations “interfering” link to Stanley ****** Blanche and Mitch attempting to take advantage of her.

→ Highlights Mitch’s guilt

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Minor characters

Steve & Eunice- dramatic parody, Eunice supports Stella, men in the play- enhance Stanley’s power.

  • men- masculinity as bold personalities & colours.
  • Diversity- men- immigrant names- multi-ethnic New Orleans, black woman- diversity.
  • Key moments- poker night, ending, opening scene, Steve & Eunice fighting.

Context- n*gro woman was played originally by a man- black womanhood a joke in play.

^ Steve & Eunice = contemporary attitudes towards domestic violence.

mexican woman- The blind Mexican Woman is hardly a character, more an ominous presence reminding Blanche of death when she cries out selling her flowers for the dead.

Allan gray- reminder of Blanche's past/trauma/homosexuality/vulnerability- gun shot. 

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  • By this point in Scene Ten, Blanche knows that Mitch is not going to marry her. She is drunk, and is desperately trying to contact Shep Huntleigh, when Stanley comes home. Read from ‘Blanche finally straightening: Let me – let me get by you!’ (Scene Ten, p. 96) to the end of the scene.
  • WHY is it important? This is the climax of the play. Stella is giving birth, and Blanche is vulnerable and desperate. Stanley challenges Blanche’s claims, they clash and he carries her off to **** her. 
  • WHAT themes does it explore? It explores the theme of desire and fate: the sexual attraction between Stanley and Blanche finally comes into the open – which Stanley claims was fated ‘from the beginning’. 
  • HOW does it work dramatically? It seems at first that perhaps Stanley just wants to toy with Blanche and assert his power, but her fearful threat seems to excite him. When he disarms her, she suddenly gives in. 
  • WHAT language techniques does it employ? The language Williams gives Stanley is ambiguous. We wonder at first if he is really letting Blanche go. He seems to change with the euphemism ‘interfere with’. His mention of ‘rough-house’ is challenging. His final line is ominous.
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- use of music to reflect characters’ inner thoughts

 set directions and the impact of close audience proximity

 use of minor characters to offer alternative perspectives

 dramatic impact of Williams’ detailed stage directions

 development of the back story for each character

 sense of duality throughout: feminine v masculine; reality v illusion; old v

new South

 effect of memory on the perspectives of characters.

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Division of the play


  • Williams wrote Streetcar with eleven scenes and no break for an interval.
  • Have been speculations for his reason in doing so, maybe to keep dramatic tension. 
  • Every scene ends with a punchline or dramatic gesture, the effect in each case is that of the ending of a playlet, with the players motionless in a tableau.


  • An element of repetition in the play, deaths of Belle Reve, Blanche's husband, her fear of growing old, her passion for baths: all of these are dramatically necessary for more than one scene.
  • These repetitions will strengthen the impression that these scenes stand independent of one another.
  • The plays cinematic nature- We see the 'camera' witnessing one incident and moving on, and like cinema, use sensational scenes of violence and passion.
  • The timeframe


    • The play covers a period of five months.
    • There is a cluster of dramatic events in May and another more dramatic cluster in September.
    • By September, some relationships have crystallised: Stanley dislikes Blanche as an intruder and a potential rival for both Mitch and Stella.
    • By September, the obscure references have become clear too: loss of Belle Reve, suicide Blanche's husband and the reasons for it, and why Blanche departed from Laurel.
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Structure (more)

rising tensions. 
stanley + blanche

Centred around polka night + **** scene 

ending completes.

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