Stella and Stanley Kowalski shared a house in New Orleans. The name of the street is Elysian Fields, suggesting a form of paradise - in Greek mythology; Elysium or Elysian fields were the fields at the ends of the earth where the gods sent heroes, suggesting a place or state of ideal happiness. The irony of this is seen in the poverty and entrapment of the residents in this otherwise warm and cosmopolitan neighbourhood.
Stella and Stanley's preferred way of living, with Stanley as the dominant force in their highly sexed, dependent relationship, is disturbed when Stella's older sister Blanche, comes to stay.
Stella has not warned her ex-army husband of this intrusion and he is not impressed by Blanche's arrival and extended stay.
Blanche clearly has different standards and sees herself as above Stanley, later calling him a Polak.
Yet she soon relishes in flirting with her sister's husband.
Stanley's lifestyle is one of drinking and gambling. He has a violent temper and a forceful character. This is seen most obviously during the Poker Night of Scene three when there is a battle of wills between Blanche and Stanley and also Stella and Stanley, as the masculine world takes over the house.
Stanley hits Stella, is restrained by his friends, and Blanche is disturbed. She wants to rescue Stella from this environment but Stella willingly returns to Stanley's calls. The gentle Stella is as different from the neighbourhood as her sister, but has moulded herself to fit in. She is pregnant (a fact which she keeps from her sister but which Stanley enjoys telling Blanche, to unsettle her, in Scene two).
Blanche Dubois is set apart by her whiter-than-white appearance (association: purity) and her criticisms of the standard of living to which she has come. Her arrival is surrounded in some mystery: Belle Reve ('Beautiful Dream'), the family plantation, has been sold, but there is no evidence of money from the sale.
Stanley feels that he is entitled to some of the assets.
Blanche claims to have spent the money on funeral costs as the members of the Dubois family died off and she was left to arrange their funerals, which affected her greatly.
The story of Blanche's life is revealed gradually: she over-dramatises everything but is clearly hiding some painful truths, not least, that she once had a husband who died. She implies that he had a homosexual relationship, and that her feelings of disgust at this prompted her husband's suicide. She likes sensitive, poetic men, but as her husband was her only experience of love, she finds it difficult to accept anyone else's love. Her experience of men since then is similar to prostitution, and sexuality has become more significant to her then love. Ironically, love is what she seeks.
To Stanley's annoyance, Blanche has disrupted his poker night and formed her own friendship with Mitch. Mitch offers a meaningful relationship for Blanche, when she learns of his feelings for his dying mother and a girlfriend who died. Here is potential empathy, and of course Blanche feels she can only keep this sympathy if she becomes physically involved with Mitch.
The reputation, which follows Blanche from Laurel, is discovered and investigated, initially through Stanley's enquiries
On the night of Blanche's birthday meal, Stanley tells Stella that he has informed Mitch of Blanche's past. This includes the fact that she was dismissed from her job for getting romantically involved with a seventeen-year-old male student. Mitch does not arrive for Blanche's meal; Blanche is upset. Shortly afterwards, Stella goes into labour and Stanley takes her to hospital: Blanche is alone when a delivery boy arrives: she flirts with him and kisses him on the lips, without his consent.
Mitch comes round later, and when he confronts Blanche about her past she at once both denies and backs up Stanley's discoveries. She is too unstable to separate truth from reality. She cannot let Mitch too close, protecting her own feelings and in some respects, patronising him. He threatens **** as a response to his hurt and his injured pride.
Stanley's return from hospital (assuming the baby will be a boy-obviously) on the same night as Blanche's birthday, leaves Blanche and Stanley alone.
Blanche has been randomly clinging onto the comfort of an old admirer, Shep Huntleigh, whom she knew at college (she's at least 27 now). She pretends she has contact with him and that he will take her away from life in Elysian Fields. At this moment she feels insecure and threatened, to the extent that she tries to phone him in front of Stanley in a bizarre attempt to establish some authority. Stanley confronts her lies and physically places himself in her way, trapping her. Blanche breaks a bottle in self-defence but Stanley grapples this from her. Stanley suggests that the tension between himself and Blanche means that sex is a foregone conclusion, and excuse enough for ****, and the **** itself is highly problematic in the presentation of the unstable Blanche's submission.
Some weeks later, the final scene of the play shows Stella's choice of staying with Stanley and ignoring her sister's claim. Eunice supports Stella's decision as Blanche is taken away to an asylum. She is even more mentally disturbed, her final line re-asserting her vulnerability.
The men play poker as she leaves, in a re-enactment of the poker night. Stanley still physically asserts his authority over her. Stella is upset, but as soon as Blanche has gone, she and Stanley find a physical comfort in each other. Mitch has awareness that this whole situation is wrong.
Gender and Sexuality - Race and Poverty
Gender and Sexuality
Everyone is very masculine or feminine, with very defined ways of being. The clothing worn accentuates this, with Blanche wearing ironic virginal white, while the men wear the strong, bold colours that Blanche considers manly. The minor characters reinforce the gender stereotypes.
Race and Poverty
This is a mixed race area, and not very prosperous. The minor character of the ***** woman is given no status, which echoes how racist perceptions would categorise her, for example in the very plantation setting that Stella and Blanche have left. Stella represents a union with a race other than her own, which led to a fall in her status as she left Belle Reve. However, the whole plantation has collapsed and Blanche's prospects with it. No one prospers.
Dreams and Reality - Tension and Desire
Dreams and Reality
Blanche desires a return to the plantation land of Belle Reve as it was before death and decay set in. As 'Belle Reve' stands for 'Beautiful Dream', the name emphasises that the idea of a perfect Belle Reve is stronger than the actuality.
Tension and Desire
Stella and Stanley resent the interruption that Blanche brings, infringing upon their privacy. This must create tensions between them, and also between each of them and Blanche. There is also a constant threat of violence which breeds from this tension.
Williams builds tension through the interaction of the main characters and through his setting and stage direction.
Language and Music
The colloquial language used by Stanley contrasts with the language that Blanche and Stella use and illustrates their different upbringings. Blanche responds more positively to more formal introductions: this is seen when Stella introduces her to Stanley's friend, and also when the doctor speaks to her in the last scene: she responds more positively to a more formal address. Music is also an important reflection of Blanche's insecurities, and is used as a symbol of her state of mind.
Names in this text show how the characters are, or how they would want to be, Blanche Dubois, for example, takes delight in her name's definition 'White Wood', suggesting perhaps a mysterious place where she exists as a clean and pure person. Stella is associated with stars.
How Williams homosexuality influenced ideas in str
Sexuality plays a key role throughout: Williams' homosexuality perhaps influenced his interpretation of these characters. The tensions of the play centre on a hidden homosexual relationship of the past and its long lasting effects. Within the timescale of the play we see the negativity of certain gender and cultural attitudes, and Williams' concern with gender and sexual identity within society.
These stereotypes, while perhaps seeming over-zealous, are historical and current. Williams was concerned to use strong imagery to investigate human weakness, and Streetcar is certainly laden with obviously stated imagery