A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee WilliamsThe Pulitzer Prize and Drama Critics Circle Award winning play—reissued with an introduction by Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman and The Crucible), and Williams’ essay “The World I Live In.”
It is a very short list of 20th-century American plays that continue to have the same power and impact as when they first appeared—57 years after its Broadway premiere, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those plays. The story famously recounts how the faded and promiscuous Blanche DuBois is pushed over the edge by her sexy and brutal brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Streetcar launched the careers of Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden, and solidified the position of Tennessee Williams as one of the most important young playwrights of his generation, as well as that of Elia Kazan as the greatest American stage director of the ’40s and ’50s.
A Streetcar Named Desire
The play is set in the shabby but rakishly charming New Orleans of the s. Stanley and Stella Kowalski live in the downstairs flat of a faded corner building. Williams uses a flexible set so that the audience simultaneously sees the interior and the exterior of the apartment. An English teacher though hardly a schoolmarm , dressed in all white, she is delicate and moth-like. Blanche tells Stella that Belle Reve, the family plantation, has been lost, and that she has been given a leave of absence from her teaching position due to her nerves.
After the loss of her family home, Belle Reve, to creditors, Blanche DuBois travels from the small town of Laurel, Mississippi , to the New Orleans French Quarter to live with her younger, married sister, Stella , and brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Blanche is in her thirties and, with no money, has nowhere else to go. Blanche tells Stella that she has taken a leave of absence from her English-teaching position because of her nerves which is later revealed to be a lie. Blanche laments the shabbiness of her sister's two-room flat. She finds Stanley loud and rough, eventually referring to him as "common". Stanley, in return, does not care for Blanche's manners and dislikes her presence. Stanley later questions Blanche about her earlier marriage.
The play opens in New Orleans in the s at the ground-floor flat of a young couple, Stanley and Stella Kowalski. Upstairs lives another couple, Eunice and Steve. The dynamic between main characters Stella and Stanley is made immediately clear when he—clearly a gruff dude—tosses a piece of meat to his wife for her to make into dinner. Gender roles anyone? After both Kowalskis exit, Blanche DuBois comes onstage. When Stella comes back, the sisters reunite and Blanche reveals some bad news: their family plantation, Belle Reve, has been lost; they are bankrupt. She resents that she had to stay home and watch their older family members die one by one while Stella was off with Stanley.
The Kowalski apartment is in a poor but charming neighborhood in the French Quarter. Stella, twenty-five years old and pregnant, lives with her blue collar husband Stanley Kowalski. It is summertime, and the heat is oppressive.
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A Streetcar Named Desire
Blanche DuBois arrives to visit her sister, Mrs. She is shocked by the disreputable looks of the place. While a neighbor goes to find Stella, Blanche looks around the apartment for a drink. When her sister comes, Blanche quite frankly criticizes the place. She explains that she has come for a visit because her nerves are shattered from teaching. Noticing that the apartment has only two rooms, she has qualms about staying but she tells Stella that she can't stand being alone. She explains to Stella that their old ancestral home, Belle Reve, has been lost.
Blanche tells Stella that she lost Belle Reve, their ancestral home, following the death of all their remaining relatives. She also mentions that she has been given a leave of absence from her teaching position because of her bad nerves. It is clear that Stella was happy to leave behind her the social pretensions of her background in exchange for the sexual gratification she gets from her husband; she even is pregnant with his baby. Stanley immediately distrusts Blanche to the extent that he suspects her of having cheated Stella out of her share of the family inheritance. After Mitch has been absent for a while, speaking with Blanche in the bedroom, Stanley erupts, storms into the bedroom, and throws the radio out of the window.