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MonkeyNotes-A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

PREFACE

A Streetcar Named Desire, published in 1947, is one of the better known and much staged plays of Tennessee Williams. Williams turned to his personal life for Themes and subject matter for his plays, and yet there is certain universality about them, for his own life aptly depicted the shattering of the American Dream and its effect on the American people. These domestic dramas, therefore, depict the tragedy and despair of almost every household. This is what makes Williams' plays relevant to the reader. Studying them will, therefore, help the reader to learn more about himself and about the playwright.

SETTING

A Streetcar Named Desire is set in the residence of the Kowalskis located in a poor, yet charming neighborhood of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the Kowalskis, the reader is introduced to the characters that are of varied origins in their nationalities, in their backgrounds, and in their beliefs. Through the play, therefore, the reader is given a glimpse of the world in coexistence.


LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Blanche Dubois

The central character and the tragic heroine of the play. She is a "moth-like" creature who is overly sensitive and overly proud of her aristocratic background. She is a stranger to New Orleans with its rough, boisterous ways. She lives in an illusory world in order to shield her promiscuity, prompted by a very young marriage that ended in tragedy. She seeks refuge with her sister Stella and her husband Stanley after losing her teaching position. She is dubbed as a misfit by Stanley and conveniently sent off to the state institution by Stella and her husband.

Stanley Kowalski

Stella's domineering and possessive husband and Blanche's brother-in-law. Of Polish origin, he represents all that is virile, masculine, common, and boisterous in life. Vengeful in nature, he becomes Blanche's nemesis, spoils her chance of a possibly happy marriage with his best friend, Harold Mitchell (Mitch), and rapes her himself.

Stella Kowalski

Blanche's younger sister, and Stanley's wife. She is a figure of silent suffering and tremendous compromise. Despite her gentle and refined background, she has surrendered to Stanley's domineering ways, for she truly loves him and enjoys the physical pleasures he provides. She feels sorry for Blanche but sacrifices her to the state institution to save her marriage.

Harold Mitchell (Mitch)

Stanley's poker friend and Blanche's last hope for a husband. He is sensitive in nature, like Blanche, but also mediocre. He listens to Stanley's story of Blanche's promiscuous past and decides to forget her, thus triggering her madness; unfortunately, he repents too late to change the course of events.

Minor Characters

Eunice and Steve Hubbel

The Kowalski's landlords and upstairs neighbors. Although helpful by nature, they have their own domestic problems and quarrels. Steve is a poker-playing friend of Stanley.

Pablo Gonzales

A Spaniard who is a poker playing friend of Stanley.

Negro Woman

A helpful neighbor.

A Young Man

The newspaper boy who collects for the subscription to the paper. Blanche flirts with him, for he reminds her of her deceased "boy" husband.

A Mexican Woman

A vendor of artificial flowers used in funerals. She reminds Blanche of her numerous encounters with death.

A Doctor

A gentleman whose kindness persuades Blanche to leave for the state institution.

A Nurse

A rough, desensitized employee of the state institution who has accompanied the doctor.

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