'A Streetcar Named Desire' Characters

The characters in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire represent the multi-faceted nature of the South. While Blanche represents an old-world ideal—she formerly owned a plantation called Belle Reve and has a patrician affectation—, the other characters, including Stanley, his friends, and other inhabitants of the quarter, represent the multi-cultural reality of a city like New Orleans. Straddling these two worlds is Stella, who left her upper-class roots behind in order to be with Stanley.

Blanche DuBois

Blanche DuBois is the protagonist of the play, a fading beauty in her thirties. She is a former English teacher, the widow of a homosexual husband, and a seducer of young men. At the beginning of the play, she tells the other characters that she has arrived in New Orleans after taking a leave of absence from her job because of “nerves.” However, as the play progresses, she weaves a more and more intricate web of lies. For example, she tells her suitor, Mitch, that she is Stella’s younger sister—she is obsessively afraid of old age—, and then she tells him that she had come to care for her ailing sister.

Blanche swears by the motto “I don’t want realism, I want magic, […] I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth.” Symbols connected to her are the color white, both in her name and in her fashion choices, as well as muted lights and imagery related to virginity.

Seeing Stanley as an uncouth brute whose way of life is inferior to what she and her sister grew up with, Blanche openly antagonizes him. In turn, Stanley is determined to expose her as a fraud.

Her former job as an English teacher is also evident in the way she talks. Her speeches are full of lyricism, literary allusions, and metaphors, which contrast heavily with the clipped sentences spoken by the men orbiting around Elysian Fields. 

Stella Kowalski (née DuBois)

Stella is Blanche’s 25-year-old younger sister and Stanley’s wife. She is a foil to Blanche.

A former Southern belle with an upper-class background, she fell in love with Stanley while he was in uniform, and she left behind her privileged life to be with him. Their marriage is grounded in sexual passion. “I can hardly stand it when he is away for a night,” she tells Blanche. “When he’s away for a week I nearly go wild!” Whenever she argues with Stanley, he always offers sex as a means of reparation, which she is more than happy to accept.

During the events of A Streetcar Named Desire, Stella is pregnant with his child, and eventually delivers the baby towards the end of the play. We see her being torn between loyalty to her sister and loyalty to her husband. Stella is the last person that Blanche has, and unlike her sister, whose fortunes (both in money and in looks) have faded, she seems to have no problem moving between the person she was at Belle Reve and the person that she is at Elysian Fields. She shows no patrician affectation while interacting with her new circle of friends.

Stanley Kowalski

A blue-collar worker, a brute, and a sexual predator, Stanley Kowalski emanates sexual magnetism and this is the foundation of his marriage.

Stanley’s speech is generally clipped and specific, reinforcing his interest in reality versus Blanche’s obsession with illusion and allusions. He openly antagonizes her because he sees her as a threat to the life he and his wife have built together.

Williams describes Stanley as a “richly feathered bird.” He is the sort of hard working everyman with whom the audience initially sides—as opposed to Blanche’s fickleness. However, we soon discover that he is the cliché male who works hard, plays hard, and easily becomes enraged when he has too much to drink. When he enters the room, he speaks loudly, sure of his authority, particularly in his own home.

When Stanley rapes Blanche, he implies that both of them wanted it. At the end, when Blanche is finally taken away to a mental institution, the way he consoles his distraught wife is by both comforting her and openly fondling her.

Harold Mitchell (Mitch) 

Harold Mitchell is Stanley’s best friend and Blanche’s “gentleman caller.” Unlike the men in Stanley’s circle, Mitch appears to be caring, sensitive, and rather well mannered. He lives with and cares for his ailing mother.

Mitch feels a deep attraction for Blanche and her affectations. Even though he accepts the story of the tragic end of her marriage, he becomes disgusted when she admits to becoming sexually promiscuous in the aftermath of her husband’s death. He resolves to force himself on her without wanting to commit to marriage any longer. 

While Mitch did turn against Blanche, at the end of the play we see him weep as he feels in some way responsible for her madness. “Mitch collapses at the table, sobbing,” is the last mention of him in the play.

Allan Grey

Allan Grey is Blanche’s late husband, whom Blanche thinks of with fond sadness. Described by Stella as “a boy who wrote poetry,” Allan had, in Blanche’s words “a nervousness, a softness and tenderness which wasn’t like a man’s.” Blanche caught him having sex with an older man, and after she told him that she was disgusted with him, he committed suicide.

Eunice Hubbell

Eunice Hubbell is the upstairs neighbor and the landlady of the Kowalskis. Much like Stella, she meekly accepts being in an abusive marriage as part of her life, and she represents the path that Stella has chosen.

The Mexican Woman 

The Mexican Woman is a blind older lady who sells flowers for the dead. She appears as Mitch and Blanche engage in their fight. Much like a prophet, she foretells Blanche’s “death” as a descent into madness. 

The Doctor

The Doctor comes to represent the strangers from whom Blanche has received some small kindness in the past. He is her last hope for some sort of salvation. As she is taken away, she turns from the cruel nurse to the doctor, who, as a man, might respond better to her wiles and fulfil her need for safety and care. 

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Frey, Angelica. "'A Streetcar Named Desire' Characters." ThoughtCo, Jan. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-characters-4685190. Frey, Angelica. (2020, January 29). 'A Streetcar Named Desire' Characters. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-characters-4685190 Frey, Angelica. "'A Streetcar Named Desire' Characters." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-streetcar-named-desire-characters-4685190 (accessed June 9, 2023).