Humanities › Literature 'A Streetcar Named Desire' Overview Share Flipboard Email Print A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide Overview Summary Characters Setting Themes and Symbols Key Quotes A poster for Elia Kazan's 1951 drama 'A Streetcar Named Desire' starring Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden. Movie Poster Image Art / Getty Images By Angelica Frey Classics Expert M.A., Classics, Catholic University of Milan M.A., Journalism, New York University. B.A., Classics, Catholic University of Milan Angelica Frey holds an M.A. in Classics from the Catholic University of Milan, where she studied Greek, Old Norse, and Old English. our editorial process Angelica Frey Updated January 28, 2020 A Streetcar Named Desire is a drama in twelve scenes set in a poor but charming section of New Orleans. As she moves in with her sister Stella and her husband Stanley, Blanche DuBois, a woman symbolizing the manners of the old, patrician South, pits against the multi-cultural and working-class people of the neighborhood. Title: A Streetcar Named DesireAuthor: Tennessee WilliamsPublisher: Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New YorkYear Published: 1947Genre: DramaType of Work: PlayOriginal Language: EnglishThemes: Homosexuality, desire, purityMain Characters: Blanche DuBois, Stella Kowalski, Stanley Kowalski, Eunice Hubbell, Harold “Mitch” MitchellNotable Adaptations: Elia Kazan’s movie adaptation in 1951, featuring most of the original Broadway cast; Woody Allen’s loose adaptation Blue Jasmin in 2013; a 1995 opera by André Previn featuring Renée Fleming as Blanche.Fun Fact: A few days before the 1947 premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams published the essay “A Streetcar Named Success” in The New York Times, which dealt with art and the artist’s role in society. Plot Summary After losing her family plantation Belle Reve to creditors, former English teacher Blanche DuBois moves in with her sister Stella and her husband Stanley Kowalski in a poor but charming neighborhood of New Orleans. Blanche and Stanley immediately start butting heads, as she is disgusted by his uncouth manners, while he thinks she is a fraud. During her stay at the Kowalski's, Blanche starts a platonic relationship with Mitch, one of Stanley’s friends, whom she deceives by pretending to be a virginal woman. Eventually, Stanley digs up dirt about Blanche, exposes her lies to Mitch, and rapes her. At the end of the play, she is to be committed to an asylum Major Characters Blanche Dubois. The protagonist of the play, Blanche is a fading beauty in her thirties. She still abides by the ideal of a Southern Belle Stanley Kowalski. Stella’s husband, Stanley is a working-class man with a distinct sexual magnetism. He is brutish but has a strong marriage to his wife thanks to their sexual chemistry. Stella Kowalski. Stella is Blanche’s younger sister, a woman of 25. Even though she was brought up in an upper-class environment, she has no problem getting along with Stanley’s circle Eunice Hubbell. The Kowalski’s upstairs neighbor and landlady, she has a tumultuous but strong marriage to her husband. Harold “Mitch” Mitchell. One of Stanley’s good friends, he is better-mannered than the rest of his friends and develops fondness for Blanche. The Mexican Woman. A blind prophet who sells flowers for the dead. The Doctor. A kind medical professional who assists Blanche as she is taken to a mental institution Major Themes Homosexuality. Tennessee Williams was gay, and the topic of homosexuality is present in many of his plays. Blanche’s unraveling begins when her closeted husband commits suicide. According to many critics, Blanche's characterization matches the era's stereotypes of gay men. Light, Purity, The Old South. The morally corrupt Blanche idolizes the old-world manners she grew up with and has an obsession with purity and virginal attributes. Desire. Both sisters have an unhealthy relationship with desire. After Blanche’s husband died, she took to bedding young men in a hotel, which corrupted her reputation and made her a pariah, whereas Stella is so enthralled by Stanley’s sexual prowess that she condones his physically abusive behavior. Literary Style With his distinctively Southern prose, author Tennessee Williams manages to differentiate his characters based on their speech. Blanche, a former English teacher, speaks in long-winded sentences full of metaphors and literary allusions, while Stanley and his fellow working class friends speak in shorter bursts. About the Author American playwright Tennessee Williams rose to fame at age 33 with The Glass Menagerie in 1946, one of his most notable successes alongside A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959).