A Streetcar Named Desire Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of A Streetcar Named Desire.
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A Streetcar Named Desire Summary & Study Guide Description

A Streetcar Named Desire Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.

A Streetcar Named Desire is a Pulitzer Prize winning dramatic work by acclaimed playwright Tennessee Williams. The play opened on Broadway on December 3, 1947, and closed on December 17, 1949.

The play is set in and around an apartment building on the corner of a street named Elysian Fields in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, just after the end of World War II. Stanley and Stella Kowalski live in the lower apartment, and during the heat of summer, Stella’s older sister, Blanche, arrives carrying suitcases. Blanche is thirty, approximately five years older than her sister, and represents the epitome of a Southern Belle, albeit a faded one. Blanche informs her sister their family plantation, Belle Rive, located in Laurel, Mississippi, has been lost due to financial failure and draining after deaths in the family.

Soon Blanche is faced with Stella’s husband, Stanley Kowalski, a man who in every respect is the opposite of Blanche. Stanley is animalistic, sensual, working-class, and brutish in Blanche’s eyes, and the two seem to irritate each other from their first meeting. Stanley suspects Blanche is swindling his wife, and in effect, himself, and sets out to discover the truth about her and the status of the family plantation.

One night during one of Stanley’s poker parties at the house, he becomes drunk and enraged and beats the pregnant Stella, who leaves to spend the night with a neighbor after the row is stopped. Later in the night, Stella returns to Stanley, much to Blanche’s disbelief and outrage. The following day, Blanche attempts to convince Stella to leave her abusive marriage despite Stella’s complete dismissal of the previous night’s events and her attempts to convince her sister she has not entered into any arrangement she didn’t want to be in. Stanley overhears the conversation and Blanche’s complete disregard for him and begins to plot even more maliciously against her.

Stanley investigates Blanche’s past and discovers she had most recently lived in a second-rate hotel named the Flamingo in Laurel and her questionable reputation had preceded her so she was asked to leave the establishment. In addition, Stanley learns Blanche had an affair with a seventeen-year-old student at the high school where she taught English and was considered morally unfit to remain as a teacher there. When he confronts his wife with these truths about her sister, Stella is disbelieving and offended, but soon comes to doubt the validity of Blanche’s fabrications.

Mitch, a coworker and friend of Stanley’s who has been courting Blanche during her stay in New Orleans, learns the truth from Stanley and dismisses Blanche after considering marrying her. On Blanche’s birthday in September, Mitch stands her up with the intention of leaving her for good. Later that night, amidst an argument about the matter, Stella has Stanley take her to the hospital because she is going into labor. Mitch arrives late and confronts Blanche about her past and she admits to having been promiscuous in Laurel and to having had the affair with the seventeen-year-old. Mitch attempts sexual advances with Blanche and she turns him away after he refuses to marry her, calling out “Fire!” in a loud voice until he’s left the building.

Stanley arrives a few hours later and Blanche has been drinking heavily and packing, claiming to have received a telegram from a former beau inviting her on a cruise to the Caribbean. Stanley confronts all of Blanche’s deceptions and unravels her both emotionally and physically before raping her.

A few weeks later, Stella weeps as she packs Blanche’s belongings and prepares to send her away to a mental institution, feeling she had no other choice. Believing she would be unable to go on living with Stanley if the accusations were true, Stella chooses to believe her husband and Blanche is taken away by doctors to an institution.

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