A Streetcar Named Desire | Study Guide

Tennessee Williams

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic
MLA

Bibliography

Course Hero. "A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 Oct. 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Streetcar-Named-Desire/>.

In text

(Course Hero)

APA

Bibliography

Course Hero. (2016, October 13). A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved February 20, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Streetcar-Named-Desire/

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)

Chicago

Bibliography

Course Hero. "A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide." October 13, 2016. Accessed February 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Streetcar-Named-Desire/.

Footnote

Course Hero, "A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide," October 13, 2016, accessed February 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Streetcar-Named-Desire/.

A Streetcar Named Desire | Character Analysis

Share
Share

Blanche DuBois

Blanche DuBois comes from a formerly wealthy Southern family that owned a plantation called Belle Reve. Raised as a refined lady, Blanche does not cope well with life's harsh realities and feels she needs a man to protect her. Blanche is also a person who uses desire and illusion to suppress the reality of death and loss. When Blanche was young, she married a man who committed suicide when Blanche rejected him for being homosexual. Since then Blanche has had affairs with several men, including a 17-year-old boy, in an attempt to escape the trauma caused by the death of her husband. When Blanche arrives at the apartment of her sister Stella and husband Stanley Kowalski in New Orleans, she is a desperate woman about 30 years old. She has lost the family estate, Belle Reve, and has been kicked out of her hometown because of her sexual promiscuity. Ashamed of her past, Blanche tries to hide it. She keeps up the Southern belle act to protect herself from the harsh world and to get a man to marry her. However Blanche's ladylike affectations clash with Stanley's crude manners, and they come to hate each other. Blanche tries to get Stella to leave her brutish husband. Eventually Stanley reveals the truth about Blanche to Stella and Mitch, the man Blanche is dating. Mitch refuses to marry her, crushing her hopes. Stanley confronts Blanche about being a liar and rapes her. As a result Blanche becomes mentally unstable.

Stanley Kowalski

Stanley Kowalski lives with his wife Stella in a small apartment in New Orleans. He is in his late 20s and works as a traveling salesman. Stanley is a crude, domineering man who is physically imposing. He sees himself as the ruler of his family. As a result he feels he has the right to order his wife around and expects to be obeyed. When Stanley feels this power structure is threatened, he can become violent, throwing things and beating Stella. Even so Stanley has a strong sexual and emotional bond with his wife. After he strikes her, Stanley feels remorse and wants Stella to forgive him by sleeping with him. When Blanche comes to stay with him and Stella, Stanley immediately clashes with her. She is everything he is not and vice versa. Blanche has refined manners, loves romantic ideals, lies about herself, and manipulates through flirtation. Stanley has crude manners, loves down-to-earth ideas, is bluntly honest, and manipulates through physical intimidation. Stanley hates Blanche's superior attitude toward him and sees her as a threat to his family order. As a result he uncovers the truth about Blanche's sexual history in Laurel and uses it against her, then rapes her.

Stella Kowalski

Stella Kowalski is Stanley's wife and Blanche DuBois's younger sister. Stella is more practical and adaptable than Blanche. When the DuBois plantation is having financial problems, Stella leaves and starts a new life in New Orleans. In contrast Blanche remains at Belle Reve and tries hopelessly to save it. Like Blanche, Stella was raised to be a refined lady. However Stella is willing to cast aside her upper-class affectations and marry Stanley, a crude, working-class man. Stella acts as a mediator between Blanche and Stanley. She loves them both. Because of this Stella tries to support her sister while remaining a good wife to Stanley. However she realizes in the end that she is unable to satisfy either one of them. As a result she refuses to believe Blanche's story about being raped by Stanley. If Stella did believe it, she would not be able to live with her husband. Instead Stella betrays her sister when she helps Stanley get rid of Blanche by sending her to a mental institution.

Mitch

Mitch is Stanley Kowalski's good friend. Mitch served in the army with Stanley and works for the same company. In his late 20s, Mitch is single and lives with his sick mother. He has an innate kindness and gentleness. He believes Blanche's Southern belle act and falls in love with her. For her part Blanche likes Mitch and wants to marry him so he will protect her. Mitch becomes suspicious of Blanche because she seems to be trying to hide her age. When Stanley tells Mitch the truth about Blanche's sexual history in Laurel, Mitch becomes disillusioned and bitter and refuses to marry Blanche. Nevertheless, although Mitch probably does not know about Stanley raping Blanche, he does realize that Stanley mistreats her when she is mentally fragile, and he tries to prevent Stanley from forcing Blanche to leave. However Mitch's attempt proves futile, and he remains a broken man dominated by Stanley.

Questions for Characters

View all
Besides physicians, a team of professionals who specialize in treatment, medications, laboratory tests, therapy, rehabilitation, and administration is vital for delivering quality health care in moder
Analyze the four speeches in the readings in this phase. What rhetorical strategies does each speaker use? How are these strategies effective? Consider audience, organization, structure, support, argu
Question 1 The reason many students fail exams is because they do not study. incomplete comparison lack of parallelism faulty predication dangling modifier 1 points Question 2 Scuba diving is where yo
should DUI (driving under the influence) laws be changed? Why ? or Why not ? Please no plagiarism !

Flashcards for Characters

View all

Term:

Our Town

Definition:

(Thornton Wilder, 1938). A sentimental story that takes place in the village of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire just after the turn of the 20th century. Our Town is divided into three acts: "Daily Life" (Professor Willard and Editor Webb gossip on the everyday lives of town residents); "Love and Marriage" (Emily Webb and George Gibbs fall in love and marry); and "Death" (Emily dies while giving birth, and her spirit converses about the meaning of life with other dead people in the cemetery). A Stage Manager talks to the audience and serves as a narrator throughout the drama, which is performed on a bare stage.

Term:

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Definition:

(Eugene O'Neill, 1956). O'Neill wrote it fifteen years earlier and presented the manuscript to his third wife with instructions that it not be produced until 25 years after his death. Actually produced three years after he died, it centers on Edmund and the rest of the Tyrone family but is really an autobiographical account of the dysfunction of O'Neill's own family, set on one day in August 1912. The father is a miserly actor, while the mother is a morphine addict, and the brother is a drunk; they argue and cut each other down throughout the play.

Term:

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Definition:

(Edward Albee, 1962). The author Virginia Woolf has little to do with the story, except that Martha sings the title to George when she is mad at him in Act I. In fact, Albee got the title from graffiti he saw on a men's room wall. In the drama, George is a professor who married Martha, the college president's daughter, but the two dislike each other. Martha invites another couple, the instructor Nick and his wife Honey, for drinks after a party for her father. All four of them get drunk, and they end up bickering over their flawed marriages: Besides George and Martha's problems, Honey is barren, and Nick married her for her money.

Term:

A Streetcar Named Desire

Definition:

(Tennessee Williams, 1947). Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski represent Williams's two visions of the South: declining "old romantic" vs. the harsh modern era. Blanche is a Southern belle who lost the family estate, and is forced to move into her sister Stella's New Orleans apartment. Stella's husband Stanley is rough around the edges, but sees through Blanche's artifice; he ruins Blanche's chance to marry his friend Mitch by revealing to Mitch that Blanche was a prostitute. Then, after Blanche confronts Stanley, he rapes her, driving her into insanity. The drama was developed into a movie, marking the breakthrough performance of method actor Marlon Brando.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about A Streetcar Named Desire? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!

Ask a homework question - tutors are online