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A Streetcar Named Desire

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Play by Tennessee Williams, produced and published in 1947 and awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

Blanche DuBois, visiting the New Orleans home of her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski, is horrified by the contrast between their squalid surroundings and her idealization of life at Belle Reve, the family estate now lost through bankruptcy. She reacts against Stanley's crude humor and animal maleness, while he resents her affected refinement and intrusion on his sensual privacy with his wife. At Stanley's poker party, Blanche meets Mitch and, sensing that he is lonely like herself and “superior to the others,” she begins to think of marriage to him as a refuge from the past, which she has already sought in liquor and self–delusions about her age, beauty, and former admirers.

Blanche contends that Stella's marriage and unborn child are products of lust, as aimless as the “street–car named Desire” shuttling through the narrow streets, and urges her not to “hang back with the brutes.” In retaliation Stanley tells Mitch that Blanche lost her schoolteaching job because of an affair with a student and that she has become a nymphomaniac in quest of love to compensate for the loss of her homosexual husband by suicide. Mitch accordingly makes the kind of advances that he now thinks suitable, and although Blanche refuses him hysterically she is violently raped by Stanley in angry lust. Upon her return from the hospital with her baby, Stella is told the story by Blanche, but believing it an example of her fantasies, she has her committed to a mental institution. Blanche leaves with the doctor, saying, “Whoever you are–I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Subjects: Literature

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Tennessee Williams (1911—1983) American dramatist