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Tennessee Williams: A streetcar named desire

Short Summary:
The play takes place right after World War II, in New Orleans.
The Kowalski apartment is in a poor but charming neighborhood in the French Quarter. Stella, twenty-five years old and pregnant, lives with her blue collar husband Stanley Kowalski. It is summertime, and the heat is oppressive. Blanche Dubois, Stella's older sister, arrives unexpectedly, carrying all that she owns. Blanch and Stella have a warm reunion, but Blanch has some bad news: Belle Reve, the family mansion, has been lost. Blanche stayed behind to care for their dying family while Stella left to make a new life for herself, and Blanche is resentful. Blanche meets Stanley for the first time, and immediately she feels uncomfortable. We learn that Blanche was once married, when she was very young, but the boy died.

The situation grows more and more tense. Stanley initially distrusts Blanche, thinking that she's swindled them; the idea is ludicrous, and eventually Stanley realizes that Blanche is hardly the swindling type. But the animosity between the two never stops. Blanche takes long baths, criticizes the squalor of the apartment, and irritates Stanley. Stanley's roughness bothers Blanche; he makes no effort to be gentle with her. One night, the night when Stanley hosts a poker game, he gets too drunk and beats Stella. The women go up to their upstairs neighbors' apartment, but soon Stella returns to Stanley, the two coupling with an animal-like need. Blanche is shocked by these events. That night, she also meets Mitch, and there is an immediate mutual attraction between the two.

The next day, Stanley overhears Blanche saying terrible things about him. From that time on, he devotes himself fully to her destruction. Blanche has a shady past in Laurel. In her loneliness, during the last days of Belle Reve and after the mansion was lost, she turned to strangers for comfort. Her numerous amorous encounters destroyed her reputation in Laurel, leading to her loss of her job as a high school English teacher and her near-expulsion from town.
Tensions build in the apartment throughout the summer. Blanche and Stanley look on each other as mortal enemies, and Blanche turns increasingly to alcohol for comfort. Stanley bides his time.

Stanley looks into Blanche's past, and he passes the information on to Mitch. Although previously it seemed that Blanche might marry Mitch, after he learns the truth he loses all interest. In autumn, on Blanche's birthday, Mitch stands her up. Stanley presents Blanche with her gift: bus tickets back to Laurel. Blanche is overcome by sickness; she cannot return to Laurel, and Stanley knows it. As Blanche is ill in the bathroom, Stella fights with Stanley over the cruelty of his act. Mid-fight, she tells him to take her to the hospital: the baby is coming.
That night, Blanche packs and drinks. Mitch arrives. He confronts her with the stories of her past, and she tells him, in lurid detail, the truth about her escapades in Laurel. He approaches her, making advances, wanting what she has denied him all summer. She asks him to marry her, and when he doesn't, she kicks him out of the apartment.

Hours later, Stanley comes home. Stella is still in labor, and will be until morning, so Stanley's getting some sleep. Stanley mercilessly destroys Blanche's illusions, one by one, and then rapes her.
Weeks later, another poker game is being held at the Kowalski apartment. Blanche has suffered a mental breakdown. She has told Stella what Stanley did, but Stella has convinced herself that it can't be true. A doctor and nurse come and take Blanche away to the asylum. Stella weeps, and Stanley comforts her. The other men continue their poker game as if nothing has happened.
Main Themes:
Fantasy/Illusion: Blanche dwells in illusion; fantasy is her primary means of self-defense. Her deceits do not carry any trace of malice; rather, they come from her weakness and inability to confront the truth head-on. She tells things not as they are, but as they ought to be. For her, fantasy has a liberating magic that protects her from the tragedies she has had to endure. Unfortunately, this defense is frail and will be shattered by Stanley. In the end, Stanley and Stella will also resort to a kind of illusion: Stella will force herself to believe that Blanche's accusations against Stanley are false.

The Old South and the New South: Stella and Blanche come from a world that is rapidly dying. Belle Reve, their family's ancestral plantation, has been lost. The two sisters, symbolically, are the last living members of their family. Stella will mingle her blood with a man of blue-collar stock, and Blanche will enter the world of madness. Stanley represents the new order of the South: chivalry is dead, replaced by a "rat race," to which Stanley makes several proud illusions.

Cruelty: The only unforgivable crime, according to Blanche, is deliberate cruelty. This sin is Stanley's specialty. His final assault against Blanche is a merciless attack against an already-beaten foe. On the other hand, though Blanche is dishonest, she never lies out of malice. Her cruelty is unintentional; often, she lies in a vain effort to plays. Throughout Streetcar, we see the full range of cruelty, from Blanche's well-intentioned deceits to Stella self-deceiving treachery to Stanley's deliberate and unchecked malice. In Williams' plays, there are many ways to hurt someone. And some are worse than others.

The Primitive and the Primal: Blanche often speaks of Stanley as ape-like and primitive. Stanley represents a very unrefined manhood, a romantic idea of man untouched by civilization and its effeminizing influences. His appeal is clear: Stella cannot resist him, and even Blanche, though repulsed, is on some level drawn to him. Stanley's unrefined nature also includes a terrifying amorality. The service of his desire is central to who he is; he has no qualms about driving his sister-in-law to madness, or raping her.

Desire: Closely related to the theme above, desire is the central theme of the play. Blanche seeks to deny it, although we learn later in the play that desire is one of her driving motivations; her desires have caused her to be driven out of town. Desire, and not intellectual or spiritual intimacy, is the heart of Stella's and Stanley's relationship. Desire is Blanche's undoing, because she cannot find a healthy way of dealing with it: she is always either trying to suppress it or pursuing it with abandon. .[“BLA: To, o čom hovoríš, je brutálna túžba – iba túžba! meno tej rozheganej električky, ktorá hrkoce po Quarteri, po jednej úzkej ulici hore, po druhej dolu . . . STE: Cestovala si už tou električkou? BLA: Priviezla ma sem. – Kde nie som vítaná a kde sa hanbím, že som . . .“ pg. 50]

Loneliness: The companion theme to desire; between these two extremes, Blanche is lost. She desperately seeks companionship and protection in the arms of strangers. And she has never recovered from her tragic and consuming love for her first husband. Blanche is in need of a defender. But in New Orleans, she will find instead the predatory and merciless Stanley.

Drunkenness: Both Stanley and Blanche drink excessively at various points during the play. Stanley’s drinking is social: he drinks with his friends at the bar, during their poker games, and to celebrate the birth of his child. Blanche’s drinking, on the other hand, is anti-social, and she tries to keep it a secret. She drinks on the sly in order to withdraw from harsh reality. A state of drunken stupor enables her to take a flight of imagination, such as concocting a getaway with Shep Huntleigh. For both characters, drinking leads to destructive behavior: Stanley commits domestic violence, and Blanche deludes herself. Yet Stanley is able to rebound from his drunken escapades, whereas alcohol augments Blanche’s gradual departure from sanity.
Characters with descriptions

Blanche DuBois: She is about 30. When she appears in New Orleans, she appears to be the essence of purity. Wearing a white dress, she is delicate and cannot bear vulgar language. She is intelligent, yet prefers magic over realism. When she was 16, she married a young man who was gay. She found him in a compromising situation, and when she told him he disgusted her, he committed suicide, an act which would affect her for the rest of her life. To deal with the death, she began drinking and became rather promiscious. However, there were other reasons for all the men. She felt that she had dissatisfied her husband in some way, and she needed to fill her empy heart. Through the times of promisciuty, she managed to retain a sense of purity and innocence. She demands to be seen for what she wished to be, rather than what she really is. This is the reason for the paper lanterns, the constant bathing - she is creating her world of illusion. When Blanche meets Mitch, she shows him her world of illusion, and he falls in love with it, to the point that he asks her to marry him. When Stanley tells Mitch about the true Blanche, the illusion is shattered. He tries to tell this to Blanche, and she insists that he leave. While they were having this conversation, Stanley is at the hospital with Stella, who is in labor. When he comes home, Mitch is gone, and they get into an argument, which culminates with the rape of Blanche. .[“BLA: Stojte! Nepribližujte sa ku mne! Ešte jeden krok a ja vás-.....STA: Čo? BLA: Stane sa dačo strašné. Celkom určite. STA: Čo teraz hráte? BLA: Varujem vás, nerobte to, som v nebezpečenstve! STA: Prečo ste to urobili? BLA: Aby som vám mohla vraziť odbitý koniec do tváre! STA: Stavím sa , že by ste to urobili! BLA: Urobila by som to, keby ste- STA: Tak vz si to žiadate surovo? Dobre, tak poďme na to surovo! Ty tigrica! Odhoď fľašu! Odhoď ju! Túto schôdzku sme si dali hneď na začiatku!“ pg. 93-94]
This is the ultimate violation of Blanche, who was already in a shattered state. This destroys her completely, as she has no where left to turn. She loses whatever little sense she has left, and as Stella does not believe her, she is committed to an institution.

Blanche is completely different to her sister,because she has much more resistance in her heart and she is not such satisfied with relationships with men and when Stanley beat Stella she is enormous angry:[ STELLA: ''Blanche, zabudla som, aká si popudlivá. Robíš
okolo toho príliš veľa kriku. BLANCHE: Naozaj? STELLA: Áno, Blanche. Viem, ako sa ti to javilo a vel'mi ľutujem, že sa to muselo stať, ale nebolo to také vážne, ako si myslíš. Po prvé, keď chlapi pijú a hrajú poker, môže. sa všeličo stať. Je to vždy sud s pušným prachom. Nevedel, čo robí. .. Keď som sa vrátila, bol dobrý ako baránok a naozaj sa za seba veľmi hanbil.BLANCHE: A tým - tým sa to dá do poriadku?STELLA: Nie, nie je to v poriadku nech také strašné výtržnosti robí ktokoľvek, ale - stáva sa to. Stanley vždy rozbíja veci. Vo svadobnú noc - keď sme sem prišli schytil moje papuče, behal po byte a rozbíjal nimi žiarovky.BLANCHE ČO - čo robil?STELLA: Pätou mojej papuče rozbíjal všetky žiarovky!''pg 45]

When she came to Kowalski's house she was accused of taking money from sale of their's family manor,but it wasn't her fault,because she had to obtain funerals and she felt desperately,because of it:[ BLANCHE: "Ja, ja, ja som znášala údery do tváre a na
vlastnom tele! Od všetkých mŕtvych! To dlhé defilé na cmiter! Po tej strašnej ceste išli otec, matka, Margareta! Bola taká veľká, že ju nemohli položiť do truhly. Museli
ju spáliť, ako odpadky! Ty, Stella, si prišla iba na pohreb. A pohreby v porovnaní so smrťou sú krásne. Pohreby sú tiché, ale smrte - nie vždy. Niekedy ťažko dýchajú, niekedy chrčía a niekedy na teba dokonca kričia: "Nenechaj ma odísť!" Niekedy dokonca aj starí vravia: "Nenechaj ma odísť!" Ako by si tomu mohla zabrániť! Ale pohreby sú tiché s peknými kvetmi. A v akých pekných truhlách ich odnášajú! Ak si nebola pri posteli, keď kričali: "Drž ma!" ani netušíš, že sa tam odozhral zápas na život a na smrť! Ani sa ti o tom nesníva, ale ja som to videla! Videla! Videla ! A teraz tu sedíš a vravíš mi s tými tvojimi očami, že som pripustila stratu Belle Reve! Čo si do čerta myslíš, z čoho sa platilo za všetky tie choroby a umierania? Smrť je nákladná, slečna Stella! A sesternica Jessie nasledovala ihneď po Margarete. Tá s kosou si rozložila stan na našom prahu. . . Stella. Belle Reve bol jej hlavným stanom. Tak sa mi, drahá, prekĺzol pomedzi prsty! Kto z nich nám zanechal nejaké bohatstvo? Kto z nich nechal čo i len cent poistného? Iba úbohá Jessie - sto dolárov na truhlu. A to bolo všetko, Stella! A môj mizerný plat na škole. Áno, obviňuj ma! Seď tu, vyvaľuj na mňa oči a mysli si, že som premárnila náš rodný dom! Ja som ho premárnila? A kde si bola ty! V posteli so svojím Poliakom!"pg:20-21]
Stanley Kowalski: A factory worker, aged 28 - 30. Stanley is more ambitious than any of his friends. He is childish; he only cares about what he wants and is very rude. He is so concerned with getting his own way -- and hurting Blanche -- that he has no compunction about hurting Mitch, his friend, by telling him the truth about Blanche. He is a very dominating: he overpowers his timid wife, Stella, constantly, to keep her from leaving him. He does the same to his friends when he wants to. Stanley is also incredibly protective of Stella: he doubts everything about Blanche from the beginning, and tries to make sure that he and Stella are not being tricked by a con artist. He is very proud, and is enraged when Blanche calls him "common," or a "Polack." He seems incapable of subtlety, and does everything whole-heartedly: he loves Stella thoroughly and hates Blanche vehemently and he hadn't trusted Blanche and he wanted to know what happened to Belle Reve or where the money went if their ranch was sold: [“STA: Kde sú teda peniaze, ak je dom predaný? STE: Nie je predaný – stratený, stratený! STA:Pozri sa na toto! Myslíš, že si to kúpila z učiteľského platu?.... STA: Pozri sa na tieto perá a kožušiny, v ktorých sa sem prišla cifrovať! Čo je to tu? Šaty z pravého zlata! ... STA: Mám známeho, ktorý pracuje v tomto fachu. Zavolám ho, aby to ocenil. Stavím sa, že do týchto cárachov investovala tisíce dolárov!“ pg. 26-27]

Stanley is honest to the point of brutality, and he does not care about offending others, -- he even brags to Mitch about raping Blanche. He despises Blanche becauses she is the opposite of his honesty; she thrives on illusion and pretense. His hatred of Blanche is so great that he rapes her, causing her final mental breakdown.
He is also full of cynicism:[BLANCHE: ''Túžila som po komplimente, Stanley.
STANLEY: Na také veci nie som.BLANCHE: Na aké veci?ST ANLEY: Na komplimenty ženám, pokiaľ ide o ich výzor. Nikdy som nestretol ženu, ktorá by nevedela, že vyzerá dobre aj bez toho, aby jej to niekto povedal a podaktoré veria väčšmi sebe ako inému. Raz som bol na rande s jednou fiflenou, ktorá mi povedala: "Jasom čarokrásny typ, ja som čarokrásny typ! "Povedal som jej: "No a čo''.pg:29]

Stella Kowalski: Stella is the connecting figure to two different worlds - the supposed
royalty world of Blanche DuBois and the more common world of Stanley Kowalski. Stella is five years younger than Blanche, about 25, and has been submissive to her for her entire life. Blanche and Stanley both attempt to influence her, and they succeed, to a degree. Stella said "Mr. Kowalski is too busy making a pig of himself to think of anything else!" This statement shows a direct influence from Blanche on Stella, as Stella never would have said that if she was alone. However, Stanley pulls his weight as well. He reminds her of all the wonderful times and nights they had together before Blanche came. He also succeeds in convincing her that his side of the rape story is the true one, which is the true goal of the power of influence within the book. Stella is the only place where a connection between Blanche and Stanley could occur. She is a mix of the two worlds. She still has many of the qualities instilled in her at Belle Reve, yet she does not let that get in the way of her having some fun. As she is so entangled between two completely opposite worlds, she is stuck and eventually, is forced to side with one of the two.
She is not strong, and therefore the "winner" of the battle is the one who gets her to side with them, Stanley.

Stella and Blanche loves each other very much,their love is pure emotion,light in the dark reality:[BLANCHE:" Stella, ach, Stella! Stella, hviezdička moja! Začne hovoriť s horúčkovitou živosťou, ako by sa bála, že nastane ticho a budú musieť začať rozmýšľať. Obe sakŕčovito objímajú.BLANCHE: A teraz dovoľ. nech sa na teba pozriem. Ale tysa na mňa nedívaj, nie, Stella, nie, nie, nie. až neskôr, až
ked sa okúpem a odpočiniem si. A zahas tú lampu! Zahas ju! Nechcem, aby si ma videla v tom nemilosrdnom svetle! Stella sa smeje a vypne svetlo. Pod' nazad ku
mne. Ach, bábätko moje! Stella! Stella, hviezdička moja!
Znova ju objíme. Už som myslela, že sa nikdy ne. vrátiš na toto strašné miesto! Čo to tu táram! Prepáč, nechcela som to 'povedať. Chcela som byť slušná a povedať - Ach, aká krásna poloha a podobne - Ha - ha - ha! Prepánajána! Ešte si mi nepovedala ani slova!"pg:14-15]

Harold Mitchell (Mitch): A friend of Stanley's from the plant. The two are about the same age. Mitch falls in love with Blanche, and wants to marry her. He is very sensitive. There are two reasons for this: the death of the girl he loved in his youth, and the terminal illness of his mother, who has no more than a few months to live. This sensitivity makes him feel very awkward sometimes. Mitch is, in Blanche's words, "capable of great devotion:" he wants to stay home to make sure his mother is alright, and is so concerned about her that it hampers his enjoyment of the card game with his friends. He has a very close relationship with his mother, exemplified by the fact that he tells her about Blanch and his great concern for her. This makes his mother's impending death even harder for him to take.
Mitch is not very intelligent, and so he cannot see through Blanche's feigned innocence or her lies. Mitch is a gentleman, especially compared to his friends, Stanley in particular. He is also is very trusting. He refuses to believe Stanley when he first says that Blanche has been lying to him, and he is deeply hurt when he finds out that Stanley has been right. This pain is compounded because he had never suspected her dishonesty before. The fact that his mother wants to see him married before she dies makes breaking up with Blanche even harder for him.[“BLA: Čo chceš? MIT: Celé leto mi to chýbalo. BLA: Tak sa so mnou ožeň, Mitch! MIT: Myslím, že si ťa už nechcem vziať. BLA: Nie? MIT: Nie si dosť čistá na to, aby som ťa priviedol do domu, kde býva moja matka. BLA: Tak choď preč! Zmizni rýchlo, kým nezačnem kričať na poplach!...“ pg. 87]
In the final scene, he breaks down after seeing Blanche, and realizes that he has lost her because he did not appreciate her great sensitivity.

Eunice Hubbel: The owner of the apartment building, and Steve's wife. She is generally helpful, giving Stella and Blanche shelter after Stanley beats Stella. In the end, she advises Stella that in spite of Blanche's tragedy, life has to go on. In effect, she is advising Stella not to look too hard for the truth.

Steve Hubbel: Eunices's husband. Owner of the apartment building. One of the poker players. Steve has the finally line of the play. As Blanche is carted off to the asylum, he coldly deals another hand.

Pablo Gonzales: One of the poker players. He punctuates the poker games with dashes of Spanish.

Negro Woman: The Negro Woman seems to be one of the non-naturalistic characters; it seems that the actor playing this role is in fact playing a number of different Negro women, all minor characters. Emphasizing the non-naturalistic aspect of the character, in the original production of Streetcar, the "Negro Woman" was played by a male actor.

A Strange Man (The Doctor): The Doctor arrives at the end to bring Blanche on her "vacation." After the Nurse has pinned her, the Doctor succeeds in calming Blanche. She latches onto him, depending, now and always, "on the kindness of strangers."

A Strange Woman (The Nurse): The Nurse is a brutal and impersonal character, institutional and severe in an almost stylized fashion. She wrestles Blanche to the ground.

A Young Collector: The Young Collector comes to collect money for the paper. Blanche throws herself at him shamelessly.

A Mexican Woman: Sells flowers for the dead. She sells these flowers during the powerful scene when Blanche recounts her fall(s) from grace.

Prostitute -Moments before Stanley rapes Blanche, the back wall of the Kowalskis’ apartment becomes transparent, and Blanche sees a prostitute in the street being pursued by a male drunkard. The prostitute’s situation evokes Blanche’s own predicament. After the prostitute and the drunkard pass, the Negro woman scurries by with the prostitute’s lost handbag in hand.
Shaw - A supply man who is Stanley’s coworker and his source for stories of Blanche’s disreputable past in Laurel, Mississippi. Show travels regularly through Laurel.
Shep Huntleigh - A former suitor of Blanche’s whom she met again a year before her arrival in New Orleans while vacationing in Miami. Despite the fact that Shep is married, Blanche hopes he will provide the financial support for her and Stella to escape from Stanley. As Blanche’s mental stability deteriorates, her fantasy that Shep is coming to sweep her away becomes more and more real to her. Shep never appears onstage.
Allan Grey - The young man with poetic aspirations whom Blanche fell in love with and married as a teenager. One afternoon, she discovered Allan in bed with an older male friend. That evening at a ball, after she announced her disgust at his homosexuality, he ran outside and shot himself in the head. Allan’s death, which marked the end of Blanche’s sexual innocence, has haunted her ever since. Long dead by the time of the play’s action, Allan never appears onstage.

A Streetcar Named Desire contains issues from life; a guilty feeling of abandonment, the anger and frustration between two complete opposites, and the violation of a rape. Stella abandons her sister to try to make things work with her husband. She knows that she cannot stay neutral this last time. As Blanche is taken away, Stella is overcome with feelings of guilt, loss, and betrayal. She has abandoned her sister for her husband, which people in reality tend to do. in many family conflicts, one with side with their mate, even if they risk putting their family aside.

Stanley and Blanche are opposities, trying to coexist in a small area and failing miserably. Her refusal to deal with Stanley and his rough nature causes her to revert further and further into her world of pretend, as he becomes more and more rough, culminating in the rape of Blanche by Stanley. She has mocked him in his home, and he cannot deal with her and her lies. He violates her in the most personal way, and she cannot deal with any semblance of reality anymore. If this rape had happened in 1999, it would have been all over the news, it would have been one the greatest crimes and/or scandals in local news. In the small neighborhood of Stanley's flat, it would have been news within the local area. However, if the rape was not believe and did not make the news, the commitment of Blanche to the mental institution would not have been made a big deal, for if it was, the family would never be looked at in the same light again. After the rape, Blanche losses her mind. Her world becomes a world of almost complete fantasy.

Blanche feels that she is the picture of femininity. She tries to be prim and proper, but fails the minute she says anything degrading about Stanley to Stella. Along those lines, Blanche's world of fantasy has been created by the lies that she cannot seem to stop telling. When she lies, she tended to contradict herself, revealing the falsities. When Stanley caught hold of this, he called a few people, found out the truth and destroyed her world. Had Blanche simply been truthful, and accepted her past, she may not have found herself in the sticky situation that she found herself in.

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