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Tennessee Williams & Streetcar Named Desire. Tennessee Williams. March 26, 1911 – February 25, 1983 Born Thomas Lanier Williams, in Columbus, Mississippi Moved to Louisiana, setting of Streetcar Eventually settled in Key West, Florida

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Tennessee williams streetcar named desire

Tennessee Williams & Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee williams
Tennessee Williams

  • March 26, 1911 – February 25, 1983

  • Born Thomas Lanier Williams, in Columbus, Mississippi

  • Moved to Louisiana, setting of Streetcar

  • Eventually settled in Key West, Florida

  • Prolific Southern Gothic Writer, most famous for his plays.

Tennessee williams1
Tennessee Williams

  • Troubled family/childhood

  • Abusive father

  • 2nd to brother, Dakin

  • Mentally unstable mother & sister

  • Sister, Rose

    • schizophrenic, institutionalized after failed lobotomy left her incapacitated

    • Devastated Tennessee

Tennessee williams2
Tennessee Williams

  • Openly gay

  • Long term relationship w/Frank Merlo until Merlo’s death

  • Never truly recovered

  • Gay bashed in FL by group of teen boys

  • Works sometimes criticized for “excess,” merely attack on his sexuality

Tennessee williams3
Tennessee Williams

  • Broken man

  • Feared insanity

  • Self-medicated with alcohol/drugs

  • Depression

  • Broken characters mirrored his broken life

  • Died in hotel room, choked on bottle cap…I’ll explain

Streetcar named desire
Streetcar Named Desire

  • Perhaps his most famous play, winning a Pulitzer

  • culture clash between two iconic characters: Blanche DuBois, a fading relic of the Old South, and Stanley Kowalski, a rising member of the industrial, urban working class

Cast of characters
Cast of Characters

  • Blanche DuBois

  • Dark twist on Southern Belle

  • Aging & in state of perpetual panic about her fading beauty

  • veneer of social snobbery and sexual propriety

  • insecure & relatively pathetic

  • arrogance not simply snobbery, but a calculated attempt to make herself appear attractive to new male suitors

  • totally dependent on male sexual admiration for her sense of self-esteem

  • entire identity reliant on sexual worth

Blanche cont
Blanche, cont.


  • family fortune & estate gone

  • lost young husband to suicide

  • Looked down on socially due to her sexual promiscuity

  • drinking problem, which she covers up poorly

  • dainty & frail--wardrobe of showy but cheap evening clothes.

  • chronicle of the crumbling of Blanche’s self-image & sanity

  • no realistic possibility of future happiness

  • All this too much to take, thus her descent into madness

Stanley kowalski
Stanley Kowalski

  • animalistic vigor/crude & brutish

    • 1st meet him yelling up at Stella throwing MEAT at her

    • gambling, sex, bowling, & drinking are his main modes of fun

    • Work, fighting, & sex

  • Polish: resents “Polack” slur

  • Represents new, heterogeneous America, the melting pot Blanche doesn’t belong to because she is a relic from an obsolete social hierarchy.

    • parallels Emily Grierson

  • Intense hatred of Blanche motivated by the aristocratic past Blanche represents.

  • Shows no remorse for his brutal actions.


  • Lives w/dying mother

  • Sensitive, even picked on for this

  • Kind/decent human being

  • Only person other than Stella who understands tragedy of Blanche’s madness.

  • genuinely cares for Blanche

  • (at first) hopes to marry Blanche so that he will have a woman to bring home to his dying mother

  • Mitch/Blanche drawn together by mutual need for companionship

  • clumsy, sweaty, w/ unrefined interests

  • lacks Blanche’s romantic perspective & education

  • Blanche toys with his lack of intelligence: speaks to him in French

Stella kowalski
Stella Kowalski

  • Blanche’s younger sister, about 25 yrs. old

  • mild disposition sets her apart from her more vulgar neighbors

  • left Mississippi for New Orleans in late teens

  • married lower-class Stanley

  • shares a robust sexual relationship

  • violent but renewing

  • torn between her sister and her husband

  • Denial of reality @ play’s end reveals she has more in common with Blanche than first conveyed

Pablo steve eunice
Pablo/Steve & Eunice

  • Stella’s friends, upstairs neighbors, and landlords.

  • represent Stella’s low-class, carnal life

  • Like Stella, Eunice accepts her husband’s affections despite his physical abuse of her.

  • Like Stanley, Steve is a brutish, hot-blooded, physically fit male and an abusive husband.

  • Pablo is Hispanic, emphasizing culturally diverse nature of the neighborhood.