The setting of the play “Streetcar Named Desire” is in 1940’s New Orleans, Louisiana. The house where the play is set is an old, shabby, two flat building. It is located on Elysian Fields Street, which is next to a railroad track, in a poor area of New Orleans. The Kowalski apartment is basically two rooms that are messy and dingy. As we meet the major characters in the first three scenes, Eunice, Stanley, Stella, and Mitch, we find that the area in New Orleans where they live is a cosmopolitan area when the races mingle freely. All of them are poor, one no better than another, all in somewhat the same circumstances, and therefore, can live, work, and play together without racial boundaries.
Blanche is the protagonist in Streetcar. She is a fragile woman, with a very nervous, psychological sickness. Her personality is not true to her real character. She likes to put on the air of a woman who is of high social status, and a genuine, dignified lady. Her personality is “uppity,” believing that she is better than those she encounters in the play. Blanche is described as being “moth-like” because she arrives at the flat dressed in all white (white dress, pearls, gloves, and hat), and because moths flitter-flutter around from place to place, uncertain where they are going or what they are doing. Blanche arrives with this same type of uncertain manner, unbelieving that Elysian Fields is where her sister lives. Blanche is very much unlike her sister, Stella, because Stella has a very mild, calm disposition, opposed to Blanche’s nervous, tense disposition. Also, Stella is not concerned about “class status” which is evident because she married Stanley. Blanche and Stella are alike in that they both have very robust sexual desires. Stella dresses reserved and casual, whereas Blanche dresses in fancy clothes and jewelry. Stella and Blanche both somewhat deny reality too. The relationship between Stella and Blanche is interesting. Stella is five years younger, but still acts as a mother figure to Blanche, always wanting to take care of her. Stella love and pities Blanche at the same time. Belle Reeve represents “class status” to Blanche, but to Stella, it represents her ability to get away from the social strata, codes of behavior, and problems associated with it.
The relationship between Stanley and Stella is almost purely sexual. They both have a wild desire and passion for each other. Stanley is abusive to Stella and Stella accepts it as “just the way he is.” The fact that Blanche and Stella, being sisters, feel so differently about Stanley, is interesting. I feel the reason Stella can be attracted to him is because she escaped the “class superiority” when she moved away from Belle Reeve. Stanley repulses Blanche because she continues to carry the air that she is better than him. Also, Stella is in touch with reality to more of an extent than Blanche, and thus, Blanche is not able to see reality the way it really is. Another reason Blanche is not attracted to Stanley is because Stanley makes it known that he is not attracted to her, and does not give her the attention she seeks.
Blanche wants and needs companionship and someone to fill a void in her life. She is lonely and unable to take care of herself, and Mitch could do that for her. She also needs to feel desirable and wanted by Mitch. Mitch needs and wants Blanche for other reasons. He wants someone respectable to bring home to make his dying mother happy. The only way the two seem to bond is when they discuss their past loves that they lost. I do think there was a small amount of love on Mitch’s part because he was truly upset when the doctor took Blanche away.
Steve and Eunice are also abusive to one another, yet also very affectionate with one another. Steve is a brute, abusive to his wife, but does love her. Their love seems to be one of dependence upon one another. The fact that Eunice advised Stella that she has no choice but to ignore Blanche’s accusations, says that Eunice is a committed wife, and dependent upon her husband regardless.
The play includes many stage directions referring to music. The Varsouviana Polka is the tune that was playing when Blanche was dancing with her young husband, Allen Grey. This is right before he shot himself. This tune plays when Blanche is remembering her past husband, or when she is feeling remorse about causing him to shoot himself. One scene is when she is telling Mitch about the circumstances behind his death, and another is when Blanche meets Stanley in scene 1.
Blanche unexpectedly learns that her husband was homosexual after finding him in bed with another man. She at first pretends that nothing happened. Then, as they were dancing to the Varsouviana Polka, she tells him that he disgusts her. He, in turn, shoots himself in the head, killing himself. This is when Blanche’s mental decline begins.
Blanche avoids appearing in bright light because she doesn’t want anyone to see her fading beauty. Light is used to describe Blanche’s love and sexual innocence in her youth. She tells Mitch that being in love with Mitch was like a bright light, but now the bright light is missing. The poor, or dim light must then represent her sexual maturity, as opposed to her sexual innocence.
At the end of the play, Blanche is confronted by a psychiatrist and his matron, who are there to take Blanche away and give her the help she needs. Initially, Blanche responds to the doctor and Matron with fear. She is not sure who they are and is afraid of them. Stella eventually takes the doctors arm because she feels that he is their as her protector, to take her away from Elysian Fields forever. When she says, “whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” she is revealing that she is unable to be happy and make it on her own. In the past, strangers, those she had sex with, were the only ones kind to her. It didn’t matter that they were only being kind because they wanted sex. As long as they were kind, she was getting the affection she needed, she could remain out of touch with reality. After Blanche leaves, Stella and Stanley’s relationship is somewhat normal, but Stella knows that Stanley has committed the rape. But, Stella needs to survive, and that means, accepting her husband, regardless of the cost, especially now that there is a baby. Stella is glad to see Blanche go because it will be easier to live in the reality they want, rather than the reality they have.