Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire

  • 40-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 11 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with a Master's degree
Access Full Summary
Study Guide Navigation

A Streetcar Named Desire Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 40-page guide for “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 11 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Imagination Versus Reality and Forms of Power.

Plot Summary

A Streetcar Named Desire is one of Tennessee Williams most famous plays. Published in 1947, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and has garnered numerous Tony and Olivier awards since its first production.

Blanche Dubois arrives at the French Quarter of New Orleans to stay with her sister, Stella Kowalski. The sisters grew up wealthy on Belle Reve, a plantation in Laurel, Mississippi, and Blanche is immediately critical of what she sees as Stella’s rough and poor living conditions. She explains that she’s arrived to Stella’s flat because the deaths of their family left her without money and in disarray; Belle Reve has been lost forever. Stella’s husband, Stanley, is immediately suspicious of this story, and thinks he’s been cheated out of money he needs to support his baby on the way.

The following evening, Stanley invites his friends Mitch, Steve, and Pablo over for poker. Blanche turns on the radio against Stanley’s wishes, which sends him into a frenzy. He throws the radio out the window and hits Stella. He is left alone in the house, but Stella soon returns to him. Later that evening, Blanche and Mitch spark a romance. Stella dismisses these events the next day, and claims to be happy with her marriage. But, Blanche goes on a long didactic about how underdeveloped Stanley is in the face of human progress. Unfortunately, a brooding Stanley is outside the door listening.

Stanley soon begins uncovering information about Blanche’s history, but cannot prove it yet, exacerbating Blanche’s anxious tendency to try talk vaguely to her sister about the hardships she’s suffered. She has a date with Mitch later that evening that goes poorly, but upon returning to the flat, they reconnect. Blanche tells Mitch she suspects Stanley hates her, and she describes the suicide of her husband. In a moment of tenderness, Mitch proposes they be together.

September comes and, with it, Blanche’s birthday. However, on the day of the celebration, Stanley arrives at the flat with news to sabotage Blanche. He tells Stella that Blanche formed a reputation at the Flamingo Hotel in Laurel for her promiscuous relationships with men, and that she had relations with a student she taught. She was fired from her job and driven out of Laurel. She came to New Orleans as a last resort. Stella is beside herself and even more devastated to learn that Stanley has already told Mitch. As a result, Mitch is absent from the birthday celebration that evening. Stanley gives Blanche a cruel birthday gift: a bus ticket back to Laurel. As Blanche runs to the bathroom choking, Stella goes into labor.

Stanley and Stella are at the hospital when Mitch arrives to the flat late that night. He confronts Blanche about her lies, which she justifies. She was alone after the deaths in her family, seeking solace in strangers. But he’ll have none of it, and severs his relationship with her. Stanley comes home from the hospital—the baby will presumably arrive in the morning. Blanche begins to explain how she has plans to run off with an old beau, but she becomes tangled in her lie. Stanley turns menacing and attacks and rapes Blanche.

A few weeks later, the men play poker again as Stella and Eunice help pack Blanche’s things. She is being sent to an asylum for mental care. Her hallucinations, which have increased over the course of the play, are now laced into the foundation of her thinking. She believes she is going on a cruise with Shep, that he is coming to pick her up. When the Doctor and Nurse arrive, she is startled. She panics and runs into the bedroom, where she is detained by the Nurse and, subsequently, calmed by the Doctor. Mitch, who has been unable to speak or raise his head from the table, stoops even lower as Blanche is lead out of the flat. Stella calls frantically for her sister, but Blanche does not turn her head as she walks down the street.

This is just a preview. The entire section has 738 words. Click below to download the full study guide for A Streetcar Named Desire.

Scenes 1-3