A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee WILLIAMS's most popular play, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947; film, 1951), is both grimly naturalistic and poetically symbolic. Typical of Williams in its characters and theme, Streetcar pits Blanche DuBois, a neurasthenic, faded Southern belle who represents the culture and beauty of the past as well as its decadence, against her brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, the personification of modern practicality, crudeness, cynicism, and brutality. Blanche's childlike helplessness, romantic yearnings, and pretensions to gentility, sharply at odds with her age and the squalor of her present surroundings--her sister's New Orleans tenement--suggest an already tenuous hold on reality that completely collapses when Stanley's ruthless exposure of her past brings about Blanche's final disintegration. The winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1948, A Streetcar Named Desire catapulted its male lead, Marlon Brando, to stardom, and his "method" style of acting to national prominence.

Bibliography: Bloom, Harold, ed., Tennessee Williams (1986); Miller, Jordan Yale, Twentieth Century Interpretations of a Streetcar Named Desire (1971).