Blanche is an aging Southern belle from Laurel, Mississippi, who is descended from an old French aristocratic family but whose beauty and wealth have disappeared over time. She had once been married to a handsome young man named Allan, but he had killed himself when she had discovered him having sex with an old male friend of his. Before he had betrayed her, she had been trusting and loving, but after his suicide, she sought to prove her femininity and sexuality by sleeping with random men. When her sister Stella had run away from home to marry Stanley Kowalski, Blanche had been left by herself to take care of their sickly parents and their mansion, Belle Reve. But the psychological and emotional traumas that she had suffered through had taken their toll on the once-beautiful Blanche - she began to seek comfort from the arms of heartless strangers who only wanted physical pleasure from her and failed to give her the emotional support and affirmation that she needed.
When their parents had died, Blanche lost the mansion on a mortgage and had to live in a seedy hotel named the Flamingo, where she developed a reputation throughout Laurel as being the town whore. She was finally fired from her position as a high school English teacher when the superintendent found out that she had been having sex with a seventeen-year-old student. She flees to her sister's apartment in New Orleans for comfort and begins a relationship with one of Stanley's friends, Mitch. She doesn't tell them why she had had to leave Laurel and always insults Stanley and his lifestyle by calling him an animal and a brute. Eventually, Stanley finds out the truth about Blanche's past and rapes her. When she tells Stella that Stanley has violated her, Stella doesn't believe her and sends Blanche to a mental institution.
Stanley is the husband of Blanche's sister, Stella, and embodies masculinity. Strong and powerfully built, he oozes testosterone. Sex, beer, bowling, and poker are the only passions of Stanley's life, and Stella had fallen in love with him as a young girl because the raw vitality that he exuded contrasted dramatically with her refined lifestyle. Stanley had been a soldier who had served in World War II and settled in New Orleans with his military friends, working in a factory and living in a small, cramped apartment with his wife. The heart of his marriage to Stella is sexuality - Stanley gets what he wants when he wants it because Stella loves how he can completely dominate her and make her feel protected and more feminine. When Blanche comes to stay with him, he takes an immediate dislike to her because her false airs contrast dramatically with his brute honesty and straightforwardness. He investigates her past because he is suspicious of everything that she tells them, and he finds out about her affairs in Laurel and her relationship with one of her high school students. He tells Mitch about Blanche's sordid past, and Mitch immediately breaks up with her.
When Stella goes into labor near the end of the play, a drunken Stanley comes home and rapes Blanche in a final display of Blanche's powerlessness and his dominance. He represents a naked bulb to Blanche, exposing her flaws and weaknesses and erasing the lies and facades that she had created to protect herself from getting hurt.
Stella Dubois Kowalski
Stella is Blanche's sister and Stanley's wife. Also raised in the same aristocratic setting that Blanche grew up in, Stella was dominated by her attention-starved sister and often waited on her when they had both been children. Stella had found herself irrepressibly drawn to the macho, blue-collar Stanley Kowalski because his strength and sexuality was completely different from the polite restraint and chivalry that she had learned to expect from men as a child. She had run away from Belle Reve, the Dubois mansion, to marry Stanley and had settled with him in New Orleans.
She and Stanley argue frequently, and Stanley even beats her quite often throughout the play. Blanche cannot understand why her refined and gentle sister would choose to live with someone as crude and poor as Stanley. However, as Stella explains to Blanche, they stay together because of the incredible physical chemistry between them
and the passion of their sexual relationship. At the beginning of the play, Stella is a few months pregnant, and at the end of the play, while she is giving birth in the hospital, Stanley rapes Blanche.
After Stella has returned from the hospital, Blanche tells her that Stanley had raped her, but Stella refuses to believe her. She is so upset by Blanche's accusation that she decides to send her sister away to a mental institution at the end of the play, but when the matron and doctor actually arrive to take Blanche away, Stella berates herself for betraying her sister. After the doctor persuades Blanche to follow him, Stella allows Stanley to comfort her with sexual pleasure, for the root of their marriage is physical fulfillment.
Harold Mitchell (Mitch)
Blanche's love interest and Stanley's war buddy, Mitch is a sensitive, trusting man who is entranced by Blanche's feminine charms and refined manners. He cares deeply about his sick mother and even though his friends tease him about being a mama's boy, it is obvious that he cares more about her well-being than their opinion. A dependable, hard-working, blue-collar man, he and Stanley served in the war together and, like many other young soldiers returning from battle, has settled down in New Orleans and works at a factory with his friends.
From the first moment that they meet, Mitch is fascinated by and attracted to her, and Blanche can tell that he is different from Stanley's other "crude" friends. They begin to date, but Blanche does not allow him to do anything more than kiss her because she doesn't want him to think that she is impure and loose. She even lies to him about her age because she doesn't want him to lose interest in her. Mitch feels clumsy and unrefined around her, and Blanche enjoys the feeling of superiority that she feels around him.
When Stanley finds out about Blanche's sordid past, he tells Mitch, who feels duped and betrayed by her. He doesn't come to her birthday dinner but later comes by the Kowalskis' house to dump her officially, telling her that she wasn't clean enough to bring home to his mother. She tries to explain to him that her young husband had completely destroyed her notions about love and trust and even admits to him that she had had many sexual relationships at home, but she fails to win him back.
Eunice lives upstairs from the Kowalskis and owns the house that they all live in. She is married to Steve, one of Stanley's poker buddies, and she is Stella's confidante and support group. When Blanche first arrives in Elysian Fields, Eunice is the one who greets her and lets her into the Kowalskis' small apartment, and it is obvious from their first meeting that the straightforward and logical Eunice doesn't like Blanche's airs and snobbish ways.
The marriage between Eunice and Steve parallels the relationship between Stella and Stanley. After she witnesses Stanley hitting Stella, Blanche cannot understand why her sister would want to stay with such an abusive husband, but after they all listen to Steve and Eunice arguing upstairs, Stella and Stanley seem to accept their vicious fighting as a common occurrence, especially in New Orleans.
When Stella decides to send Blanche away to a mental hospital after she has claimed that Stanley had raped her, Eunice supports her decision wholeheartedly and tells her that she had made the correct choice. Eunice assists Stella in hiding from Blanche the fact that she is being taken away to an institution and helps the doctor and the matron take Blanche away.
A character who never actually appears in the play, we learn about him from oblique references that Blanche makes about her young husband. He had been a handsome young man, and Blanche had fallen passionately in love with him, even though she knew from the start that he had had a sensitivity and gentleness about him that she considered to be quite different from other men. Blanche had loved him completely and had based her whole life on him.
One day, Blanche walked into a room and caught Allan having sex with an older male friend. Even though he knew that she had seen them, they hadn't talked about it, and the three of them later went gambling at a casino. She and Allan danced to a tune called the "Varsouviana," and while they were dancing, she broke down and told him that she had seen them together and was disgusted. He ran away from her and went outside, and moments later, she heard a gunshot. He had killed himself, and she blamed herself for it. Consequently, whenever Blanche is confronted with reality or with misfortune, the "Varsouviana" plays in the background because her only attempt at confronting tragedy without hiding it resulted in the greatest travesty of her life.
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