A Streetcar Named Desire is the story of an emotionally-charged confrontation between characters embodying the traditional values of the American South and the aggressive, rapidly-changing world of modern America. The play, begun in 1945, went through several changes before reaching its final form. Although the scenario initially concerned an Italian family, to which was later added an Irish brother-in-law, Tennessee Williams changed the characters to two Southern American belles and a Polish American man in order to emphasize the clash between cultures and classes in this story of alcoholism, madness and sexual violence.
A Streetcar Named Desire was staged in the United States in 1947 in Boston and New York. A film version appeared in 1951, directed by Elia Kazan. The play, first published in book form in 1947 (New York: New Directions), was issued again with an introduction by the author in 1951. In 1953 an edition for actors was brought out by the Dramatists' Play Service. In England, editions appeared in 1949 (London: John Lehman) and 1956 (Seeker and Warburg). Penguin Books now incorporates Streetcar with two of Williams' other plays, Sweet Bird of Youth and The Glass Menagerie, in a volume of its Twentieth Century Classics Series.