Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Blanche DuBois (dew-BWAH), a desperate, neurotic woman who goes to New Orleans to stay with her younger sister Stella after losing her home and job in Mississippi. Blanche is haunted by guilt over the death of her young husband, who committed suicide after she confronted him about his homosexuality. She then became a nymphomaniac, scandalizing her hometown and losing her high school teaching job because of her relationship with a teenage boy. With no money, no home, and fading youth, Blanche clings to romantic illusions to sustain her self-image, even as she depends on Stella for shelter and emotional support. She still sees herself as the beautiful, refined mistress of Belle Reve, the former DuBois family plantation. Unable to accept the changes in her life, she turns to alcohol and romantic fantasy for escape. She hopes to solve her problems by marrying her brother-in-law Stanley’s friend Mitch, but he rejects her after discovering the truth about her past. First told to leave and then raped by Stanley, Blanche suffers an emotional collapse, retreating completely into the beautiful but delusional world to which she had tried so desperately to cling in reality.
Stanley Kowalski, Blanche’s brother-in-law. Stanley is earthy, unrefined, sensual, and sometimes violent, in every way the opposite of the image of Southern gentility Blanche tries to project....
(The entire section is 708 words.)
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Blanche du Bois
Blanche DuBois is a complex individual who provokes strong reactions from the other characters. We know that she has been a schoolteacher in Mississippi but was asked to leave her job because of an involvement with a student, that she was once a Southern belle from a wealthy family, and that she has a failed marriage and dubious past from which she has fled. Her complexity comes not from her history or background, but from the varied and often inconsistent facades she presents. At once strong in her desires and determined in her claims on the men who are around her, and yet weak and forever looking for someone to take care of her, she gives off a series of conflicting signals. She is neurotic, psychologically deluded about her beauty and attractiveness, and perhaps also an alcoholic. Her sexual desires come through clearly from behind her talk with Mitch about keeping her reputation: when we see her flirting with the young man who calls at the door, we realize just how split her desires are from her surface talk and behavior. This point is made visually in the opening scene where the dainty and beautifully dressed woman who appears leads us to expect quite a different character to emerge than the brittle woman running from her past who begins to display her neuroses and obsessions during the course of the following acts.
Underneath Blanche's quite calculating exterior, there is always a hint of hysteria. In her stories about Belle Reve or her tales of...
(The entire section is 869 words.)
Much of Stanley's character is seen through his relationship with Blanche. Stanley does not seem to have a life outside of the immediate action of the play, but when he is on stage he has a commanding presence, a quality underlined by Blanche's obvious sexual attraction to him. She even jokingly tells Stella that she has been flirting with Stanley to get him to see her side of the story about the loss of Belle Reve. While this may be her motivation, it's obvious that Blanche is genuinely attracted to Stanley and that flirting does not take too much effort on her part.
Blanche's response to Stanley's strong presence suggests that he is some kind of an animal. In earlier versions of the play, Stanley had a gentler, ineffectual side, but in the final writing of Streetcar Williams made him Blanche's complete opposite—angry, animalistic, and reliant on his basest instincts. These qualities are seen most clearly in Blanche's rather patronizing, but highly revealing comment to Stanley that "You're simple, straightforward and honest, a little bit on the primitive side I should think. To interest you a woman would have to ..." The sentence is finished off for her by Stanley, but what we suspect she would have said is what she later says to Stella: that the only way to live with a man like Stanley is to go to bed with him. For Blanche, Stanley's sexual appeal and his primitive nature are closely bound up together. It is from the charge of such opposing...
(The entire section is 693 words.)
Stella appears to be a simple character, but is actually more intriguing than her role as sister and wife to the play's two main protagonists would suggest. She acts as a foil to both characters, allowing their selfishness and emotional failings to be emphasized. She also acts as a measuring stick against which the audience can gauge society's reaction to the events portrayed on stage.
In relation to Stanley, Stella is sensitive and loving, practical and sometimes independent. She clearly loves Stanley, despite his many failings and his violence towards her, and she is willing to accept his temper as part of the passion they feel for each other: "But there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark—that sort of make everything else seem—unimportant." She is carrying Stanley's baby, and indeed Stanley's rape of Blanche takes place while she is in the hospital giving birth. In her blinkered loyalty to Stanley at the end of the play and in her willingness to be reassured that what they have done for Blanche is right, her practical nature asserts itself: this is a marriage which she can convince herself she wants to save and will save for the benefit of herself and her child. Whether she is right or wrong to do this is not relevant: what is important to understanding the play is the knowledge that her action is not so unusual. Like many other people in society, Stella continues to function in her daily life despite considerable upheaval....
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The Doctor's role is to escort Blanche to the mental hospital. He is calm, professional, and treats Blanche respectfully in order for her to trust him.
Pablo Gonzales is the other player at poker along with Stanley, Mitch, and Steve. He is coarse and loud, a strong, physical character who is, according to the stage directions, "at the peak of [his] physical manhood." He also speaks Spanish.
Eunice and Steve Hubbell
Eunice and Steve Hubbell, the landlords who live upstairs from Stanley and Stella, are a vision of what Stanley and Stella could become. Eunice is overweight and run down from too many pregnancies while Steve is not particularly understanding or supportive of his wife. Domestic violence appears to be routine in their marriage. Despite their failings, however, Steve and Eunice are not unlikeable characters. They are hospitable and neighborly and take Stella in when she seeks refuge from Stanley. Their audible presence upstairs gives a sense of the cramped living conditions in which the play's actions occur.
The Mexican woman appears briefly, speaks only Spanish, and is described as "An old Mexican crone."
See Harold Mitchell
Mitch is "207 pounds, six feet one and one-half inches" and lives with his sick mother. He is a foil to Stanley: he speaks in a more refined...
(The entire section is 510 words.)