Stella and Blanche DuBois are sisters, and so they have similar family backgrounds. Both come from a Southern family that was at one time wealthy and respectable but has been gradually deteriorating over recent years. Both are living in New Orleans during the period of the play; Blanche has come to stay with her sister and her husband in their one-bedroom apartment. Both women have gotten to where they are by riding the "streetcar named Desire." Stella has a passionate physical relationship with her husband and overlooks his temper and abusive tendencies because of the "colored lights" that get going when she and Stanley are together. Blanche has ruined her reputation in her hometown by being promiscuous and by having an affair with an underaged student when she was working as a teacher.
While Stella was able to leave her childhood home at a relatively young age and then married Stanley, Blanche remained at the homestead and had the task of caring for aged relatives until they died. She also had a young husband who committed suicide, an act she feels guilty about. These heartaches led Blanche to escape her pain by seeking sexual relations with multiple partners. Stella, as far as we know, has been faithful to Stanley, and she is pregnant during most of the play with their first child.
Stella's mental health seems relatively sound; one could only say that she is a codependent, allowing Stanley to abuse her physically and emotionally. Blanche, however, has more serious mental issues. She is an alcoholic, and she is tormented by the memories of her husband's suicide; she seems to lapse into minor psychotic episodes at times when she imagines hearing the waltz that played the evening of his death. At the end of the play, after Stanley rapes Blanche, she suffers from a complete mental breakdown and is committed to a mental hospital.
Stella denies reality in that she refuses to see the crudity and dysfunctional nature of her neighbors' marriage and her own marriage. At the end of the play, although she must suspect that Stanley raped Blanche, she chooses to believe her husband's story over Blanche's--so she denies reality. Blanche also denies reality. She pretends to be a virtuous Southern belle; she lies to Mitch about her age; she lies to Stanley about her past. When Mitch breaks up with her, she begins play-acting about an old beau who will be coming to take her away; after the rape, she descends into a complete break with reality.
Although Blanche and Stella differ in that Stella seems more stable and content, both women have reaped the consequences of giving themselves over to desire, and both women--albeit to differing degrees--are out of touch with reality.
Blanche and Stella are sisters. They both come from the DuBois family. Their family was part of the Southern aristocracy and was once wealthy. However, there has been a decline of this group and they have now lost their estate, which is called, "Belle Reve." In French, it means "beautiful dream."
Blanche goes to visit her sister Stella in New Orleans. Blanche looks down upon her sister's small apartment and working-class husband. Stella is content with her life. She says that she is happy. Her husband is coarse but passionate, and this makes her happy. She likes watching him go bowling and going to a local nightclub with her neighbors.
Blanche, on the other hand, is described in Williams's stage directions as being like a delicate, white moth. She seems to put on airs. She is fragile, yet condescending. She is an aging Southern belle, whose desires have caused her trouble. She has been promiscuous, but she maintains that she has "old-fashioned" morals. In this way, Stella and Blanche are both motivated by desire. However, Blanche is constantly trying to hide her true feelings.
Blanche has come to her sister because "Belle Reve" has been lost. Blanche says that this was due to the reckless behavior of their family members. She fears that Stella blames her; however, it is Stanley, Stella's husband who suspects that Blanche is hiding things.