In addition to the themes of fantasy vs. reality, the destruction of the Old South, and the conflict between old and new in general (along with other themes discussed in the other answers to this question elsewhere on eNotes), Tennessee Williams explores two other themes worth noting in A Streetcar...
In addition to the themes of fantasy vs. reality, the destruction of the Old South, and the conflict between old and new in general (along with other themes discussed in the other answers to this question elsewhere on eNotes), Tennessee Williams explores two other themes worth noting in A Streetcar Named Desire.
STANLEY: In the state of Louisiana we have the Napoleonic code according to which what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband and vice versa. [to Stella, scene 2]
STANLEY: I don't go in for that stuff . . . compliments to women about their looks. I never met a dame yet didn’' know she was good looking or not without being told. And I've met some of them who give themselves credit for more than they've got. [to Blanche, scene 2]
Both Blanche and Stella rely on men for their financial support, physical well-being, and self-image.
Stella might be happier without her physically abusive husband, Stanley, but any other male partner would require the same type of dependence on men that she has with Stanley. Stella chooses to stay with Stanley out of love.
Blanche has been exploited by men for most of her life. She sees marriage to Mitch as her only hope for survival, and her only means of escaping destitution.
Williams uses Blanche's and Stella's dependence on men to criticize the treatment of women in the South, particularly during the transition from the Old South to the New South.
Violence and Cruelty
BLANCHE: But some things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable! It is the one unforgivable thing, in my opinion, and the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty. [to Stanley, scene 10]
Blanche objects to Stanley's overtly violent nature and his mistreatment of Stella, and to the cruelty she's personally endured and which she see around her every day.
Blanche, too, is cruel, but never out of malice.
She lies in a misguided and sometimes desperate attempt to please others and spare their feelings and to be loved in return.
Stanley's final act of cruelty towards Blanche destroys what's left of Blanche's fantasies, hopes, dreams, and sense of self and drives her finally to insanity.