Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire focuses on an aging Southern belle’s attempt to find a place for herself in her sister’s life. Her encounters with her aggressive brother-in-law force her to retreat into a place in her mind that can handle the horrors she faces. All of the characters are flawed and psychologically fragile. But it is Blanche DuBois who loses her last hope for survival.
At one time, Blanche was the belle of her plantation and town. When her husband killed himself, Blanche never recuperated from his loss. Stella, her sister, left Belle Reve and moved to New Orleans where she married a brutish man, Stanley.
Now, Blanche comes to New Orleans in hopes that she can find a life with her sister. Stella is all that Blanche has left. As an English teacher, there has been some scandal.
Blanche: …You haven’t asked me how I happened to get away from the school before the spring term ended.
Stella: Well, I thought you would volunteer that information—if you wanted to tell me.
Blanche: You thought I’d been fired?
Stella: No, I thought you might have---resigned
Blanche: I was so exhausted by all I’d been through my---nerves broke. I was on the verge of—lunacy, almost! So Mr. Graves suggested that I take a leave of absence…
Blanche tends to stretch the truth. Although she does not tell her sister, Blanche has lost her job. Blanche has always been delicate; she has suffered a bit of a breakdown. This is the excuse that Blanche uses to explain why she leaves her job. Her nerves are broken. She also tells Stella that the plantation has been lost to bankruptcy.
Actually, Blanche resents that she had to stay at home and take care of the family. Stella has made a new life for herself and is now expecting a baby. Blanche is also horrified that her sister is living in a dump like this one when they both come from such a wealthy, elite background.
Blanche is her own worst enemy. She does not mince words about her displeasure in Stella or herself having to stay in such crummy accommodations. Stanley does not like Blanche intruding on his life; he is infuriated when he hears that Stella’s part of the plantation has been lost.
It is obvious that Blanche has a drinking problem. This fact and her attempt to create a façade of southern comfort annoy Stanley. He determines to find out the truth about what happened to their plantation.
Stanley does ask around and discovers that Blanche has been lying about what happen in her hometown. Apparently, she was fired from her job as a schoolteacher after she was discovered having an affair with one of her high school students. She then sank further into scandal, entertaining gentlemen callers at a place called the Hotel Flamingo until she was asked to leave town.