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The Pulitzer Prize and Drama Critics Circle Award winning playreissued with an introduction by Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman and The Crucible), and Williams' essay "The World I Live In."
It is a very short list of 20th-century American plays that continue to have the same power and impact as when they first appeared57 years after its Broadway premiere, Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those plays. The story famously recounts how the faded and promiscuous Blanche DuBois is pushed over the edge by her sexy and brutal brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Streetcar launched the careers of Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, and solidified the position of Tennessee Williams as one of the most important young playwrights of his generation, as well as that of Elia Kazan as the greatest American stage director of the '40s and '50s.
Who better than America's elder statesman of the theater, Williams' contemporary Arthur Miller, to write as a witness to the lightning that struck American culture in the form of A Streetcar Named Desire? Miller's rich perspective on Williams' singular style of poetic dialogue, sensitive characters, and dramatic violence makes this a unique and valuable new edition of A Streetcar Named Desire. This definitive new edition will also include Williams' essay "The World I Live In," and a brief chronology of the author's life.
|Publisher:||New Directions Publishing Corporation|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) is the acclaimed author of many books of letters, short stories, poems, essays, and a large collection of plays, including The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Orpheus Descending, The Night of the Iguana, and The Rose Tattoo.
Read an Excerpt
a streetcar named desire
By Tennessee Williams
a new directions bookCopyright © 2004 New Directions Publishing Corporation
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSCENE ONE
The exterior of a two-story corner building on a street in New Orleans which is named Elysian Fields and runs between the L & N tracks and the river. The section is poor but, unlike corresponding sections in other American cities, it has a raffish charm. The houses are mostly white frame, weathered grey, with rickety outside stairs and galleries and quaintly ornamented gables. This building contains two flats, upstairs and down. Faded white stairs ascend to the entrances of both.
It is first dark of an evening early in May. The sky that shows around the dim white building is a peculiarly tender blue, almost a turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay. You can almost feel the warm breath of the brown river beyond the river warehouses with their faint redolences of bananas and coffee. A corresponding air is evoked by the music of Negro entertainers at a barroom around the corner. In this part of New Orleans you are practically always just around the corner, or a few doors down the street, from a tinny piano being played with the infatuated fluency of brown fingers. This "blue piano" expresses the spirit of the life which goes on here.
Two women, one white and one colored, are taking the air on the steps of the building. The white woman is Eunice, who occupies the upstairs flat; the colored woman a neighbor, for New Orleans is a cosmopolitan city where there is a relatively warm and easy intermingling of races in the old part of town.
A bore the music of the "blue piano" the voices of people on the street can be heard overlapping.
[Two men come around the corner, Stanley Kowalski and Mitch. They ate about twenty-eight or thirty years old, roughly dressed in blue denim work, clothes. Stanley carries his bowling jacket and a red-stained package from a butcher's. They stop at the foot of the steps.]
STANLEY [bellowing]: Hey, there! Stella, Baby!
[Stella comes out on the first floor landing, a gentle young woman, about twenty-five, and of a background obviously quite different from her husband's.]
STELLA [mildly]: Don't holler at me like that. Hi, Mitch.
[He heaves the package at her. She cries out in protest but manages to catch it: then she laughs breathlessly. Her husband and his companion have already started back around the corner.]
STELLA [calling after him]: Stanley! Where are you going?
STELLA: Can I come watch?
STANLEY: Come on. [He goes out.]
STELLA: Be over soon. [To the white woman] Hello, Eunice. How are you?
EUNICE: I'm all right. Tell Steve to get him a poor boy's sandwich 'cause nothing's left here.
[They all laugh; the colored woman does not stop. Stella goes out.]
COLORED WOMAN: What was that package he th'ew at 'er? [She rises from steps, laughing louder.]
EUNICE: You hush, how!
NEGRO WOMAN: Catch what!
[She continues to laugh. Blanche comes around the corner, carrying a valise. She looks at a slip of paper, then at the building, then again at the slip and again at the building. Her expression is one of shocked disbelief. Her appearace is incongruous to this setting. She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district. She is about five years older than Stella. Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light. There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggests a moth.]
EUNICE [finally]: What's the matter, honey ? Are you lost?
BLANCHE [with faintly hysterical humor]: They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at-Elysian Fields!
EUNICE: That's where you are now.
BLANCHE: At Elysian Fields?
EUNICE: This here is Elysian Fields.
BLANCHE: They mustn't have-understood-what number I wanted ...
EUNICE: What number you lookin' for?
[Blanche wearily refers to the slip of paper.]
BLANCHE: Six thirty-two.
EUNICE: You don't have to look no further.
BLANCHE [uncomprehendingly]: I'm looking for my sister, Stella DuBois. I mean-Mrs. Stanley Kowalski.
EUNICE: That's the party.-You just did miss her, though.
BLANCHE: This-can this be-her home?
EUNICE: She's got the downstairs here and I got the up.
BLANCHE: Oh. She's-out?
EUNICE: You noticed that bowling alley around the corner?
BLANCHE: I'm-not sure I did.
EUNICE: Well, that's where she's at, watchin' her husband bowl. [There is a pause] You want to leave your suitcase here an' go find her?
NEGRO WOMAN: I'll go tell her you come.
NEGRO WOMAN: You welcome. [She goes out.]
EUNICE: She wasn't expecting you?
BLANCHE: No. No, not tonight.
EUNICE: Well, why don't you just go in and make yourself at home till they get back.
BLANCHE: How could I-do that?
EUNICE: We own this place so I can let you in.
[She gets up and opens the downstairs door. A light goes on behind the blind, turning it light blue. Blanche slowly follows her into the downstairs flat. The surrounding areas dim out as the interior is lighted.] [Two rooms can be seen, not too clearly defined. The one first entered is primarily a kitchen but contains a folding bed to be used by Blanche. The room beyond this is a bedroom. Off this room is a narrow door to a bathroom.]
EUNICE [defensively, noticing Blanche's look]: It's sort of messed up right now but when it's clean it's real sweet.
BLANCHE: Is it?
EUNICE: Uh-huh, I think so. So you're Stella's sister?
BLANCHE: Yes. [Wanting to get rid of her] Thanks for letting me in.
EUNICE: Por nada, as the Mexicans say, por nada! Stella spoke of you.
EUNICE: I think she said you taught school.
EUNICE: And you're from Mississippi, huh?
EUNICE: She showed me a picture of your home-place, the plantation.
BLANCHE: Belle Reve?
EUNICE: A great big place with white columns.
BLANCHE: Yes ...
EUNICE: A place like that must be awful hard to keep up.
BLANCHE: If you will excuse me, I'm just about to drop.
EUNICE: Sure, honey. Why don't you set down?
BLANCHE: What I meant was I'd like to be left alone.
EUNICE [offended]: Aw. I'll make myself scarce, in that ease.
BLANCHE: I didn't mean to be rude, but-
EUNICE: I'll drop by the bowling alley an' hustle her up. [She goes out the door.]
[Blanche sits in a chair very stiffly with her shoulders slightly hunched and her legs pressed close together and her hands tightly clutching her purse as if she were quite cold. After a while the blind look goes out of her eyes and she begins to look slowly around. A cat screeches. She catches her breath with a startled gesture. Suddenly she notices something in a half opened closet. She springs up and crosses to it, and removes a whiskey bottle. She pours a half tumbler of whiskey and tosses it down. She carefully replaces the bottle and washes out the tumbler at the sink. Then she resumes her seat in front of the table.]
BLANCHE [faintly to herself]: I've got to keep hold of myself!
[Stella comes quickly around the corner of the building and runs to the door of the downstairs flat.]
STELLA [calling out joyfully]: Blanche!
[For a moment they stare at each other. Then Blanche springs up and runs to her with a wild cry.]
BLANCHE: Stella, oh, Stella, Stella! Stella for Star!
[She begins to speak with feverish vivacity as if she feared for either of them to stop and think. They catch each other in a spasmodic embrace.]
BLANCHE: Now, then, let me look at you. But don't you look at me, Stella, no, no, no, not till later, not till I've bathed and rested! And turn that over-light off! Turn that off! I won't be looked at in this merciless glare! [Stella laughs and complies] Come back here now! Oh, my baby! Stella! Stella for Star! [She embraces her again] I thought you would never come back to this horrible place! What am I saying? I didn't mean to say that. I meant to be nice about it and say-Oh, what a convenient location and such-Ha-a-ha! Precious lamb! You haven't said a word to me.
STELLA: You haven't given me a chance to, honey! [She laughs, but her glance at Blanche is a little anxious.]
BLANCHE: Well, now you talk. Open your pretty mouth and talk while I look around for some liquor! I know you must have some liquor on the place! Where could it be, I wonder? Oh, I spy, I spy!
[She rushes to the closet and removes the bottle; she is shaking all over and panting for breath as she tries to laugh. The bottle nearly slips from her grasp.]
STELLA [noticing]: Blanche, you sit down and let me pour the drinks. I don't know what we've got to mix with. Maybe a coke's in the icebox. Look'n see, honey, while I'm-
BLANCHE: No coke, honey, not with my nerves tonight! Where-where-where is-?
STELLA: Stanley? Bowling! He loves it. They're having a-found some soda!-tournament ...
BLANCHE: Just water, baby, to chase it! Now don't get worried, your sister hasn't turned into a drunkard, she's just all shaken up and hot and tired and dirty! You sit down, now, and explain this place to me! What are you doing in a place like this?
STELLA: Now, Blanche-
BLANCHE: Oh, I'm not going to be hypocritical, I'm going to be honestly critical about it! Never, never, never in my worst dreams could I picture-Only Poe! Only Mr. Edgar Allan Poe!-could do it justice! Out there I suppose is the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir! [She laughs.]
STELLA: No, honey, those are the L & N tracks.
BLANCHE: No, now seriously, putting joking aside. Why didn't you tell me, why didn't you write me, honey, why didn't you let me know?
STELLA [carefully, pouring herself a drink]: Tell you what, Blanche?
BLANCHE: Why, that you had to live in these conditions!
STELLA: Aren't you being a little intense about it? It's not that bad at all! New Orleans isn't like other cities.
BLANCHE: This has got nothing to do with New Orleans. You might as well say-forgive me, blessed baby! [She suddenly stops short] The subject is closed!
STELLA [a little drily]: Thanks.
[During the pause, Blanche stares at her. She smiles at Blanche.]
BLANCHE [looking down at her glass, which shakes in her hand]: You're all I've got in the world, and you're not glad to See me!
STELLA [sincerely]: Why, Blanche, you know that's not true.
BLANCHE: No?-I'd forgotten how quiet you were.
STELLA: You never did give me a chance to say much, Blanche. So I just got in the habit of being quiet around you.
BLANCHE [vaguely]: A good habit to get into ... [then, abruptly] You haven't asked me how I happened to get away from the school before the spring term ended.
STELLA: Well, I thought you'd 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. [Nervously tamping cigarette] I was on the verge of-lunacy, almost! So Mr. Graves-Mr. Graves is the high school superintendent-he suggested I take a leave of absence. I couldn't put all of those details into the wire ... [She drinks quickly] Oh, this buzzes right through me and feels so good!
STELLA: Won't you have another?
BLANCHE: No, one's my limit.
BLANCHE: You haven't said a word about my appearance.
STELLA: You look just fine.
BLANCHE: God love you for a liar! Daylight never exposed so total a ruin! But you-you've put on some weight, yes, you're just as plump as a little partridge! And it's so becoming to you!
STELLA: Now, Blanche-
BLANCHE: Yes, it is, it is or I wouldn't say it! You just have to watch around the hips a little. Stand up.
STELLA: Not now.
BLANCHE: You hear me? I said stand up! [Stella complies reluctantly] You messy child, you, you've spilt something on that pretty white lace collar! About your hair-you ought to have it cut in a feather bob with your dainty features. Stella, you have a maid, don't you?
STELLA: No. With only two rooms it's-
BLANCHE: What? Two rooms, did you say?
STELLA: This one and-[She is embarrassed.]
BLANCHE: The other one? [She laughs sharply. There is an embarrassed silence.]
I am going to take just one little tiny nip more, sort of to put the stopper on, so to speak.... Then put the bottle away so I won't be tempted. [She rises] I want you to look at my figure! [She turns around] You know I haven't put on one ounce in ten years, Stella? I weigh what I weighed the summer you left Belle Reve. The summer Dad died and you left us ...
STELLA [a little wearily]: It's just incredible, Blanche, how well you're looking.
BLANCHE: [They both laugh uncomfortably] But, Stella, there's only two rooms, I don't see where you're going to put me!
STELLA: We're going to put you in here.
BLANCHE: What kind of bed's this-one of those collapsible things? [She sits on it.]
STELLA: Does it feel all right?
BLANCHE [dubiously]: Wonderful, honey. I don't like a bed that gives much. But there's no door between the two rooms, and Stanley -will it be decent?
STELLA: Stanley is Polish, you know.
BLANCHE: Oh, yes. They're something like Irish, aren't they?
BLANCHE: Only not so-highbrow? [They both laugh again in the same way] I brought some nice clothes to meet all your lovely friends in.
STELLA: I'm afraid you won't think they are lovely.
BLANCHE: What are they like?
STELLA: They're Stanley's friends.
STELLA: They're a mixed lot, Blanche.
STELLA: Oh, yes. Yes, types is right!
BLANCHE: Well-anyhow-I brought nice clothes and I'll wear them.
Excerpted from a streetcar named desire by Tennessee Williams Copyright © 2004 by New Directions Publishing Corporation. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Lyrical and poetic and human and heartbreaking and memorable and funny.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I just read this play for AP Lit and was blown away by intensity and complexity of the characters, especially Blanche. I went from not being able to stand her to completely sympathizing with her. All the characters are real with faults and virtues intermingled. No one comes out superior to the others because real people are not definable heroes or villians. I absolutely loved this play.
A Streetcar Named Desire is a book about a woman named Blanche DuBois. She unexpectedly shows up at her sister Stella's house on Elysian Fields Ave. To get there, Blanche has to take a streetcar called Desire, which was like the scum of the earth to her becuase she always grew up rich. Stella was extatic to see her but her husband Stanley was just a little less than thrilled. Throughout her stay with Stella, Blanche and Stanley constantly fight and Blanche starts dating one of Stanley's friends. Stanley knows that there is something that is not quite right because she keeps going after younger men. Stanley later finds out that Blanche lost Belle Reve, which is the plantation that Stella and Blanche grew up on. He also finds out that Blanche doesn't have a home back in Laurel because she was fired from her teaching job for having an affair with a seventeen year old student. Many more things go on in this book but I guess you will have to read it to find out!
A Streetcar Named Desire was a fascinating book to read: I loved reading about the complicated fragility that is Blanche DuBois's psyche. Tennessee Williams shows his talent and ability to express complex themes in this play. The book is interesting and well-written. I would suggest it to anyone who enjoys Williams's works.
'Streetcar' tells the story of a woman's fall from grace after living on her charm and sexuality for most of her life. Much in the same way 'Death of a Salesman' shows the slow and painful death of a family man, 'Streetcar' shows a Blanche being unable to accept that time has passed her by and a reputation of being fast has destroyed her. When Blanche comes to visit her sister Stella and her husband, only Stanley senses something peculiar about Blanche. It is only when Stanley begins to research into Blanche's past that he begins to see through her web of lies. Confronted with her lies, the only thing she has left to hold on to, Blanche's sanity escapes her. In a sad reality, women who live their lives dependent on their looks and exploiting men will eventually find that their game will eventually exhaust its momentum. Readers who sympathize with Blanche's demise may have trouble identifying with a gruff character like Stanley. It is difficult to identify with a man who beats his wife as a hero. Despite his flaws, Stanley is the hero in this sad story. Much like reality, few heroes are as perfect as say, Superman. 'Streetcar' is an honest story that ranks high on the totem pole of American theater. In terms of its reach, no well read American can call themselves 'well-read' without 'Streetcar' on their 'to read list'.
A true classic. Ten times better than the movie. It reads like a memoir, which I loved. Read it all in a weekend. A+
I really loved the play... I could not put the book down.. I had to read it for a class and now, it is a part of my book collection. The movie is also a part of my video collection.. I would have like to known what happened to Blanche.. Did they put her in an institute, where she needed to be?
I also couldn't put this book down. I had to read this book for my English Literature class and I stayed awake during the night to finish reading it. I hate what Stanley does to Blanche but that's a discussion I am going to leave for my English class.
Deception seems to be one of the most salient themes. As Goleman writes, "We are piloted in part by an ingenious capacity to deceive ourselves, whereby we sink in obliviousness rather than face threatening facts." Blanche buries her devious past with a new start in New Orleans and skirts questions with a swift wit in conversation. She waters down the pains and frustrations of the past with concealed drinking and shrouds her aging face from gentleman callers in a soft light. She delusionally and openly believes that a fictional Texas oil magnate will arrive to whisk her away from yet another prison she finds herself in. Blanche maintains a very interesting relationship with Stanley, the bane of her existence in the French Quarter. While Stanley is ostensibly boorish and untamed, Blanche poorly masks these same latent characteristics in her own personality with a ladylike charm, frequent bathing, and heavy perfume. Her attacks on Stanley are actually projections, effectively assaults on the qualities she hates most about herself. Her outward disdain for her sister's husband is likely an aggressive reaction to what is better known as jealousy. What's more, this behavior runs in the family (another universal Williams theme). Stella convinces herself that an abusive relationship is fit to raise a child in. And at one point, the sisters recall their mother's refusal to accept her own mortality and her imploration to her young daughters to participate in this shared collusion. In the final scenes of the story, as Stella is giving birth to their son, Stanley finishes what he started, defeating Blanche completely in a territorial act of rape. When Blanche finally does choose to embrace honesty and come clean with Stella about the crime, her sister refuses to believe her and locks her away with the truth in an asylum, in step with what we'd expect from the DuBois family. The play was originally to be named "The Poker Night" and like "The Glass Menagerie", this image is an appropriate symbol to help unify the piece. As Williams writes it, poker, a game of deception, is not just played by the men in this play.
Tennessee Williams "A Streetcar Named Desire" is set in New Orleans, and begins with the character Stella with her upstairs neighbor Eunice sitting on the front porch as Stella's husband Stanley walks by on his way to go bowling, and yells out "Hey Stella" as he tosses her a package from the butcher. Stella goes with Stanley to watch him bowl as her sister Blanche DuBois comes to their house. Blanche puts on the airs of a southern belle who has been through more than she can handle, which her sister Stella takes with good nature. Stanley on the other hand doesn't dig this wilting flower routine and doesn't hide any of his blue collar roughness around Blanche.The famous "STELLA!!!" scene, made famous by Marlon Brando, happens a few scenes later when Blanche gets on Stanley's last nerve during one of his poker games and he ends up taking it out on Stella. So to get away from him, Stella runs upstairs to Eunice. Once over his fit a rage Stanley relizes what he has done and runs outside to the porch yelling "Stella!!! Hey Stella!!!" so she would come back down. Stella does eventually come down, and all is forgiven with a loving embrace.The rest of the play goes on with Stanley and Blanche's "delegect nature" butting heads. I am a little confused on what really was wrong with Blanche. At times she seemed to be honestly crazy when thinking about how her and Stella use to live in a big beautiful house with servants and everything, and other times it seemed like just an act. The story briefly goes into Blanche's past about losing her husband and then the bad name she ended up giving herself.Stanley was a little hard to figure out too. Whenever he was talking to Blanche his remarks were sarcastic and mean. But when it came to Stella his words were always kinder, more loving, and wanting to protect her. Maybe his relationship with Blanche was to show how tense relationships between in-laws can be, the husband has his way of living while the wife's family goes on about how her life should be.The story ends with Stella finally realizing that there is something really wrong with her sister, more than just her pain over losing their home Belle Reve. So it all ends with Blanche being carted away, (to a mental instituation I guess), with the famous line "I always depended on the kindness of strangers.""A Streetcar Named Desire" I thought was a good summer read. The version I had was 142 pages and had some pictures from its originally production. Tennessee Williams is one of the American writers I think anyone who enjoys literature should experience at least once.
When I picked up "Streetcar", I was reading it purely because I had to--I had no idea how many times I'd revisit it!! The characters and setting are engrossing and enchanting. This is my very favorite play, and I'd recommend it to any lover of literature. You won't regret your time spent with Stella, Stanley, Blanche, and the rest of the characters from "A Streetcar Named Desire"!!!
I really liked this play. We read it and watched the movie version in my dramatic literature class and I thought it was very interesting. I found it hard to tell if ot was Blanche or Stanley that was the main bad guy until the very last scene and that was very captivating for me. Also, in New Orleans, at the end of the Tennessee Wiliams destival, they have a Stella shouting contest, where any man who wants to can act as Stanley does and scream Stella's name up to a balcony. I really do like this play and I also recommend watching the film version because it really puts the whole thing together and helps it make a little more sense. They chose fantastic actors, including Marlon Brandow and Vivien Leigh, and the entire cast of the movie, except for Blanche (Vivien Leigh replaced Jessica Tandy), was the same cast as in the original Broadway production. Overall, I love this play. It's very intricate, captivating, and interesting. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
At first this book lost me in what was going on. Because it is written in all third person and hardly any of the text is narrated. I felt like this made the read have to pay way more attention to what the characters had to say. I did not get the attached feeling to this book until late in the book when conflict started to begin between characters. Some pros i found in A Street Car Named Desire were that it was an easy and exciting read once i got into it. The author did a good job forshadowing what was going to happen. It holds you in suprise until the actual scene is played out in the end. I would probably not be interested in the second book of this series.