A Streetcar Named Desire

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Stella is Blanche DuBois’s younger sister and Stanley Kowalski’s wife. She is the emotional center of the play. Stella is the calm, reasonable foil to Blanche’s frenetic hysteria, and she is the soothing, feminine voice that counteracts Stanley’s violence. Although she loves Blanche and is hurt when Blanche is hurt, and although she is wistful, Stella has no desire to return to her past: she has chosen her present circumstances willingly, and she has made her life in New Orleans with Stanley. Stella’s pregnancy underscores her commitment to her Kowalski future, not her DuBois past. Stanley dominates Stella: she is drawn into the magnetic pull of his powerful physical presence. By modern-day standards, Stella is the victim of domestic violence, but in the play, her decision to return to Stanley even after he hits her is not judged as definitively right or wrong.

Stella Kowalski Quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire

The A Streetcar Named Desire quotes below are all either spoken by Stella Kowalski or refer to Stella Kowalski. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the New Directions edition of A Streetcar Named Desire published in 2004.
Scene 1 Quotes

Stella, oh, Stella, Stella! Stella for Star!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker), Stella Kowalski
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

When Blanche is first reunited with her sister, Stella, she cries out Stella’s name over and over, with a warmth that borders on hysteria. Blanche’s greeting shows her love for her sister, but also demonstrates her desperation. The lines also show how Blanche wants to live in a world of fantasy, not reality. By referring to her sister as “Stella for Star,” she calls attention to the name’s allegorical meaning ("stella" is Latin for "star"), and in doing so emphasizes how she prefers to live in the beauty of the fantasy that she constructs about herself, not in gritty reality.

Blanche herself is already attempting to act out the meaning of her own name by dressing all in white, since “blanche” means “white.” Even though Blanche has had a troubled past, she wants to become innocent and clean again. However, despite the façade of purity, Blanche is hardly as innocent as she seems. Just before Stella arrives, Blanche gulps down some whisky, using alcohol as an attempt to escape reality. When Stella comes in, Blanche immediately focuses her attention her sister, trying to deflect away from her own troubles.

Stella's name is also significant in its own right, as she serves as a guiding star and moral compass for both Stanley and Blanche throughout the play.

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Sit there and stare at me, thinking I let the place go? I let the place go? Where were you! In bed with your–Polack!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker), Stanley Kowalski, Stella Kowalski
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Blanche lashes out against Stella for choosing to leave the family estate of Belle Reve for a lower-class lifestyle. From Blanche’s perspective, Stella appears to have rejected the family’s aristocratic background in favor of a marriage to a man that she sexually desires.

But Stella is not embarrassed to be married to Stanley. Rather, Blanche is projecting her own feelings of shame onto Stella. Blanche cannot face her own guilt over letting Belle Reve collapse into both social and financial ruin. Instead, she makes herself feel morally superior by blaming Stella rather than herself. The word “Polack” demonstrates Blanche’s desperation to cling to social hierarchy: she uses racial slurs to cast down Stanley and to make herself feel as though she is of a higher class.

Blanche is also jealous of Stella’s freedom. Blanche has become an outcast in her hometown, Laurel, Mississippi, because of her scandalous behavior. She envies Stella’s relationship with her husband, and she envies Stella’s ability to live a happy and fulfilled life rather than being burdened with the ghosts of the past. Blanche cannot bear to face her own wrongdoings, and so she instead attempts to make Stella feel guilty for leaving, casting herself as the martyr rather than admitting her mistakes.

Scene 3 Quotes

STELL-LAHHHHH!

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski (speaker), Stella Kowalski
Related Symbols: Alcohol and Drunkenness
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

Stanley, in a drunken rage, has just hit Stella, and so she has gone to the upstairs neighbor’s apartment for a safe haven. When Stanley realizes that Stella is gone, he becomes extremely mournful. All his rage melts away, and he longs for Stella to return. The only way he knows how to assert his mastery is through physicality. Rather than try to apologize with reason and with a conversation, he instead yearns for Stella to return so that he can make up to her with his actions. The stage direction calls for Stanley to shout “with heaven-splitting violence,” and in the original version of A Streetcar Named Desire, the actor Marlon Brando, who played Stanley, made this line famous for doing just that.

Stanley’s shout comes as a distinct contrast to Blanche’s repetition of Stella’s name. Blanche emphasizes the fantasy and beauty that Stella’s name evokes, referring to Stella as “Stella for star.” However, Stanley turns Stella’s name into a primal yell. Stanley’s roar drowns the meaning of Stella’s name, and the shout becomes a mating cry. Indeed, Stella finds herself drawn back to Stanley magnetically. And When Stella returns to Stanley, he does not apologize verbally to her. Instead, he caresses her tenderly, showing his feelings physically rather than telling them. 

Scene 4 Quotes

There are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark–that sort of make everything else seem–unimportant.

Related Characters: Stella Kowalski (speaker), Stanley Kowalski
Related Symbols: Shadows
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

After Stanley hits Stella, Blanche insists that Stanley is too dangerous, especially because Stella is pregnant, and that Stella must leave Stanley. However, even though Stella recognizes that Stanley’s aggression is wrong, she is also thrilled and aroused by his bestial nature. Stanley’s power does sometimes come out in a violent way, but other times, his passion emerges through tenderness and through sexual energy. Blanche claims that she wants to shield Stella from the world, but Stella is much more experienced and pragmatic than Blanche is. Blanche wants to cast herself in the role of savior by swooping in to save Stella, but Stella asserts her own power by declaring that she doesn’t need saving.

Stella’s demureness and roundabout way of discussing sexual relations (couching it in the language of shadows and euphemism) around Blanche is ironic in the context of what is later revealed about Blanche’s history. Although Blanche pretends to be very prim and proper, she was expelled from Laurel, Mississippi for her promiscuity. Blanche may pretend to be innocent and naïve about carnal desire, but she is no stranger to sexuality. 

What you are talking about is brutal desire–just–Desire!–the name of that rattle-trap street-car that bangs through the Quarter.

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker), Stella Kowalski
Related Symbols: The Streetcar
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

The streetcar named Desire that provides this play with its title is both the name of a streetcar in New Orleans and a metaphor for the powerful and often dangerous emotion that propels the characters in the play. Even though each character might choose to step onto the streetcar, he or she does not necessarily know where the streetcar will go, or how long the ride will be, or whether or not he or she will be able to get off. Desire is the engine that powers New Orleans in Williams' play. As the streetcar rumbles through the streets, everyone is reminded of its constant, inescapable presence, and of the fact that this force is what governs everyone in the city.

Blanche is scornful about desire because she fears it. Desire, to Blanche, signifies a raw, animal energy that she cannot pretend to ignore. Blanche also knows that desire is the passion that drove her to New Orleans in the first place. Allegorically, succumbing to illicit desire drives Blanche out of her hometown, and then Desire literally drives Blanche to Stella and Stanley’s apartment.

Don’t–don’t hang back with the brutes!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker), Stanley Kowalski, Stella Kowalski
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

Blanche tells Stella that Stanley is an uncivilized animal, and that when Stella associates herself with him, she is turning her back on the world of culture and art that they came from. Yet Blanche’s tirade against Stanley is ultimately not so much a warning for Stella, but a demonstration of Blanche’s own anxiety and her resulting defense mechanisms. Blanche fears Stanley’s power because she can’t control it, and she looks down on Stanley because he comes from a lower class than Blanche and Stella. Blanche is also anxious about her own sexual attraction to Stanley. Her admonition to Stella and her rage against Stanley serve as Blanche’s warning to herself.

Blanche’s characterization of Stanley as a brute also carries prejudiced overtones. Throughout the play, Blanche refers to Stanley in a derogatory way as a “Polack,” equating his ethnic heritage with associations of low culture and ape-like qualities. She puts down Stanley to try to lift herself and her own background up by comparison.

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Stella Kowalski Character Timeline in A Streetcar Named Desire

The timeline below shows where the character Stella Kowalski appears in A Streetcar Named Desire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 1
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...river in New Orleans. The neighborhood is poor but has a “raffish charm.” Stanley and Stella Kowalski live in the downstairs flat, and Steve and Eunice live upstairs. The stage is... (full context)
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...on the front stoop when Stanley and Mitch come around the corner. Stanley bellows for Stella, and when she comes out on the first-floor landing, he tosses her a package of... (full context)
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...uneasily at a slip of paper at her hands. She is looking for her sister, Stella, and she has been told to take “a street-car named Desire” and transfer to Cemeteries... (full context)
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Eunice lets Blanche into the Kowalskis’ flat and tries to make small talk about what Stella has mentioned about Blanche––that the latter is a teacher from Mississippi, and that they grew... (full context)
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Stella bursts into the apartment, and she and Blanche embrace excitedly. Blanche speaks with a feverish... (full context)
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Stella’s quietness makes Blanche anxious that Stella isn’t glad to see her, but Stella reassures her... (full context)
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...in the apartment. She makes disapproving comments about Stanley’s lower-class status and his friends (“Heterogeneous––types”). Stella is very much in love with Stanley, and she tells Blanche not to compare him... (full context)
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...she recalls how she suffered through the deaths of their parents and relatives. She accuses Stella of abandoning the family and the estate to jump into bed with her “Polack.” Stella... (full context)
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...sweaty shirt in front of Blanche, asking her about being an English teacher in Mississippi. Stella is still in the bathroom. When Stanley asks Blanche about her marriage, polka music plays... (full context)
Scene 2
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...the next day, at six o’clock in the evening. Blanche is taking a bath offstage. Stella tells Stanley that she and Blanche are going out to the French Quarter for the... (full context)
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...the sale, Stanley insinuates that Blanche’s hysteria is a cover-up and that she has swindled Stella out of the money from the estate. If Stella has been swindled, he says, then... (full context)
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...her flashy dresses and costume jewelry are expensive, glamorous pieces that cost thousands of dollars. Stella tells him that they are fake fur and rhinestones and stalks out angrily to the... (full context)
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Stanley breaks the banter by yelling bluntly, “Now let’s cut the re-bop!” Stella rushes in to play peacemaker, but Blanche sends her to the drugstore to buy her... (full context)
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Stella returns from the drugstore, and Blanche greets her exuberantly, flushed with the news of her... (full context)
Scene 3
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Stella and Blanche return, and Blanche powders her face before entering the apartment. Stella tries to... (full context)
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...awkward, and Blanche looks at him with a “certain interest.” A bit later, she and Stella discuss the men as Blanche undresses strategically in silhouette. Blanche says that Mitch seems “superior... (full context)
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Stanley yells at Blanche and Stella to be quiet. Blanche turns on the radio, but Stanley turns it off and stalks... (full context)
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...case: a quotation from an Elizabeth Barrett Browning sonnet. Blanche claims to be younger than Stella, and she asks Mitch to hang a Chinese lantern over the naked electric bulb. Stanley,... (full context)
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As Stella comes out of the bathroom, Blanche turns the radio back on, and she and Mitch... (full context)
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...Blues music plays from offstage. After a moment, Stanley emerges, soaked and repentant. He cries “Stella” over and over, his howls increasing each time in volume and desperation. Stanley stumbles outside,... (full context)
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...and tells her not to worry, that this is just the nature of Stanley and Stella’s relationship. He offers her a cigarette, and she thanks him for his kindness. (full context)
Scene 4
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The next morning, Stella lies tranquilly in bed when Blanche, wild from a sleepless night, comes in. Blanche is... (full context)
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...from oil wells in Texas. Blanche proposes that Shep could provide money for she and Stella to escape and begins to compose a telegram to him. Stella laughs at her. Blanche... (full context)
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Stella says that Blanche saw Stanley at his worst, but Blanche replies that she saw him... (full context)
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...Stanley, calling him an ape-like, bestial creature. “There’s even something––sub-human” about him, she cries, telling Stella, “Don’t––don’t hang back with the brutes!” Unbeknownst to the women, as Blanche pours out her... (full context)
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Under the cover of a train’s noise, Stanley slips out and re-enters. Stella leaps into his arms, and Stanley grins at Blanche as the “blue piano” music swells... (full context)
Scene 5
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Stella and Blanche are in the bedroom. Blanche laughs at a letter she is writing to... (full context)
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...comes in and says that Eunice is getting a drink at the Four Deuces, which Stella says is much more “practical” than going to the police. Steve comes downstairs with a... (full context)
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...to the building. Stanley leaves for the Four Deuces, saying that he will wait for Stella there. (full context)
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Blanche frantically asks Stella what people in town have been saying about her. Blanche admits that there was a... (full context)
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Stella hands Blanche a Coke and tells her not to talk so morbidly. Blanche asks for... (full context)
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Stella worriedly asks Blanche why she overreacted to the stain, and Blanche claims that she is... (full context)
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Stanley comes around the corner and bellows for Eunice, Steve, and Stella. Stella tells Blanche that everything will work out, and she runs off to join Stanley... (full context)
Scene 6
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When Mitch asks where Stanley and Stella are, Blanche explains that they are out with Eunice and Steve. Mitch suggests that they... (full context)
Scene 7
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It is an afternoon in mid-September. Stanley comes into the kitchen to find Stella decorating for Blanche’s birthday. Blanche is taking yet another bath to soothe her nerves, which... (full context)
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Stanley sits Stella down to tell her all the details he has heard about Blanche. Shaw, a supply... (full context)
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Stella is dazed. At first, she doesn’t believe Stanley, making the excuse that Blanche has always... (full context)
Scene 8
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Stanley, Stella, and Blanche are finishing the dismal birthday supper. There is an empty fourth place at... (full context)
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Blanche rushes to the phone to call Mitch, even though Stella tells her not to. Stella goes out to Stanley on the porch, and he holds... (full context)
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Stella goes inside and begins lighting the candles on Blanche’s birthday cake. Blanche and Stanley join... (full context)
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...Blanche tries to smile and laugh, but she crumples and rushes into the bathroom, gagging. Stella reproaches Stanley for treating Blanche so harshly, saying that Blanche is a soft creature who... (full context)
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Stella demands to know why Stanley has been so cruel to Blanche. He says that Stella... (full context)
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A sudden change comes over Stella, and she tells Stanley to take her to the hospital––she has gone into labor. Stanley... (full context)
Scene 11
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It is several weeks later. Stella is packing Blanche’s things. Blanche is in the bath. The men are playing poker in... (full context)
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Eunice tells Stella that the baby is asleep upstairs, and the woman discuss Blanche. Stella says that they... (full context)
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Stella tells Eunice that she couldn’t believe Blanche’s story about being raped by Stanley, since if... (full context)
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...bathroom. She appears in the red satin robe. The polka music plays in the background. Stella and Eunice murmur appreciatively over Blanche. Blanche asks if Shep has called, and Stella tells... (full context)
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...Stanley’s voice startles Blanche. Her hysteria mounting, she demands to know what is going on. Stella and Eunice soothe her, saying that Blanche is going on a trip. (full context)
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...unwashed grape. As she speaks, a Doctor and Matron have come around the corner, and Stella and Eunice grow tense in anticipation. (full context)
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...lady is also with Shep. Blanche is anxious about walking through the poker game, but Stella goes with her. As Blanche crosses through and the men (except Mitch) stand awkwardly, Blanche... (full context)
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...bare bulb and holds it out to her. Blanche shrieks. All the men rise up. Stella runs out to the porch and Eunice embraces her. Stella sobs, saying, “What have I... (full context)
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While Stella and Eunice are speaking on the porch, Mitch has started toward the bedroom, but Stanley... (full context)
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Blanche and the Doctor walk out of the house and around the corner. Stella cries out, “Blanche! Blanche! Blanche!” but Blanche doesn’t turn. Eunice places Stella’s baby in her... (full context)
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Stanley joins Stella on the porch. She starts to sob “with inhuman abandon,” and he holds her in... (full context)