A Streetcar Named Desire

Themes and Colors
Sexual Desire Theme Icon
Fantasy and Delusion Theme Icon
Interior and Exterior Appearance Theme Icon
Masculinity and Physicality Theme Icon
Femininity and Dependence Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Streetcar Named Desire, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Sexual Desire Theme Icon

Many critics believe that Williams invented the idea of desire for the 20th century. The power of sexual desire is the engine propelling A Streetcar Named Desire: all of the characters are driven by “that rattle-trap street-car” in various ways.

Much of Blanche’s conception of how she operates in the world relies on her perception of herself as an object of male sexual desire. Her interactions with men always begin with flirtation. Blanche tells Stella that she and Stanley smoothed things over when she began to flirt with him. When Blanche meets Stanley’s poker-playing friends, she lights upon Mitch as a possible suitor and adopts the guise of a chaste lover for him to pursue.

Blanche nearly attacks the Young Man with her aggressive sexuality, flirting heavily with him and kissing him. Blanche dresses provocatively in red satin, silks, costume jewelry, etc: she calls attention to her body and her femininity through her carefully cultivated appearance. Blanche clings to her sexuality more and more desperately as the play progresses. To Blanche, perhaps motivated by her discovery that her first husband was in fact homosexual, losing her desirability is akin to losing her identity and her reason to live.

Stella’s desire for Stanley pulls her away from Belle Reve and her past. Stella is drawn to Stanley’s brute, animal sexuality, and he is drawn to her traditional, domestic, feminine sexuality. Stella is pregnant: her sexuality is deeply tied to both womanliness and motherhood. Even though Stanley is violent to Stella, their sexual dynamic keeps them together. When Blanche is horrified that Stanley beats Stella, Stella explains that the things that a man and a woman do together in the dark maintain their relationship.

Stanley’s sexuality and his masculinity are extremely interconnected: he radiates a raw, violent, brute animal magnetism. Stanley’s sexuality asserts itself violently over both Stella and Blanche. Although he hits Stella, she continues to stay with him and to submit to his force. While Stella is at the hospital giving birth to his child, Stanley rapes Blanche: the culmination of his sexual act with Stella coincides with the tragic culmination of his destined date with Blanche.

Throughout the play, sexual desire is linked to destruction. Even in supposedly loving relationships, sexual desire and violence are yoked: Stanley hits Stella, and Steve beats Eunice. The “epic fornications” of the DuBois ancestors created a chain reaction that has culminated in the loss of the family estate. Blanche’s pursuit of sexual desire has led to the loss of Belle Reve, her expulsion from Laurel, and her eventual removal from society. Stanley’s voracious carnal desire culminates in his rape of Blanche. Blanche’s husband’s “unacceptable” homosexual desire leads to his suicide.

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Sexual Desire ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Sexual Desire appears in each scene of A Streetcar Named Desire. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Sexual Desire Quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire

Below you will find the important quotes in A Streetcar Named Desire related to the theme of Sexual Desire.
Scene 1 Quotes

They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Streetcar
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Since earliest manhood the center of [Stanley’s] life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependently, but with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens.

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 2 Quotes

I never met a woman that didn’t know if she was good-looking or not without being told, and some of them give themselves credit for more than they’ve got.

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bathing
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

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Now let’s cut the re-bop!

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski (speaker)
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

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After all, a woman’s charm is fifty percent illusion.

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

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Oh, I guess he’s just not the type that goes for jasmine perfume, but maybe he’s what we need to mix with our blood now that we’ve lost Belle Reve.

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker), Stanley Kowalski
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

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Red-hot!

Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 3 Quotes

The kitchen now suggests that sort of lurid nocturnal brilliance, the raw colors of childhood’s spectrum.

Related Symbols: Shadows
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

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STELL-LAHHHHH!

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

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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:

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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:

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

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

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Scene 5 Quotes

Young man! Young, young, young man! Has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Prince out of the Arabian Nights?

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Related Symbols: Paper Lantern and Paper Moon
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 6 Quotes

Sometimes–there’s God–so quickly!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 7 Quotes

It’s only a paper moon, Just as phony as it can be–But it wouldn’t be make-believe If you believed in me!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bathing, Paper Lantern and Paper Moon
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 9 Quotes

I told you already I don’t want none of his liquor and I mean it. You ought to lay off his liquor. He says you’ve been lapping it up all summer like a wild-cat!

Related Characters: Harold Mitchell (Mitch) (speaker), Blanche DuBois, Stanley Kowalski
Related Symbols: Alcohol and Drunkenness
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

I don’t want realism. I want magic!

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Related Symbols: Paper Lantern and Paper Moon
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 10 Quotes

Tiger–tiger! Drop the bottle-top! Drop it! We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning!

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski (speaker), Blanche DuBois
Related Symbols: Alcohol and Drunkenness
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Scene 11 Quotes

Please don’t get up. I’m only passing through.

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker)
Related Symbols: Varsouviana Polka
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deser

You left nothing here but spilt talcum and old empty perfume bottles–unless it’s the paper lantern you want to take with you. You want the lantern?

Related Characters: Stanley Kowalski (speaker), Blanche DuBois
Related Symbols: Paper Lantern and Paper Moon
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse

Whoever you are—I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Related Characters: Blanche DuBois (speaker), Doctor
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.