Creating Connections to Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire

byMaureen T. Becker


When I first read A Streetcar Named Desire as a senior in high school, there were so many elements that were beyond my understanding as a young reader; the part that I found most perplexing was the ending, with Stella sending Blanche away to a mental institution.  My junior- and senior-level students generally have a “family-first” mentality, and when I teach the play for the first time, I anticipate that they will have difficulty coming to terms with Stella’s decision because it entails choosing legal family over a blood relative.  Because this drama is such a rich representation of literature, there are many reading guides available to help students make meaning of the text; much of the literary criticism focuses on Tennessee Williams’ representation of women, portraying them as victims in this play.  I would like my students, however, to examine it through the lens of a cultural studies theorist with an emphasis on the historical context of the work.  I also will have my students use their prior knowledge of Anton Chekhov’s writing as one avenue into an unconventional analysis of Williams’ play.  Given all of the background information as well as detailed study of the text, the question I plan to pose to my students in order to analyze Stella’s decision to send Blanche away is:  In what ways is Stella’s sending Blanche away (but calling after her) representative of the time period?  If Williams’ play makes social commentary on post-war American values, my students can determine the commentary by using evidence from the text.

School Profile

Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School is a neighborhood high school located on the southwest side of Chicago.  It is an International Baccalaureate (IB) world school; students must apply to the school for admission.  Application requirements for the IB Diploma Programme (DP) preparation track include a minimum percentile of 24 in both reading and math on the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) and a minimum 2.5 GPA in 7th grade.  Individualized Education Program (IEP) and English-Language Learner (ELL) students must have a minimum combined percentile of 48 in reading and math on NWEA MAP and minimum 2.5 GPA in 7th grade.  There are no minimum requirements for students who apply to the IB “Middle Years Programme (MYP) for All” track, but priority is given to students from the six neighboring elementary schools:  Chavez, Daley, Hamline, Hedges, Lara, and Seward.  A small percentage of seats is available for students attending other neighborhood elementary schools through a computerized lottery each year.1 The school’s racial and ethnic demographics are comprised of 98.6% minority students: 89.3% of students are Hispanic; 5.7% of students are Asian; 3.3% are Black; 1.4% are White; and 0.2% identify as “Other.”  Low-income students comprise 96.7% of the population.  Students who have been identified as Diverse Learners form 8.6% of the student body.  “Limited English” students make up 9.7% of the student body.  The school’s student mobility rate is 6.1%.2 Once students have completed the 9th and 10th grades, they may apply for admission to either the IB DP or the IB Career Program (CP) or enroll in individual Advanced Placement (AP) classes of their choice for their 11th- and 12th-grade years of study.  The school is a new facility, and this year is an especially important year as we enter our fourth year of serving students; this year’s seniors will be our first graduates! 

Course Profile

This curriculum unit has been developed as the first of four related units that will be studied and taught after Thanksgiving break through spring break; this time period consists of just over fifteen weeks in our school calendar, or 65 instructional hours.  The course is Year 2 of the two-year IB Language A:  Literature course, which is for students in the IB DP and CP, all of whom are 12th-grade students; we will study Parts 2 and 3 of the IB Literature curriculum over the course of the year.  This unit falls under the Part 3, Literary Genres portion of the course, which is offered at Higher Level (at Higher Level, students engage in a two-year course of study with a minimum requirement of 240 hours of study for thirteen works over the two years).  Per the IB Language A:  Literature guide, Part 3 works must be selected from the IB Prescribed List of Authors (PLA) for the language studied (English), all from the same genre.3  The four works in this part are all post-war dramas:  the work used for this curriculum unit, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (1947); Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949); Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night (1956); and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962).  I plan to spend four weeks teaching A Streetcar Named Desire.

All of the students enrolled in this course will sit for the IB exams in May 2017.  These exams have incredibly high stakes for low-income students, all of whom have plans to attend four-year universities or to enroll in two-year city colleges and later transfer to four-year post-secondary institutions, and most of whom will be first-generation college students.  High marks on these exams often equate to college credit for the students, and when money is a factor in college persistence, not only do high marks serve as an indicator of success or excellence, they also have a price-tag attached for individual students.  For this reason, I do not want to discount the importance of preparing my students for the external assessment related to Part 3 of this course, Paper 2.  Paper 2 is a two-hour timed essay that comprises 25% of the weight for students’ Language A (English) mark toward the IB diploma or career certificate.  Some of the activities discussed in the teaching strategies below directly relate to preparation for Paper 2.


There are many reasons I selected A Streetcar Named Desire for study.  One obvious reason is that it is on a list of approved texts.  More importantly, however, I chose drama for this portion of the course because I love teaching plays, and I find that my enthusiasm helps to engage my students.  Additionally, many of my students have tested out of a bilingual education and ESL course of study (English is not their first language) or are bilingual; I find that once my students become familiar with the conventions of the genre, the sections that we loosely act out in class together as we discuss the author’s choices support added understanding in a way that might otherwise be patronizing to students who are nearing high-school graduation:  role play is expected with drama.  Even for students who have the strongest command of English, the multimodality of the study of drama correlates to the increasing multimodal literacy for which students are expected to demonstrate mastery. 

Beyond my choice to study drama for this part of the course, I chose this play specifically, A Streetcar Named Desire, for several reasons.  In the previous year, my students studied works by Anton Chekhov.  I selected those works at the same time that I selected this play; I am aware of Chekhov’s influence on Williams’ writing, and studying both authors will allow my students to create comparative analyses that will refine their existing skills.  I also chose this play because of its immediate and lasting critical acclaim but its changing critical reception, particularly with regard to social and cultural values, with the passage of time.  Finally, I picked this play because it provides students with the opportunity to create arguments from one of any number of literary lenses:  feminism, race, Marxism, psychology, and queer theories are just a few viewpoints from which students might criticize this text.  I would like to encourage my students to consider a hybrid of lenses and will present the cultural theorist’s lens as one such hybrid.

Analysis and Contextualization

Anton Chekhov, the famous Russian writer, influenced Tennessee Williams in a number of ways.  Perhaps most notably, there are several parallels between Chekhov’s play The Cherry Orchard and Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.  Both plays contain themes of social class and a changing struggle between the classes.  More generally but with special relevance to the work studied in this unit, James Fisher wrote, “He [Williams] learned from the Russian author about creating melancholy, character-driven dramas that explore the intimacies of the psyche in subtle, highly symbolic ways.”4  Chekhov changed the way characters were written; they were no longer romantic but modern, and the mark of this shift is the use of “characters’ mood or feeling to communicate their inner state….  Mood then becomes subjective, and we are brought into the lives of the character.”5  Blanche is written to be perfectly imperfect—vain but insecure, conniving yet dependent—she is a realistic character with whom the audience might at once sympathize yet detest.  There is no doubt that the initial reviews of A Streetcar Named Desire underscored that Jessica Tandy, in the character of Blanche, was a driving force in the play:  “Blanche, neurotic and desperate…shattered daughter of the South…played by Jessica Tandy…compelling performance.  Her final crack-up is beautifully done”6 and “Jessica Tandy, in the monumental role of Blanche, infallibly projects the two essential planes of the character…unrelenting hopelessness…desperate falseness.”7 That success is a Chekhov-inspired feat that poses the question:  who is the main character?

The two characters who vie for that status are Stanley Kowalski and Blanche DuBois.  While most playbills herald Stanley Kowalski as the main character, the main character  arguably is not Stanley but Blanche.  Historically, the Labor Movement in the U.S. of the 1930s and 1940s would be fresh in the audience’s mind, but the struggle for power between Blanche and Stanley might also symbolize some original audience members’ thoughts about the fate of the iconic cultural phenomenon Rosie the Riveter once the men returned from the war:  women should retreat submissively to their domestic spheres.  Perhaps due to the shared setting of New Orleans or maybe because of the similar themes with regard to the representation of women, Blanche is often compared to Edna Pontellier from Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899).  Indeed, in his account of the Napoleonic Code and the Louisiana state Civil Code, George Fitzhugh’s Sociology for the South (1854) certainly rings true in the representations of the lives of Edna and of Blanche, 45 years and 93 years, respectively, after Fitzhugh’s work was published:

So long as she is nervous, fickle, capricious, delicate, diffident and dependent, man will worship and adore her.... In truth, woman, like children, has but one right, and that is the right to protection. The right to protection involves the obligation to obey. A husband, a lord and master, whom she should love, honor and obey, nature designed for every woman.... If she be obedient, she is in little danger of maltreatment; if she stands upon her rights, is coarse and masculine, man loathes and despises her, and ends by abusing her.... The men of the South take care of the women of the South.... The generous sentiments of slaveholders are sufficient guarantee of the rights of woman.8

The Civil War, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement all argue against this conception of “men of the South” so highly regarded by Fitzhugh and his peers.  Blanche is, at various times, each of the six adjectives outlined by Fitzhugh as the recipe for worship and adoration; however, Blanche is anything but worshipped or adored by the men featured in the play and by the minor characters in Blanche’s past who never take the stage:  Blanche’s husband Allan Grey, whose secret and active homosexuality lead him to commit suicide; Blanche’s former boyfriend, Shep Huntleigh, in whom Blanche creates a highly-fantasized, romantic hero who might rescue her from her crumbling life and relationships; Harold Mitchell (Mitch), who is courteous and kind but unwilling to accept Blanche’s sexual history; and Stanley Kowalski, who questions Blanche’s motives and veracity and ultimately rapes her, pushing Blanche over the line between sanity and insanity.  If Blanche can represent empowered women in that she is the sister who has been employed and earned a wage, albeit in a typically acceptable career for a woman, and in that she engages in sexually promiscuous behaviors, then her fate and that of other empowered women is clear:  retreat as Stella does to the safe domestic sphere or suffer the consequences.  In the argument of Blanche as the main character, the same argument about Rosie the Riveter holds:  men, not women, should be the center of attention in the workplace and in the domestic space.  

One would hope that a major shift between the original viewing audience and today’s audience would be how the Kowalskis’ marriage is viewed.  One of Life magazine’s photographs published immediately after the premiere of the play was captioned, “[The Kowalskis] can now resume their happiness, proving Williams’s thesis that healthy life can go on only after it is rid of unwholesome influence.”9  Certainly the hope is that today’s audiences would not view the Kowalskis’ life and marriage, with their cycles of abuse, as “healthy life.”  This hope is supported by the audience’s response to the Benedick Andrews’ 2016 Off Broadway production of the play at the St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.  Gillian Anderson, who played Blanche DuBois, said, “People leave in tears, bawling their eyes out; they can't leave their seat. They're completely racked.”10  If the argument can be made that the “good ol’ days” never existed even as we nostalgically wish for them because, either by truth or perception, the present is undesirable, and if Blanche is a “relic…who [is] unable to accept the twentieth century and who prefer[s] living in the illusive and legendary world of something that never really was—the mythically cavalier Old South,”11 then the argument can also be made that Tennessee Williams’ representation of Blanche’s wishes for the not-so-stellar bygone days shows how very little women’s roles and status had changed between the years leading up to and following World War II.  While we read a play about a main character who is immersed in an ever-disintegrating fantasy world and who even purports to reject realism in favor of magic, the work itself is upsetting when one considers the all-too-real social and cultural commentary: “A Streetcar Named Desire… [is] a realistic play whose overall dramaturgy aims for representation of truth through referential codes of external reality.”12  The observations that Williams makes about the domestic life of a post-war working-class couple are astutely realistic and brutally, unapologetically honest.  Cultural studies theorists consider a cultural phenomenon, such as a play, with regard to factors including social class and gender; students will be encouraged to explore how a post-war working-class couple redefines gender codes and to analyze by contrast the values represented in the Life magazine photograph caption and actress Gillian Anderson’s statements in order to identify shifts in cultural ideologies.

Teaching Strategies

In order to ensure that my students are capable of demonstrating perceptive knowledge and understanding of a work, we examine a great deal about the work itself as well as the author and the time period when it was written.  For this unit, students will need to create a variety of connections between the author, the text A Streetcar Named Desire, the audience or reader or viewer (depending upon the medium), and the world.  I will need to teach my students background information on World War II, particularly surrounding traditional women’s roles in the United States prior to the war and the changes in those roles during the war.  Students also will need to evaluate the dynamic nature of these changes in a post-war U.S., with special consideration paid to exploring multiple viewpoints on those changes.  Students will need background information about the French Quarter in New Orleans, a specific setting that is symbolic in several ways given the themes and characters presented in the drama.  Students will benefit from a short lesson about Williams’ life in order to highlight the representation of gender roles, sexuality and homosexuality, and characterization in the play.  Having previously studied a selection of short stories by Anton Chekhov in Year 1 of the course, my students will discuss the influence of Chekhov’s technique on Williams’ writing with regard to realism.  Finally, I will have my students explore the use of sound and language as dramatic devices in this play, which both contribute to Williams’ unique aspects of technique in this drama. 

Classroom Activities

The following activities could be used in combination with teaching the play.  There are eleven scenes in the play, and because they are all nearly equal in length, each individual scene could be covered in one 50-minute class period.  Additionally, to support student comprehension, some of the other days’ work in the unit should focus necessarily on questions about characterization, setting, and dramatic technique, among other topics.  Below, I have outlined four activities to support the teaching of the aforementioned subjects.  It is my hope that the “Who Are You?” and “Literary Sociogram” activities detailed below will help students to form a basis for argumentation that asserts one character as the stand-alone main character of the play.  Students must be able to demonstrate contextual understanding in order to demonstrate mastery.


Who Are You?

Assign one of the four central characters from the play (Stanley, Stella, Blanche, or Mitch) to each student.  Create a Google Sheet within your Google Classroom.  List each character’s name in the “A” column, skipping row 1.  Along row 1, starting with column “B,” enter the following questions (one per column):  cell B1—How is your character introduced into the play?; cell C1—What clues do the stage directions give about costume and physical appearance?; cell D1—What does your character do? How does she or he behave? Are his or her actions consistent?; cell E1—What do other characters say about him/her?; cell F1—What is your character’s position/state of mind at the start of the play?;  cell G1—In what ways does your character change during the drama?;  cell H1—How does your character end up?; cell I1—How does your character use language?; cell J1—What key themes and ideas are developed through your character?; and cell K1—What things are associated with your character (e.g. the blue piano and Stanley)?13  Students will work together to populate these cells with information about each character.  Students can use this Google sheet, developing it over time organically as the characters themselves develop.  With regard to IB Paper 2, this activity will help students develop criteria A (knowledge and understanding of the play) and C (appreciation of the literary conventions of drama).

Literary Sociogram

In addition to analyzing characters using the activity above, students should also consider characters’ roles toward one another.  This consideration can happen very readily with the construction of a literary sociogram, a type of graphic organizer that shows relationships among characters in a text.  There are many ready-made templates available for free on the web if the teacher does not already have a template of his or her own.  This activity will help students develop their knowledge and understanding of the play (criterion A for IB Paper 2).

Staging the Set

While it is important for students to engage in lecture and discussion about the larger setting of New Orleans and the French Quarter, it is also imperative that students do not lose sight of the smaller settings of the Kowalski residence.  This activity invites students to consider an author’s unique choices with regard to settings in the genre of drama; it requires students to show appreciation of the literary conventions of the genre (criterion C for IB Paper 2).

Divide students into four groups, assigning each group one location within the play:  the bedroom; the kitchen; the outside of the house; and the street outside of the house.14  Students should read the stage directions to gather first an idea of their assigned settings.  Students should explain the setting in as much detail as possible, citing the text.  Students should also incorporate any dialogue in which characters mention the setting; students should explain how the stage directions and dialogue influence visualization of the settings.  Students ultimately will share their thoughts through a visual representation such as a diorama.


Students will be encouraged to explore the motifs of Blanche’s baths, alcohol, and paper lanterns and light, among any other motifs that they themselves select.  Students can use the graphic organizer, “Analyzing Motifs and Recurring Images,” to guide their exploration of the topic.15  While they are looking at these motifs, I will encourage students to consider the commentary that Williams might be making about gender through his use of them.


Reading List for Teachers

Adler, Thomas P.  A Streetcar Named Desire:  The Moth and the Lantern.  Boston:  Twayne Publishers, 1990.  This book is especially intriguing because Adler defends an original viewpoint, providing a strong argument that the main character of the play is not Stanley Kowalski but Blanche DuBois.

International Baccalaureate.  “Group 1 English A: Literature; English A: Language and Literature Specimen Papers (First Exams 2013).” Online Curriculum Centre.  Accessed July 19, 2016.  Teachers will have to log into the IB Online Curriculum Centre (OCC) to download this resource for students.  This resource contains specimen Papers 1 and 2 and marking notes.  Teachers will need to guide students through this document or share excerpts from the document; it contains work for two different IB Language A courses (Language and Literature is one course, and Literature is another course unto itself) as well as prompts for Standard Level and Higher Level.  To simply matters, teachers can direct students to pages 11 and 16 of this resource since they contain the sample questions and marking notes specific to the genre of drama in order to avoid confusion between courses, course levels, and Papers 1 and 2.  This source is invaluable for IB teachers as we work toward preparing our students for the exams; it provides a true mentor text to share with students so that they will be familiar with the format of the exam and the criteria involved in marking the essays.

Mendelsohn, Daniel Adam.  “Victims on Broadway II.”  In How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken, 41-52.  New York:  Harper, 2008.  This work is useful because Mendelsohn makes a compelling argument around how an actress must approach the role of Blanche as both monster and victim in order for Williams’ intent to be carried out effectively.

Price, Lindsay.  “Spotlight:  E-News from Theatrefolk—Issue 47—Analysis and Exercise—A Streetcar Named Desire.”  Theatrefolk.  Accessed July 19, 2016.  This resource contains a wealth of material for teachers including questions and activities for classroom use.

Reading List for Students

sameera95.  “Compilation of Past IB Drama Questions for English SL & HL.”  IB Survival (forum).  April 6, 2014.  Accessed July 19, 2016.  Although this page is a forum entry on a message board, it contains over 40 drama-related prompts used in the past for Paper 2 exams.  Students can use this list to get a sense of the types of prompts found in Paper 2.

Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: New Directions, 2004.  This version is the one in my school’s inventory and which my students will use.  In case it might be helpful, the ISBN is 9780811216029.

Materials for Classroom Use

A Streetcar Named Desire.  Directed by Elia Kazan.  1951.  Burbank, CA:  Warner Home Video, 2002.  DVD.  This DVD is the original film version of the play starring Marlon Brando as Stanley, Kim Hunter as Stella, and Vivien Leigh as Blanche.

Weschler, Raymond.  “A Streetcar Named Desire.”  ESL Notes.  2004.  Accessed July 19, 2016.  This resource contains language direction for students who need vocabulary support; it is intended by the author to be used in conjunction with the 1951 film listed above.


Because they will be most widely applicable to teachers from various parts of the United States, I have listed below the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that are directly addressed in this unit; Illinois teachers also must align our curricula to the CCSS.  Due to the nature of this course as an IB course and because it may be helpful for other teachers of IB Language A:  Literature, I also have included the Group 1 and Language A:  Literature Aims as well as assessment objectives as they are applied in this unit.

Common Core State Standards

Key Ideas and Details

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text;

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account;

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.3 Analyze the impact of the author's choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a drama (e.g., where a story is set).16

Craft and Structure 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.5 Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact;

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.4 Analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone.17 

Students will use textual evidence to support their analyses (11-12.1) of the presentation of the theme of female subjugation (11-12.2) and Williams’ characterization through mood (11-12.3, 4, 5).

IB Learning Outcomes

Group 1 Aim

Develop in students the ability to engage in close, detailed analysis of individual texts and make relevant connections.18

Students will draw upon prior study of characterization in Anton Chekhov’s short stories to analyze and make connections to Williams’ characterization in the play.

Language A:  Literature Aim

Develop the students’ ability to form independent literary judgments and to support those ideas.19

Students will be required to make literary judgments about the play and its reception, using textual evidence for support.

Interdisciplinary Connections to Theory of Knowledge (ToK) Course

What knowledge of literature can be gained by focusing attention on its social, cultural or historical context?

Does familiarity with literature itself provide knowledge and, if so, of what kind—knowledge of facts, of the author, of the conventions of the form or tradition, of psychology or cultural history, of oneself?

What is the proper function of literature—to capture a perception of reality, to teach or uplift the mind, to express emotion, to create beauty, to bind a community together, to praise a spiritual power, to provoke reflection or to promote social change?20

Due to the study of the play through the lens of cultural theorist, students must be able to comment on its cultural context in order to determine how it provides the reader with both cultural history and provokes the reader to promote social change.

Assessment Objectives and Use in Practice of Paper 2

Knowledge and Understanding:  show understanding of the two or more works studied in Part 3 and the way in which meaning is conveyed through literary conventions.

Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation:  synthesize ideas from at least two works studied in Part 3 and apply that knowledge to a question on conventions used in one literary genre (drama).

Selection and Use of Appropriate Presentation and Language Skills:  write a formal essay comparing at least two works in response to one question.21

Ultimately, students will write an essay to compare how social and cultural values are conveyed in two of the four Part 3 works (all post-war dramas).


Chicago Public Schools. “Admissions: Back of the Yards HS.” Find a School. Accessed July 19, 2016.  This webpage explains the criteria by which students are admitted to Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School.

Chicago Public Schools. “Overview: Back of the Yards HS.” Find a School. Accessed July 19, 2016.  This webpage provides the demographics of Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School.

Common Core State Standards Initiative. “Reading: Literature » Grade 11-12.” English Language Arts Standards. Accessed July 19, 2016.  The Common Core State Standards for grades 11 and 12 were used in the writing of this unit because the intended audience is a group of 12th-grade students.

“A Conversation about ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ with Actors Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster, and Vanessa Kirby.” By Charlie Rose. May 24, 2016.  Accessed July 19, 2016.  This interview with the main actors in a recent production of the play highlights for students how much values have changed since the play’s premiere.

Fisher, James. “Chekhov, Anton (1860-1904).” In The Tennessee Williams Encyclopedia, edited by Philip C. Kolin, 37-38. Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press, 2004.  This section provides evidence that Chekhov influenced Williams’ writing.

Grene, Nicholas. “Chapter 5: A Streetcar Named Desire:  See-Through Representation.” In Home on the Stage, 104-126. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.  This chapter contains photos and captions from the premiere; the captions in particular provide a stark contrast in values to those highlighted in the Charlie Rose interview above.

Grudzina, Douglas, ed. “Formalist Activity Three:  Analyzing Motifs and Recurring Images.”  In Teaching Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire from Multiple Critical Perspectives, 31-33. Clayton, DE:  Prestwick House, 2009. Accessed July 19, 2016.  This teacher’s guide contains multiple activities that can be modified for classroom use.

Hawkins, William. “A Streetcar Named Desire from the New York World-Telegram.” In Critical Essays on Tennessee Williams, edited by Robert A. Martin, 27-28. New York:  G. K. Hall & Co., 1997.  This chapter contains a review of the premiere.

International Baccalaureate. Diploma Programme Language A: Literature Guide First Examinations 2013. Cardiff, Wales: International Baccalaureate Organization, 2011.  This guide is important to IB teachers for shaping activities to allow students to practice for IB assessments.

Jones, Robert Emmet. “Tennessee Williams’ Early Heroines.” In Two Modern American Tragedies:  Review and Criticism of Death of a Salesman and A Streetcar Named Desire, Edited by John D. Hurrell. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961.  This section presents Blanche as a heroine rather than a villain or a victim.

Morehouse, Ward. “A Streetcar Named Desire from the New York Sun.” In Critical Essays on Tennessee Williams, edited by Robert A. Martin, 25-26. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1997.  This section contains a review of the premiere.

Saddik, Annette J. The Politics of Reputation: The Critical Reception of Tennessee Williams’ Later Plays. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1999.  This book contains social and cultural commentary on A Streetcar Named Desire.

Small, Jr., Robert C.  A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Edition of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: Penguin Group, 2004. Accessed July 19, 2016.  This teacher’s guide contains ideas for activities for both the English class and interdisciplinary studies that can be modified to suit teachers’ needs.

Smith, Armantine M. “The History of the Woman’s Suffrage Movement in Louisiana.” Louisiana Law Review 62, no. 2 (Winter 2002): 509-560. Accessed June 19, 2016.  This law review contains a quotation from 1854 about women’s roles; when coupled with A Streetcar Named Desire, it serves to highlight the static nature of women’s roles in the American South.

“Theme: Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire.” A Level English Language and Literature (EMC) Delivery Guide. Cambridge:  OCR, 2015.  Accessed July 19, 2016.  This teacher’s guide is especially valuable to IB teachers because it frames the unit using the language specific to the teaching of IB units.

Theriault, Sawyer A. “Anton Chekhov and the Development of the Modern Character.” Inquiries Journal/Student Pulse 1 (11), 2009.  Accessed August 4, 2016.  This article explains the evolution of the modern character; it attributes the creation of the modern character to Chekhov which, in studying the characters in A Streetcar Named Desire, underscores Chekhov’s influence on Williams’ writing.


  1. Chicago Public Schools, “Admissions.”
  2. Chicago Public Schools, “Overview.”
  3. International Baccalaureate, Diploma Programme Language A: Literature Guide First Examinations 2013, 13.
  4. James Fisher, “Chekhov, Anton (1860-1904),” 37-38.
  5. Sawyer A. Theriault, “Anton Chekhov and the Development of the Modern Character,” 1.
  6. Ward Morehouse, “A Streetcar Named Desire from the New York Sun,” 25-26.
  7. William Hawkins, “A Streetcar Named Desire from the New York World-Telegram,” 28.
  8. Fitzhugh qtd. by Armantine M. Smith, “The History of the Woman’s Suffrage Movement in Louisiana,” 512.
  9. Nicholas Grene, “Chapter 5: A Streetcar Named Desire: See-Through Representation,” 117.
  10. “A conversation about ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ with actors Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster, and Vanessa Kirby,” 17:30.
  11. Robert Emmet Jones, “Tennessee Williams’ Early Heroines,” 111.
  12. Annette J. Saddik, The Politics of Reputation: The Critical Reception of Tennessee Williams’ Later Plays, 61.
  13. “Theme: Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire,” 16.
  14. Robert C. Small, Jr., A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Edition of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, 15.
  15. Douglas Grudzina, ed., “Formalist Activity Three: Analyzing Motifs and Recurring Images,” 31-33.
  16. Common Core State Standards Initiative, “Reading: Literature » Grade 11-12.”
  17. Ibid.
  18. International Baccalaureate, Diploma Programme Language A: Literature Guide First Examinations 2013, 9.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid., 7-8.
  21. Ibid., 10-12.

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