Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Kowalski apartment. The entire action of the play takes place in and around the apartment of Stella and Stanley Kowalski, recent newlyweds. The two are from opposite backgrounds. Stanley is a working-class former army sergeant, who now works for a tool supply company. Stella is from Laurel, Mississippi, where her family for generations owned a large plantation outside town. The days of family wealth have gone, hence Stella’s journey to New Orleans to seek her fortune, where she meets and falls in love with Stanley, a man with little income.
Located ironically on a street called Elysium Fields (heaven), the apartment consists of a small kitchen area, a small bedroom area, and a bath. It is located near the railroad tracks in a poor section of the French Quarter. Blanche Dubois, Stella’s older sister, comes for a visit and is given a daybed in the kitchen. A curtain is hung between the kitchen and the bedroom area. All three must use the same bath. When it becomes obvious that Blanche’s visit will be a long one, tensions erupt, especially over the space occupied by Blanche’s luggage, which symbolizes to Stanley Blanche’s superior attitude to people with a less privileged background. To worsen matters, Blanche is addicted to taking long baths, especially as an escape when Stanley is at home, much to Stanley’s emotional displeasure and genuine physical discomfort.
Desire Street. New Orleans in all its earthiness and quirkiness is so much a motivator in the play that the work’s very title comes from a streetcar that ran along Desire Street. Williams also uses two other actual place names when he has Blanche say she was told to “take a streetcar named Desire, transfer to one called Cemeteries and get off on Elysian Fields.” This reciting of place names ironically contains the whole story of the play. It is the city of New Orleans, however, with its French Quarter’s permissive attitude, that drives Blanche and Stanley to the cultural war that ends in sexual brutality and tragedy.
Belle Reve (bel rev). Blanche and Stella grew up at Belle Reve, a lovely, graceful antebellum plantation, fronted with white columns, whose name means “beautiful dream.” Located outside Laurel, Mississippi, it is the antithesis of the brawling, urban French Quarter. The two places serve as emblems of the irreconcilable and tragic conflict between Stanley and Blanche. Blanche comes to tragedy because she cannot give up “Belle Reve,” and Stella contributes to Blanche’s agony because she chooses Stanley’s New Orleans over Belle Reve.