Streetcar named desire, p.1
Streetcar Named Desire, p.1
©SIGNET <2 SIGNET CLASSIC
PLAYS BY TENNESSEE WILLIAMS
Q CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF by Tennessee Williams. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama
of guilt, frustration and greed set in Mississippi. "Mr. Williams' finest drama, ft
faces and speaks the truth."--Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times. a, (165233--H5&)
D A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE by Tennessee Williams. This is one of the most
remarkable plays of our times. It created an immortal woman in the character of
Blanche DuBois, the haggard and fragile southern beauty whose pathetic last grasp at happiness is cruelly destroyed and Stanley Kowalski, a sweat-shirted
barbarian, the crudely sensual brother-in-law who precipitated Blanche's tragedy.
D TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: FOUR PLAYS. This superb collection includes Summer and
Smoke, the story of two ill-starred lovers--one hungered for the spirit, the other
hungered for the flesh. Orpheus Descending, the searing drama of a wandering
guitar player and the storekeeper's wife he loved. Suddenly Last Summer, he was a corrupt pleasure-seeker and she was the beautiful young cousin he had
chosen as a victim. Period of Adjustment, they were two young couples
fighting love out on the battlefield of marriage. (525124--$5.95)
D THREE BY TENNESSEE by Tennessee Williams. This volume includes Sweet Bird of
Youth, the story of the aging actress and the young stud--two lovers trying to
escape their hidden selves The Rose Tattoo, a lonely Italian widow finds a
physical substitute for her husband in a virile truckdriver The Night of the
Iguana, a spitfire sensualist and a genteel spinster fight desperately for the
affections of a defrocked minister. (521498--$4.9®
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BY TENNESSEE WILLIAMS
With an Introduction by the Author
A SIGNET BOOK
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Books USA Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New Yoik, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane,
London W8 5TZ, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood,
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcora Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road,
Auckland 10, New Zealand
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices;
Harniondsworth, Middlesex, England
Published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.
Published as a SIGNET BOOK
by arrangement with James Laughtm. New Directions,
and Tennessee Williams, who authorized this
55 54 53 52 51 50 49 48 47
Copyright © 1947 by Tennessee Williams, Renewed 1974
by Tennessee Williams
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that A Streetcar Named
Desire, being fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States, the British
Empire including the Dominion of Canada, and all other countries of the Copyright
Union, is subject to royalty All rights including professional, amateur, motion-picture,
recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio and television broadcasting, and the rights of
translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved. Particular emphasis is laid on
the question of readings, permission for which must be obtained in writing from the
author's agent. All inquiries should be addressed to the author's agent: Mr Mitch
Douglas. International Creative Management, 40 West 57th Street, New York, New
Photographs of the original New York production—Eileen Darby,
Graphic House, Inc
Photographs from the film—Wamer Bros.
"It's Only A Paper Moon" copyright 1933 by Harms, Inc
Used by permission.
The lines from Hart Crane are reprinted from "Collected Poems of
Hart Crane" by permission of Liveright Publishing Corp., New York
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REOISTRADA
Printed in the United States of America
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen
property It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher and neither the
author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
"The Broken Tower" by hart ckane
On A Streetcar Named Success*
(This essay appeared in The New York Times Drama Section, November 30,1947--four
days before the New York opening of A Streetcar Named Desire.)
Sometime this month I will observe the third anniversary of
the Chicago opening of "The Glass Menagerie," an event
which terminated one part of my life and began another about
as different in all external circumstances as could be well
imagined. I was snatched out of virtual oblivion and thrust into
sudden prominence, and from the precarious tenancy of furnished
rooms about the country I was removed to a suite in a
first-class Manhattan hotel. My experience was not unique.
Success has often come that abruptly into the lives of Americans.
No, my experience was not exceptional, but neither was it quite ordinary, and if you are willing to accept the somewhat
eclectic proposition that I had not been writing with such an
experience in mind--and many people are not willing to believe
that a playwright is interested in anything but popular
success--there may be some point in comparing the two
The sort of life which I had had previous to this popular
success was one that required endurance, a life of clawing and
scratching along a sheer surface and holding on tight with raw
fingers to every inch of rock higher than the one caught hold
of before, but it was a good life because it was the sort of life
for which the human organism is created.
I was not aware of how much vital energy had gone into
this struggle until the struggle was removed. I was out on a
level plateau with my arms still thrashing and my lungs still
grabbing at air that no longer resisted. This was security at
I sat down and looked about me and was suddenly very
depressed. I thought to myself, this is just a period of adjust-
*Copyright, 1947, by The New York Times.
ment. Tomorrow morning I will wake up in this first-class
hotel suite above the discreet hum of an East Side boulevard
and I will appreciate its elegance and luxuriate in its comforts
and know that I have arrived at our American plan of Olympus.
Tomorrow morning when I look at the green satin sofa I
will fall in love with it. It is only temporarily that the green
satin looks like slime on stagnant water.
But in the morning the inoffensive little sofa looked more
revolting than the night before and I was already getting too
fat for the $125 suit which a fashionable acquaintance had
selected for me. In the suite things began to break accidentally.
An arm came off the sofa. Cigarette burns appeared on the
polished surfaces of the furniture. Windows were left open and
a rainstorm flooded the suite. But the maid always put it
straight and the patience of the management was inexhaustible.
Late parties could not offend them seriously. Nothing short of
a demolition bomb seemed to bother my neighbors.
I lived on room-service. But in this, too, there was a disenchantment.
Sometime between the moment when I ordered
dinner over the 'phone and when it was rolled into my living
room like a corpse on a rubber-wheeled table, I lost all interest
in it. Once I ordered a sirioin steak and a chocolate sundae,
but everything was so cunningly disguised on the table that I
mistook the chocolate sauce for gravy and poured it over the
Of course all this was (he more trivial aspect of a spiritual
dislocation that began to manifest itself in far more disturbing
ways. I soon found myself becoming indifferent to people. A
well of cynicism rose in me. Conversations all sounded like
they had been recorded years ago and were being played back
on a turntable. Sincerity and kindliness seemed to have gone
out of my friends' voices. I suspected them of hypocrisy. I
stopped calling them, stopped seeing them. I was impatient of
what I took to be inane flattery.
I got so sick of hearing people say, "I loved your play!" that
I could not say thank you any more. I choked on the words
and turned rudely away from the usually sincere person. I no
longer felt any pride in the play itself but began to dislike it, probably because I felt too lifeless inside ever to create another.
I was walking around dead in my shoes, and I knew it
but there was no one I knew or trusted sufficiently, at that
time, to take him aside and tell him what was the matter.
This curious condition persisted about three months, tin late
spring, when I decided to have another eye operation, mainly
because of the excuse it gave me to withdraw from the world
behind a gauze mask. It was my fourth eye operation, and
perhaps I should explain that I had been afflicted for about five
years with a cataract on my left eye which required a series of
needling operations and finally an operation on the muscle of
the eye. (The eye is still in my head. So much for that.)
Well, the gauze mask served a purpose. While I was resting
in the hospital the friends whom I had neglected or affronted
in one way or another began to call on me and now that I was
in pain and darkness, their voices seemed to have changed, or rather that unpleasant mutation which I had suspected
earlier in the season had now disappeared and they sounded
now as they used to sound in the lamented days of my obscurity.
Once more they were sincere and kindly voices with
the ring of truth in them.
When tile gauze mask was removed I found myself in a readjusted
world. I checked out of the handsome suite at the
first-class hotel, packed my papers and a few incidental belongings
and left for Mexico, an elemental country where you can
quickly forget the false dignities and conceits imposed by success, a country where vagrants innocent as children curl up to
deep on the pavements and human voices, especially when
their language is not familiar to the ear, are soft as birds'. My
public self, that artifice of mirrors, did not exist here and so
my natural being was resumed.
Then, as a final act of restoration, I settled for a while at
Chapala to work on a play called "The Poker Night," which
later became "A Streetcar Named Desire." It is only in his
work that an artist can find reality and satisfaction, for the
actual world is less intense than the world of his invention and
consequently his life, without recourse to violent disorder, does
not seem very substantial. The right condition for him is that
in which his work is not only convenient but unavoidable.
This is an over-simplification. One does not escape that
easily from the seductions of an effete way of life. You cannot
arbitrarily say to yourself, I will now continue my life as it was
before this thing. Success happened to me. But once you fully
apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle you are
equipped with the basic means of salvation. Once you know
this is true, that the heart of man, his body and his brain, are
forged in a white-hot furnace for the purpose of conflict (the
struggle pf creation) and that with the conflict removed, the
man is a sword cutting daisies, that not privation but luxury is
the wolf at the door and that the fangs of this wolf are all the
little vanities and conceits and laxities that Success is hen- to--
why, then with this knowledge you are at least in a position
of knowing where danger lies.
You know, then, that the public Somebody you are when
you "have a name" is a fiction created with mirrors and that
the only somebody worth being is the solitary and unseen you
that existed from your first breath and which Ois thesumofyour
actions and so is constantly in a state of becoming under your
own volition--and knowing these things, you can even survive
the catastrophe of Success!
It is never altogether too late, unless you embrace the Bitch
Goddess, as William James called her, with both arms and find
in her smothering caresses exactly what the homesick little boy
in you always wanted, absolute protection and utter effortlessness.
Security is a kind of death, I think, and it can come to
you in a storm of royalty checks beside a kidney-shaped pool
in Beverly Hills or anywhere at all that is removed from the
conditions that made yon an artist, if that's what you are or
were or intended to be. Ask anyone who has experienced the
kind of success I am talking about--What good is it? Perhaps
to get an honest answer you will have to give him a shot of
truth-serum but the word he will finally groan is unprintable
in genteel publications.
Then what is good? The obsessive interest in human affairs,
plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction,
that first made the experience of living something that must be
translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry
or prose or anything that's dynamic and expressive--that's
what's good for you if you're at all serious in your aims. William
Saroyan wrote a great play on this theme, that purity of
heart is the one success worth having. "In the time of your life
--livel" That time is short and it doesn't return again. It is
slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the
monosyllable of the clock is Loss, Loss, Loss, unless you devote
your heart to its opposition.
A Streetcar Named Desire was presented at the Barrymore
Theatre in New York on December 3,1947, by Irene Seiznick.
It was directed by Elia Kazan, with the following cast:
Harold MiteheU (Mitch)
A Young Collector
Gee Gee James
Scenery and lighting by Jo Mielziner, costumes by Ludnda
Ballard. The action of the play takes place in the spring,
summer, and early fall in New Orleans. It was performed
with intermissions after Scene Four and Scene Six.
Assistant to the producer
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
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 brawn
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.
Above 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 are 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.}
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, Mitcfa. stanley:
[Be heaves the package at her. She cries out in protest but
manages to catch it; then she laughes breathlessly. Her husband
and his companion have already started back around
stella [calling after him]:
Stanley! Where are you going?
Can I come watch?
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