A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams uses setting to illustrate various themes and messages as they pertain to the events of the play. The setting plays a crucial role in the story line and the outcome of the play.
This play takes place in New Orleans Louisiana. New Orleans is a very lively town that is known as a party town and for it being a rough town. New Orleans is a town in which inhibition is suppressed and people try to have fun all the time, while not worrying about the little things in life. This is especially true for the French quarter of New Orleans, which is the setting for this play. New Orleans is know for Mardi Gras and illusion, but it is also a city of reality. Blanche does not fit in well with the New Orleans style of life from the first minute that she steps into New Orleans. Blanche is from a prim and proper society. She grew up on a wealthy southern plantation and was used to taking things slow and doing things the old fashioned way. New Orleans is an overwhelming place for Blanche. Belle Reve and New Orleans are a great contrast as are Blanche and Stanley. Blanche is refined as was Belle Reve. Belle Reve was a place that was distinguished and recognized. Blanche and Stanley come from two very different backgrounds. Blanche is not accustomed to the realities of New Orleans that is the life that Stanley lives. The reality of New Orleans and Stanley is too much for Blanche to take in and comprehend. The illusion that Blanche lives in is crushed by Stanley and him being able to see through her illusion.
The reality of New Orleans first hits Blanche when she arrives in Elysian Fields and first sees where Stella lives. Elysian Fields means heaven, but in reality Blanche views this place as hell. She can not believe that Stella would live in such a poor apartment after the life they grew up living. The apartment also plays a crucial role in the play. The fact that the apartment has only three rooms and only curtains instead of doors between the rooms allows for the events of the play to unfold. Due to the fact that the apartment is so small it causes many confrontations between Blanche and Stanley. This is most evident during the poker game scene. Blanche and Stella return to the apartment while the poker game is still underway. Blanche turns on the radio and Stanley immediately yells to turn it off. This and other factors all lead to an argument and ultimately lead to Stanley hitting Stella. This may not have happened if Stanley and Stella lived in a luxurious home with many rooms, because then Blanche and Stella would not have had to be in contact with Stanley.
Another key element in the story is the blue piano. Whenever this piano is heard playing during the play it signifies that Stanley has had a victory over Blanche in some way. The blue piano also signifies that Blanches illusion is begging to unravel. The reality of Blanches situation becomes apparent to Stanley who then tries to expose Blanche for what she really is.
Light within the play also becomes apparent as a theme. Blanche buys the lantern shade to place on the exposed light bulb in the apartment. Blanche also chooses to go out with Mitch in only dark places and only after sunset. This is because the light is a symbol of truth and she must hide her true self as part of her illusion.
Blanche is overwhelmed by the surroundings of New Orleans. The setting of the play was what allowed the story to unfold. If this play had taken place in a different city it would not be the same. New Orleans was needed, because of the reputation of the city and the underlying spirit of New Orleans. The small apartment helped to fuel the feud between Blanche and Stanley and ultimately made the play unfold in a way that could not have occurred in any other place. All of the small and large parts of the setting came together to place Blanche and Stanley in a unique setting for which to carry out their parts in the play.