Blanche DuBois, a highly strung, fading southern belle, descends on the less than idyllic New Orleans district of Elysian Fields to stay with her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley.
Stanley, irked by Blanche’s airs and graces, is also suspicious as to the circumstances under which Belle Reve, the DuBois family home, was ‘lost’. As it turns out, Blanche is blameless in the matter – the house fell victim to a mortgage foreclosure – but her presence is no more palatable to Stanley for all that. As far as he’s concerned, Blanche is a threat to the raucous harmony of his household. Blanche, on the other hand, is horrified to find her sister living with (and preparing shortly to breed with) what she perceives as little more than a savage.
As if to confirm Blanche’s prejudices, Stanley gets roaring drunk during a poker game one night and assaults his wife. Though the sisters take shelter with an upstairs neighbour, Blanche is appalled to see Stella return to Stanley later the same evening.
If nothing else, the poker night brings Blanche into contact with Stanley’s gentlemanly friend Mitch. She steps out with him on a couple of occasions, but their romance is short-lived; Stanley, coming into possession of gossip regarding Blanche’s supposed nymphomaniac tendencies, is only too glad to pass it on to Mitch.
From this point on, Blanche’s already fragile hold on reality becomes increasingly tenuous. The point of no return comes after Stanley, taking advantage of Stella’s absence in the maternity ward, forces himself on his sister-in-law.
Now existing largely in a world of her own, Blanche ends the play expecting the arrival of Shep Huntleigh, a rich gentleman friend who’s coming to carry her off. The man who finally comes to carry her off, however, is a doctor from the mental hospital.