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Blanche Dubois, representative of the fallen aristocracy of the south, is a misfit who is trying to straighten out her life while taking refuge in New Orleans with her relatives, Stella and Stanley Kowalski.
Stanley, a domineering man with common ways, is set against Blanche and is ultimately responsible for her descent into insanity and placement in the state institution.
The climax of the play occurs when Stanley totally overcomes Blanche and rapes her, causing her to cross from tenuous sanity into insanity.
The play ends in tragedy with Blanche being sent to live at the state mental institution.
The conflict also operates on a symbolic level with the protagonist as the aristocratic old South, represented by Blanche, being destroyed by the new Industrial Age, represented by Stanley. Tenessee Williams clearly reveals that the genteel tradition of the Old South cannot successfully survive in the new age.