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People are products of their past as evidenced by Blanche being destroyed by the events in her life. Her young husband has an affair with an older gentleman. Because of her aristocratic past, Blanche is totally disgusted with his behavior, and when she tells him so, he commits suicide, leaving her with feelings of loneliness and guilt. To alleviate the pain of the past, she slips from one sexual affair to the next and begins to drink heavily. This behavior causes her to lose her teaching job, her place in Laurel society, and her self- respect. With no other place to turn, she seeks refuge with her sister Stella and her husband Stanley. When they find out the truth of her past, they reject her too, and she slips into insanity.
Fate is cruel, and human desire often leads to death (both literal and figurative). (Remember that the Streetcar named Desire leads to the Streetcar named Cemetery, and Blanche rides both of them.) Everything that Blanche wants from life seems to crumble in front of her. She loved her young husband and loses him, first to an older man and then to suicide. She fights to save her Old Southern roots and the family mansion, but loses them both. She fights to regain her self-respect and for a future with Mitch, and Stanley destroys her chances for either. She fights to hold on to her sanity amidst mounting disasters, but loses that battle as well. At the end of the play, hers is not a literal death; but as she is taken off to the mental institution, the true Blanche is dead.
On a symbolic level, Blanche represents the Old South and Stanley represents the new industrialized age. Tennessee Williams states, through this symbolic use of characters, that the genteel ways of the Old South have been forever destroyed by the coarseness and brutality of the modern age.
The mood of the entire play is dark and somber, a reflection of the decadence and loss described in the play. Blanche has lost her young husband, her family mansion, her job, her self-respect, her new boyfriend Mitch, her trust in and by her family, and finally her sanity.