After losing her family estate to creditors, Blanche DuBois moves in with her younger sister, Stella, and her working class brother-in-law, Stanley.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In Kate Chopin's "A Respectable Woman," a woman finds her morals tested when her husband's friend comes to visit.
Introduce this text before beginning the play, in order to generate a discussion on class and provide context on the aristocratic Southern background of Blanche and Stella. How might the societal pressure and cultural traditions depicted in the short story impact the later generations of upper-class Southern women, like the DuBois sisters? What characteristics and behaviors define a “respectable woman?” Why might respectability be important to these women?
In Gwendolyn Brooks's poem "Sadie and Maud," two sisters lead very different lives due to the choices they have made.
Have students read this text after they have completed Scene 1, and ask them to discuss the different life paths that the sisters in both texts have chosen. What early-life decisions caused both sets of sisters to drift apart? What motivated the sisters to make the choices they did? How have these decisions impacted their relationships?
Written anonymously, by a young female poet if the title is accurate, this poem laments the position of women as was then believed to be natural: subservient to men.
Introduce this text after Scene 4, and ask students to discuss the extent to which the roles and expectations of men and women changed during the years between the publication of poem and the play. How do both texts share common ideas about gender roles? What similarities can students find between the speaker’s life and those of Stella and Blanche? How do students think Stella and Blanche might react to the poem?
In William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 5," a speaker describes the loss of outer beauty.
Have students read this text after Scene 5, and ask students to compare the ways in which beauty is depicted in the poem and the play. How durable is beauty in the poem and the play? How does the importance of beauty compare between the two texts?
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was an American poet who spent most of her life in seclusion. This poem was written in 1862, but was published posthumously (or after Dickinson's death) in 1953. In this poem, the speaker discusses "the Dark," something unknown and ever-present.
Have students read this text after Scene 9, and ask them to compare the meaning of darkness in both texts. Why is darkness important to Blanche? How does this compare with the way the speaker in Dickinson’s poem feels about darkness? Ask students to give their reasons why they believe or do not believe that Blanche will overcome darkness like “The Bravest,” in the poem.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a groundbreaking short story from 1892 told through journal entries that chronicles a woman's struggle in dealing with male physicians who will not take her illness seriously.
Introduce this text after Scene 11, in order for students to analyze character. Ask students to compare the psychological condition of Gilman’s narrator with Blanche’s own experiences. Why do other characters believe, or want to believe, that these women have psychological problems? How do students think Blanche’s treatment at a psychiatric ward will compare to that of the narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper"?