|First appearance||A Streetcar Named Desire|
|Created by||Tennessee Williams|
|Portrayed by||Kim Hunter
|Children||a unnamed son|
|Relatives||Blanche DuBois (sister)
Allan Grey (brother-in-law; deceased)
Stella Kowalski (née DuBois) is one of the main characters in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire. She is the younger sister of central character Blanche DuBois and wife of Stanley Kowalski.
In the play
The play begins when Blanche comes to visit Stella and Stanley in New Orleans after having lost their family home, Belle Reve, and her job as a teacher in Laurel, Mississippi. We gather that Stella was a Southern belle who left her home town to find work after her family fell on hard times. In New Orleans, she met her soon-to-be husband, Stanley Kowalski, who has just returned from World War II, complete with decorations. Stella is portrayed as sensual and declining to the will of her husband.
Stanley is prone to fits of rage in which he throws things and hits Stella. She often finds herself taking refuge at her neighbor Eunice’s home, only to return to Stanley when he cries for her to take him back. It is clear in the play that Stella is attracted to Stanley's passionate, animal nature, and that is why she stays with him. Williams neither condemns nor condones this sort of love; it is the way Stella yields to her marriage. Blanche, who has arrived for a "visit," is horrified by her sister's situation and tries to convince Stella to divorce Stanley, but Stella refuses, bound to Stanley by sexual attraction and her pregnancy with his child.
Stanley, who prides himself on luring Stella away from her privileged background, dislikes the influence Blanche has over his young wife. When Stanley discovers that Blanche has lost the family estate and been forced out of her home town, he gleefully tells Stella, who initially refuses to believe him.
The night Stella goes into labor, Stanley drunkenly happens upon Blanche and rapes her. This sends Blanche completely over the edge into a nervous breakdown. From what she says in the final scene, it is clear that Stella has chosen to believe that Blanche is lying about the rape. She acquiesces to his plan to send Blanche off to a mental institution. However, in the film adaptation, it is shown that Stella leaves him with their child (though it is ambiguous if she goes back to him).
In other media
In the 1951 film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire, there is a suggestion that Stella may leave Stanley after she finds out about the rape.