A Streetcar Named Desire tells the story of Blanche DuBois, a Southern belle who has fallen from grace and has come to stay at her sister Stella's home in New Orleans. Stella's brutish husband, Stanley, attempts to expose Blanche's lies and aristocratic pretensions and, ultimately, it is implied that he rapes her. Blanche is committed to an insane asylum, leaving Stanley with a pregnant Stella. The play presents a grim view of humanity in which ruthlessness and eros are covered by a fragile veneer of culture and civility.
Bartleby the Scrivener is the story of an aging Wall Street lawyer who must hire a third scrivener to deal with an increase in business. Bartleby, the scrivener hired toward this end, is at first extremely skilled and productive. He slowly retreats from work, though, using the phrase "I would prefer not to" as a stock refusal when entreated to perform a task. Bartleby drives the lawyer near to despair before finally being arrested for vagrancy and dying in prison of self-imposed starvation.
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is an 1893 novella by Stephen Crane about a girl named Maggie and her attempts to rise out of poverty. Growing up with her brother Jimmie and oppressive parents in Manhattan, Maggie eventually finds a job at a shirt factory and begins to date Jimmie's friend Pete. Neither Jimmy nor his friends and family approve of Maggie's relationship and so slander and destroy the relationship, convincing Pete to abandon her. Pete lives a lavish life, while Maggie becomes a prostitute and eventually dies.
Main Street is the story of Carol Clifford, a progressive city girl who marries the pleasant small-town doctor Will Kennicott. The two return to Will's hometown of Gopher Prairie, but the idyllic small town environment proves stupefying and frustrating for Carol. She fights against the town's backwardness and conservative views, but backbiting and a vicious series of cliques within the town make it very hard for her to live happily. Carol flees to Washington D. C. , returning only later and without intent to fight further.
The House on Mango Street is a 1984 novel by Sandra Cisneros about a girl named Esperanza Cordero growing up in Chicago with other Latino immigrants. The book is comprised of short poetic vignettes that sketch a portrait of her coming of age as a young woman and her desire to leave her life on Mango Street that she finds so suffocating. The novel deals with themes of hope, desire and disappointment as well as issues of gender roles and identity.