The Streetcar Named ”Desire”

Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi, in 1911. Much of his childhood was spent in St. Louis. The nickname Tennessee’ seems to have been pinned on him in college, in reference to is father’s birthplace or his own deep Southern accent, or maybe both.Descended from an old and prominent Tennessee family, Williams’s fatherworked at a shoe company and was often away from home. Williams lived with mother, his sister Rose (who would suffer from mental illness and later undergo a lobotomy), and his maternal grandparents.
At sixteen, Williams won $5 in a national competition for his essay, Can a Wife be a Good Sport?,» published in Smart Set. The next year he published his first story in Weird Tales. Soon after, he entered the University of Missouri, where he wrote his first play. He withdrew from the university before receiving his degree, and went to work at his father’s shoe company.
After entering and dropping out of Washington University, Williams graduated from the University of Iowa in 1938. He continued to work on drama, receiving a Rockefeller grant and studying play writing at The New School in Manhattan. During the early years of World War Two, Williams worked in Hollywood as a scriptwriter.
In 1944, The Glass Menagerie opened in New York, won the prestigious New York Critics’ Circle Award, and catapulted Williams into the upper echelon of American playwrights. Two years later, A Streetcar Named Desire cemented his reputation, garnering another Critics’ Circle and adding a Pulitzer Prize. He would win another Critics’ Circle and Pulitzer for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955.
Tennessee Williams mined his own life for much of the pathos in his drama. His most memorable characters (many of them complex females, such as Blanche DuBois) contain recognizable elements of their author or people close to him. Alcoholism, depression, thwarted desire, loneliness in search of purpose, and insanity were all part of Williams’s world. Certainly his experience as a known homosexual in an era and culture unfriendly to homosexuality informed his work. His setting was the South, yet his themes were universal and compellingly enough rendered to win him an international audience and worldwide acclaim. In later life, as most critics agree, the quality of his work diminished. He sufiered a long period of depression after the death of his longtime partner in 1963. Yet his writing career was long and prolific twenty-five full-length plays, five screenplays, over seventy one act plays, hundreds of short stories, two novels, poetry, and a memoir. Five of his plays were made into movies.
Williams died of choking in an alcohol-related incident in 1983.
Blanche { Stella’s older sister, until recently a high school English teacher in Laurel, Mississippi. She arrives in New Orleans a loquacious, witty, arrogant, fragile, and ultimately crumbling figure. Blanche once was married to and passionately in love with a tortured young man. He killed himself after she discovered his homosexuality, and she has sufiered from guilt and regret ever since. Blanche watched parents and relatives{all the old guard{die off, and then had to endure foreclosure on the family estate. Cracking under the strain, or perhaps yielding to urges so long suppressed that they now cannot be contained, Blanche engages in a series of sexual escapades that trigger an expulsion from her community. In New Orleans she puts on the airs of a woman who has never known indignity, but Stanley sees through her. Her past catches up with her and destroys her relationship with Mitch. Stanley, as she fears he might, destroys what’s left of her. At the end of the play she is led away to an insane asylum.
Stella Kowalski { Blanche’s younger sister, with the same timeworn aristocratic heritage, but who has jumped the sinking ship and linked her life with lower-class vitality. Her union with Stanley is animal and spiritual, violent but renewing. She cannot really explain it to Blanche. While she loves her older sister, and pities her, she cannot bring herself to believe Blanche’s accusation against Stanley. Though it is agony, she has her sister committed.
Stanley Kowalski { Stanley is the epitome of vital force. He is a man in the ush of life, a lover of women, a worker, a fighter, new blood{a chief male of the ock, with his tail feathers fanned and brilliant. He is loyal to his friends, passionate to his wife, and heartlessly cruel to Blanche.
Mitch { An army buddy, coworker, and poker buddy of Stanley. He is the sensitive member of that crowd, perhaps because he lives with his slowly-dying mother. Mitch and Blanche are both people in need of companionship and support. Though Mitch is of Stanley’s world, and Blanche is off in her own world, the two believe they have found an acceptable companion in the other. Mitch woos Blanche over the course of the summer until Stanley reveals secrets about Blanche’s past.
Eunice { Stella’s friend and landlady. Lives above the Kowalskis with Steve.
Steve { Poker buddy of Stanley. Lives upstairs with Eunice.
Pablo { Poker buddy of Stanley.
A Negro Woman { Two brief appearances. She is sitting on the steps talking to Eunice when Blanche arrives. Later, in the ‘real-world-struggle-for-existence’ sequence, she ri es through a prostitute’s abandoned handbag.
A Doctor { Comes to the door at the play’s finale to whisk Blanche off to an asylum. After losing a struggle with the nurse, Blanche willingly goes with the kindly-seeming doctor.
A Nurse { Comes with the doctor to collect Blanche and bring her to an institution. A matronly, unfeminine figure with a talent for subduing hysterical patients.
A Young Collector { A young man (seventeen, perhaps), who comes to the door to collect for the newspaper. Blanche lusts after him but constrains herself to irtation and a passionate farewell kiss. The boy leaves bewildered.
A Mexican woman { A vendor of Mexican funeral decorations who frightens Blanche by issuing the plaintive call Flores para los muertos. The Mexican woman later reprises this role in the underrated comedy Quick Change (1990), starring Bill Murray and Geena Davis.
Stanley and Stella Kowalski live on a street called Elysian Fields in a run-down but charming section of New Orleans. They are newly married and desperately in love. One day Stella’s older sister, Blanche DuBois, arrives to stay with them, setting up the drama’s central con ict an emotional tug-of-war between the raw, brute sensuality of Stanley and the fragile, crumbling gentility of Blanche. Truth be told, it is not an even match, for Blanche is already sliding down a slippery slope. Blanche and Stella are the last in a line of landed Southern gentry. Stella has renounced the worn dictates of class propriety to follow her heart and marry an uncultured blue-collar worker of Polish extraction. Meanwhile, Blanche has played nursemaid to the old guard on its deathbed and watched the family estate slip through her fingers into foreclosure. Her professed values are those of an older South, of charm and wit and chivalry, gaiety and light, appearance and code.
Blanche claims she has been given a leave of absence from her high school teaching job to recover from a nervous breakdown. She settles in with the Kowalskis but things do not go smoothly. Her disapproval of Stanley and the station in life her sister Stella has chosen is obvious, though she strives to be polite. Her feelings against Stanley are galvanized when she witnesses him strike Stella in a fit of drunken rage. Stanley’s feelings for her are similarly hardened when he overhears her describe him as animal-like, neolithic, and brutish. Blanche’s imposition, her airs, and her distortions of reality infuriate Stanley. He begins to chip away at her thin veneer of armor.
Of Stella’s and Stanley’s friends, one seems to stand above the rest in sensitivity and grace. This is Mitch, who works at the same factory as Stanley, and lives with his sick mother. He has no refinement, but his native gentleness and sincerity inspire Blanche to return his afiection. The two seem to need each other They see a great deal of one another as the summer wears on, but Blanche places strict limits on their intimacy. She has old-fashioned ideals and morals, she tells him. Meanwhile, Stella’s first pregnancy progresses and Stanley continues his subtle campaign of intimidation against Blanche.
Blanche’s past catches up with her. When she was younger, she fell in love with and married a man whom she later caught in bed with another man. When she confronted him, he killed himself for shame. This knocked the foundations out from under her, and the subsequent poverty and emotional hardships were too much for her. She sought solace or oblivion in the intimacy of strangers; apparently many intimacies with many strangers, and a disastrous afiair with a seventeen- year-old student at her high school.
Blanche departed Mississippi in disgrace and arrived in New Orleans with nowhere else to go. Stanley discovers this sordid account. He tells Mitch and efiectively ends the budding relationship. For Blanche’s birthday, Stanley presents her with a one-way bus ticket back to Mississippi. And then, while Stella is in labor at the hospital, Stanley rapes Blanche.
Stella cannot believe the story Blanche tells her about the man she loves. And Blanche’s grasp on reality is otherwise shattered. So, with supreme remorse, Stella has Blanche committed. In the final scene of the play, Stella sobs in agony and the rest look on indifierently as a doctor and a nurse lead Blanche away.
Scene 1 Summary
The scene is the exterior of a corner building on a street called Elysian Fields, in a poor section of New Orleans with «rafish charm.» The building has two ats upstairs live Steve and Eunice, downstairs Stanley and Stella. Voices and the bluesy notes of an old piano emanate from an unseen bar around the corner. It is early May, evening.
Eunice and a Negro woman are relaxing on the steps of the building when Stanley and Mitch show up. Stanley hollers for Stella, who comes out onto the first oor landing. Stanley hurls a package of meat up to her. He and Mitch are going to meet Steve at the bowling alley; Stella soon follows to watch them. Eunice and the Negro woman in particular find something humorously suggestive in the meat-hurling episode.
Soon after Stella leaves, her sister Blanche arrives with a suitcase, looking with disbelief at a slip of paper in her hand and then at the building. She is «daintily» dressed and moves tentatively, looking and apparently feeling out of place in this neighborhood. Eunice assures her that this is where Stella lives. The Negro woman goes to the bowling alley to tell Stella of her sister’s arrival while Eunice lets Blanche into the two-room at. Eunice makes small talk. We learn that Blanche is from Mississippi, that she is a teacher, that her family estate is called Belle Reve. Blanche finally asks to be left alone.
Eunice, somewhat offended, leaves to help fetch Stella. Blanche, trying to control her discomfort, nerves, and whatever else, spies a bottle of whiskey and downs a shot.
Stella returns. The women embrace, and Blanche talks feverishly, nearly hysterical. Blanche is clearly critical of the physical and social setting in which Stella lives. She tries to check her criticism, but the reunion begins on a tense and probably familiar note. Blanche tells Stella that she has been given a leave of absence from school due to her nerves, and that is why she is here in the middle of the term. She wants Stella to tell her how she looks, and in return comments on Stella’s plumpness. She fusses over Stella, is surprised to learn Stella has no maid, takes another drink, worries about the privacy and decency of her staying in the apartment when Stella and Stanley are in the next room with no door, and worries whether Stanley will like her.
Stella warns Blanche that Stanley is very difierent from the men with whom Blanche is familiar back home. She is quite clearly deeply in love with him. In an outburst that builds to a crescendo of hysteria, Blanche reveals that she has lost Belle Reve and recounts how she sufiered through the agonizingly slow deaths of their parents and relatives{all while, according to Blanche, Stella was in bed with her «Polack.» Stella finally cuts her off, then leaves the room, crying. Blanche begins to apologize, but the men are returning.
They discuss plans for tomorrow’s poker night, then break up. Stanley enters the apartment and sizes Blanche up. The two make small talk, with Stanley in the lead and Blanche reacting. Stanley asks what happened to Blanche’s marriage. Blanche replies haltingly that the «boy» died. She sits down and declares that she feels ill.
Scene 2 Summary
Six o’clock the following day. Blanche is taking a bath. Stella tells Stanley to be kind to Blanche because she has undergone the ordeal of losing Belle Reve (the family estate). Stanley is more interested in what happened to the proceeds of the supposed sale. He thinks Stella has been swindled out of her rightful share, which means that he has been swindled. Angrily he pulls all of Blanche’s belongings out of her trunk, looking for a bill of sale. To him, Blanche’s somewhat tawdry clothing and rhinestone jewelry look like finery{all that remains of the estate’s value. Enraged at Stanley’s actions, Stella storms out onto the porch.
Blanche finishes her bath. She sends Stella out to the drug store to buy a soda while she and Stanley have their discussion. With her blend of irtation, nonsense, sincerity, and desperation, Blanche manages to disarm Stanley and convince him that no fraud has been perpetrated against anyone. Blanche is horrified when Stanley opens and begins to read the old letters and love poems from her husband. Stanley lets slip that Stella is going to have a baby. Stella returns from the drugstore and some of the men arrive for their poker game. Exhilarated by the news of Stella’s pregnancy and by her own handling of the situation with Stanley, Blanche follows Stella for their girls’ night out.
Scene 3 Summary
It’s two-thirty a.m. the same night. Steve, Pablo, Mitch, and Stanley are playing poker in the Kowalski’s kitchen. Their patter goes back and forth, heavy with testosterone. Stella and Blanche return and Stella makes in- troductions. Blanche immediately determines something «superior to the others» in Mitch; Mitch’s awkwardness seems to indicate an attraction on his part, as well.
Stella and Blanche share a sisterly chat in the back room while the poker game continues. Stanley, drunk, hollers at them to be quiet. Blanche turns on the radio, which again rouses Stanley’s ire. The other men enjoy the rhumba, but Stanley springs up and shuts off the radio. He and Blanche stare each other down. Mitch skips the next hand and goes to the bathroom. Waiting for Stella to finish, he and Blanche talk. Blanche is a little drunk, too. They discuss Mitch’s sick mother, the sincerity of sick and sorrowful people, and the inscription on Mitch’s cigarette case. Blanche claims that she is actually younger than Stella. She asks Mitch to put a Chinese lantern she has bought over the naked bulb. As they talk Stanley is growing more annoyed at Mitch’s absence. Stella leaves the bathroom and Blanche impulsively turns the radio back on. Stanley leaps up, rushes to the radio, and hurls it out the window.
Stella yells at Stanley and he begins to beat her. The men pull him off. Blanche takes Stella and some clothes to Eunice’s apartment upstairs. Stanley goes limp and seems confused, but when the men try to force him into the shower to sober him up he fights them off. They grab their winnings and leave.
Stanley stumbles out of the bathroom, calling for Stella. He phones upstairs, then phones again, before hurling the phone to the oor. Half-dressed he stumbles out to the street and calls for her again and again «STELL- LAHHHHH!» Eunice gives him a piece of her mind, but to no avail. Finally, Stella slips out of the apartment and down to where Stanley is. They stare at each other and then rush together with «animal moans.» He falls to his knees, caresses her face and belly, then lifts her up and carries her into their at.
Blanche emerges from Eunice’s at, looking for Stella. She stops short at the entrance to the downstairs at. Mitch returns and tells her not to worry, that the two are crazy about each other. He offers her a cigarette. She thanks him for his kindness.
Scene 4 Summary
Early the next morning, Stella lies serenely in the bedroom, her face aglow. Blanche, who has not slept, enters the apartment. She demands to know how Stella could go back and spend the night with Stanley after what he did to her. Stella feels Blanche is making a big issue out of nothing. Yet Blanche goes on about how she must figure out a way to get them both out of this situation, how she recently ran into an old friend who struck it rich in oil, and perhaps he would be able to help them. Stella pays little attention to what Blanche says; she has no desire to leave. She says that Blanche merely saw Stanley at his worst. Blanche feels she saw at his most characteristic{and this is what terrifies her.
Blanche simply cannot understand how a woman raised in Belle Reve could choose to live her life with a man who has «not one particle» of a gentleman in him, about whom there is «something downright{bestial…»
Stella’s reply is that «there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark{that sort of make everything else seem{unimportant.» This is just desire, says Blanche, and not a basis for marriage.
A train approaches, and while it roars past Stanley enters the at unheard. Not knowing that Stanley is listening, Blanche holds nothing back.
She describes him as common, an animal, ape-like, a primitive brute. Stella listens coldly. Under cover of another passing train, Stanley slips out of the apartment, then enters it noisily. Stella runs to Stanley and embraces him fiercely. Stanley grins at Blanche.
Scene 5 Summary
It is mid-August. Stella and Blanche are in the bedroom. Blanche finishes writing an utterly fabricated letter to the old friend she recently ran into, then bursts into laughter. She reads from the letter to Stella, breaking off when the noise of Steve and Eunice’s fighting upstairs grows too loud. Eunice storms off to a bar around the corner. Nursing a bruise on his forehead, Steve follows her. Stanley enters the apartment in full bowling regalia. He is rude to Blanche and insinuates some knowledge of her past. Finally, he asks her if she knows a certain man. This man often travels to Blanche’s town, and claims she was often a client of a disreputable hotel. Blanche denies it, insisting the man must have confused her with someone else. Stanley says he’ll have the man check on it. He heads off to the bar, telling Stella to meet him there.
Blanche is shaken to the core by Stanley’s remarks. Stella doesn’t seem to take much notice. Blanche demands to know what Stella has heard about her, what people have been saying. Stella doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Blanche admits she was not «so good» the last two years, as she was losing Belle Reve. She quite lucidly describes herself as soft, dependent, reliant on Chinese lanterns and light colors. She admits that she no longer has the youth or beauty to glow in the soft light. Stella doesn’t want to hear her talk like this.
Stella brings Blanche a drink. She likes to wait on Blanche; it reminds her of their childhood. Blanche becomes hysterical, promising to leave soon, before Stanley throws her out. Stella calms her for a moment, but when she accidentally spills her drink slightly on her skirt, Blanche begins to shriek.
She is shaking and tries to laugh it off. At last she admits that she is nervous about her relationship with Mitch. She has been very prim and proper with him; she wants his respect, but doesn’t want him to lose interest. She wants him very badly, needs him as a stabilizing force. Stella assures her that it will happen. She kisses her older sister and runs off to meet Stanley.
Blanche sits alone in the apartment and waits. A young man comes to the door collecting for the newspaper. Blanche irts with him, offers him a drink, and generally works her wiles. The young man is very nervous and would like to leave. Blanche declares that he looks like an Arabian prince.
She kisses him on the lips then sends him on his way. «I’ve got to be good,» she says, «and keep my hands off children.» A few moments later, Mitch appears with a bunch of roses. She accepts them irtatiously while he glows.
Scene 6 Summary
Two a.m. the same night. Blanche and Mitch appear. She is exhausted, he seems a bit depressed. Mitch apologizes for not giving her much entertainment this evening, but Blanche says it was her fault. She reveals that she will be leaving soon. They discuss a goodnight kiss and the other night by the lake when Mitch tried for a bit more «familiarity.» Blanche explains that a single girl must keep her urges under control or else she is «lost.» Perhaps he is used to woman who like to be lost on the first date. Mitch says he likes her simply because she is difierent from anyone he has ever met. Blanche laughs and invites him in for a nightcap.
Blanche lights a candle and prepares drinks. Mitch remains standing awkwardly. He won’t take his coat off because he’s embarrassed about his perspiration. They discuss Mitch’s imposing physique, her slighter one, and this leads to a brief and somewhat clumsy embrace. Blanche stops him, claiming she has «old-fashioned ideals» (she rolls her eyes as she offers this gem, but he cannot see her face). After an awkward silence, Mitch asks where Stanley and Stella are, and why the four of them never go out together.
Blanche expresses her conviction that Stanley hates her. Mitch thinks that Stanley simply doesn’t understand her. Blanche knows it’s more than that, that he wants to destroy her.
Mitch asks Blanche how old she is. He has told his ailing mother about Blanche, but could not tell her how old Blanche was. His mother is not long for the world and wants to see him settled. Blanche says she understands how he will miss his mother when she’s gone. She understands what it is to be lonely. She gives a revealing account of what happened with the tender young man she married. She loved him terribly but somehow it didn’t seem to be enough to save him from whatever it was that tormented him. Then one day she came home to find her young husband in bed with an older man who had been his longtime friend. At first they all pretended nothing happened.
They went out to a casino together, the three of them. On the dance floor she drunkenly confronted him, telling him he disgusted her. Then the boy rushed out of the casino and everyone heard a shot. He killed himself.
Mitch comes to her and holds her, comforting her. «You need somebody. And I need somebody, too,» he says. «Could it be{you and me, Blanche?» They kiss, even as she sobs. «Sometimes{there’s God{so quickly,» she says.
Scene 7 Summary
Late afternoon, mid-September. Stella is decorating for Blanche’s birthday. Stanley comes in. Blanche is in the bathroom, bathing, and Stanley mocks her to Stella. He tells Stella to sit down and listen because he’s got the dirt on Blanche now. As Blanche, unconcerned, sings «It’s Only a Paper Moon,» Stanley gleefully recounts to Stella how Blanche earned a notorious reputation at the Flamingo hotel and was asked to leave (presumably for immoral behavior unacceptable even by the standards of that establishment).
She came to be regarded as «nuts» by the town and was declared ‘off-limits’ to soldiers at a nearby base. She was not given a leave of absence by her school; she was kicked out for having a relationship with a seventeen-year-old boy.
Stella defends her sister. She’s not convinced this story is true{certainly not all of it. Stanley tells Stella not to expect Mitch for the birthday dinner. He has told Mitch all he heard, and there’s no way Mitch will marry her now.
Stanley has bought Blanche a birthday present a one-way bus ticket back to Laurel, Mississippi. He yells at Blanche to get out of the bathroom. She emerges at last, in high spirits. But Stanley’s face as he passes by gives her a fright. And the dazed way that Stella responds to her chatter alerts her that something is wrong. She asks Stella what has happened, but Stella can only feebly lie that nothing has.
Scene 8 Summary
Three quarters of an hour later, the birthday dinner is winding down. The place set for Mitch is empty. It has obviously been a strained meal. Blanche tries to break the gloomy silence by asking Stanley to tell a story. He declines. So Blanche tells one herself- -a lame joke involving a priest and a swearing parrot. Stanley pointedly does not laugh. Instead, he reaches across the table for a chop and eats it with his fingers. Stella scolds him. He smashes his plate, declares that he is sick and tired of being called «pig Polack disgusting vulgar greasy!» He is the king of this house. He smashes his cup and saucer and storms out onto the porch. Blanche again asks Stella what happened while she was taking a bath. What did Stanley tell Stella about her? Nothing, Stella says, but she is clearly upset.
Although Stella implores her not to, Blanche calls Mitch’s house to find out why he stood her up. Mitch is not home. Stella goes to Stanley out on the porch. They embrace, and Stanley promises her things will be all right again after the baby comes and Blanche leaves. Stella goes back inside and lights the candles. Blanche and Stanley join her. Stanley’s patent ill will produces another tense exchange with Blanche. One of Stanley’s bowling buddies calls up. While he’s on the phone, Stanley unnecessarily yells at Blanche to be quiet. She tries her best to control her nerves. Stanley returns to the table, and with a thin veneer of kindness offers Blanche a birthday envelope. She is surprised and delighted|until she opens it and Stanley declares its contents a one-way ticket back to Laurel, Mississippi on a Greyhound bus, leaving Tuesday.
Blanche tries to smile, tries to laugh, runs to the bedroom, and then to the bathroom, clutching her throat and making gagging noises, as if Stanley’s cruelty has literally taken her breath away. Stanley, pleased with himself and his just actions (considering, he says, «all I took off her»), prepares to go bowling. But Stella demands to know why Stanley has treated Blanche so callously. He reminds her that Stella thought he was common when they first met, but that he took her off her pedestal and things were wonderful until Blanche arrived. While he speaks, a sudden change comes over Stella.
She slowly shufies from the bedroom to the kitchen, then quietly asks to be taken to the hospital. Stanley is with her in an instant, speaking softly as he leads her out the door.
Scene 9 Summary
Later the same evening, a scarlet-robed Blanche sits tensely on a bedroom chair. On a nearby table are a bottle of liquor and a glass. We hear polka music, but not from the radio it’s playing in her own head. She is drinking, we are told in the stage directions, not to think about impending disaster.
Mitch appears in work clothes, unshaven, making no attempt to play the gentleman caller. He rings the doorbell and startles Blanche. She asks who it is, and when he replies, the polka music stops. She frantically scurries about, applying powder to her face, stashing the liquor in a closet, before letting him in with a cheerful reprimand. Mitch walks right past her proffered lips into the apartment. Blanche is frightened but takes it in stride. She continues in her light and airy mode, scolding him for his appearance and forgiving him in the same breath. Mitch stares at her, clearly a bit drunk. He asks her to turn off the fan; she does so. She offers him a drink, but Mitch doesn’t want Stanley’s liquor. She backs off, but the polka music begins again. It’s the same tune that was played, she says out loud, when Allen (her husband)…She breaks off, waiting for the gunshot. It comes, and the music subsides. Mitch has no idea what she’s talking about.
Blanche goes to the closet and pretends to discover the bottle. She takes her charade so far as to ask out loud what Southern Comfort is. Mitch does not bite, but bides his time, getting up the nerve to say what he has come to say. Blanche tells Mitch to take his foot off the bed, and goes on about the liquor. Mitch again declines. Stanley has complained to him that Blanche drinks all of his liquor. At last Blanche asks point blank what is on his mind.
Mitch says it’s dark in the room. He has never seen her in the light, never in the afternoon. She has always made excuses on Sunday afternoons, only gone out with him after six, and then never to well-lit places. He’s never had a good look at her. Mitch tears the paper lantern off the lightbulb. He wants a dose of realism. «I don’t want realism, I want magic,» replies Blanche. «I try to give that to people… I don’t tell truth, I tell what ought to be truth.
And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it.» She begs him not to turn the light on. He turns it on. She lets out a cry. He turns it off. Mitch is not so concerned about her age; what he can’t stomach is the garbage and excuses about her morals and old-fashioned ideals that he’s been forced to swallow all summer. Blanche tries to defend herself, but Mitch has heard stories about her from three difierent sources and is convinced. She breaks, and admits the truth through convulsive sobs and shots of liquor.
She had many intimacies with strangers. She panicked after Allan’s death, did not know she what she was doing and eventually ended up in trouble with the seventeen-year-old. She found hope when she met Mitch, but the past caught up with her. «You lied to me, Blanche,» is all Mitch can say. In her heart she never lied to him, Blanche replies. Mitch is unmoved.
A blind Mexican woman comes around the corner with bunches of tin owers used at Mexican funerals. «Flores. Flores para los muertos,» the woman intones. (Flowers. Flowers for the dead.) Blanche goes to the door, opens it, sees and hears the woman (who calls to her and offers her owers), and slams the door, terrified. The woman moves slowly down the street, calling. We hear the polka tune again.
Blanche begins to speak as if she were thinking out loud. Her lines are punctuated by the Mexican woman’s calls. Her tortured soliloquy mentions regrets, legacies, death, her dying parents, death and agony everywhere, desire as the opposite of death, the soldiers from the nearby camp who staggered drunkenly onto her lawn and called for her while her deaf mother slept. The polka music fades. Wanting what he’s been waiting for all summer, Mitch walks up to her, places his hands on her waist and tries to embrace her.
Blanche says he must marry her first. Mitch doesn’t want to marry her; he does not think she’s fit to live in the same house as his mother. Blanche orders him to leave. When he does not move, she threatens to scream ‘Fire.’ He still does not leave, so she screams out the window. Mitch hurries out.
Scene 10 Summary
A few hours have elapsed since Mitch’s departure. Blanche’s trunk is out in the middle of the bedroom. She has been packing, drinking, trying on clothes and speaking to imaginary admirers. Stanley enters the apartment, slams the door and gives a low whistle when he sees Blanche. Blanche asks about her sister. The baby won’t be born until tomorrow, says Stanley. It’s just the two of them at home tonight.
Stanley asks why Blanche is all dressed up. She tells him that she has just received a telegram from an old admirer inviting her to join him on his yacht in the Caribbean. It was the oil millionaire she met again in Miami. Stanley plays along. In high spirits, he opens a bottle of beer on the corner of the table and pours the foam on his head. He offers her a sip but she declines.
He goes to the bedroom to find his special pajamas top in anticipation of the good news from the hospital. Blanche keeps talking, feverishly working herself up as she describes what a gentleman this man is and how he merely wants the companionship of an intelligent, spirited, tender, cultured woman.
She may be poor financially, but she is rich in these qualities. And she has been foolishly lavishing these offerings on those who do not deserve them{ as she puts it, casting her pearls before swine. Stanley’s amicable mood evaporates.
Blanche claims that she sent Mitch away after he repeated slanderous lies that Stanley had told him. He came groveling back, with roses and apologies, but in vain. She cannot forgive «deliberate cruelty,» and realistically the two of them are too difierent in attitude and upbringing for it ever to work.
Stanley cuts in with a question that trips up her improvisation. Then he launches an attack, tearing down her make-believe world point by point. She can make no reply but, «Oh!» He finishes with a disdainful laugh and walks through the bedroom on into the bathroom. Frightening shadows and re ections appear in the room. Blanche goes to the phone and tries to make a call to her «admirer.» She does not know his number or his address. The operator hangs up; Blanche leaves the phone off the hook and walks into the kitchen.
The special efiects continue inhuman voices, terrifying shadows. A strange scene takes place on a sidewalk beyond the back wall of the rooms (which has suddenly become transparent). A drunkard and a prostitute scufie until a police whistle sounds and they disappear. Soon thereafter the Negro woman comes around the corner ri ing through the prostitute’s purse.
Blanche returns to the phone and whispers to the operator to connect her to Western Union. She tries to send a telegraph «In desperate, desperate circumstances. Help me! Caught in a trap. Caught in{«…. She breaks off when Stanley emerges from the bathroom in his special pajamas. He stares at her, grinning. Then crosses over to the phone and replaces it on the hook.
Still grinning, he steps between Blanche and the door. She asks him to move and he takes one step to the side. She asks him to move further away but he will not. The jungle voices well up again as he slowly advances towards her. Blanche tells him to stay back but he continues towards her. She backs away, grabs a bottle, and smashes the end of it on the table. He jumps at her, grabs her arm when she swings at him, and forces her to drop the bottle.
«We’ve had this date from the beginning,» he says. She sinks to her knees. He picks her up and carries her to the bed.
Scene 11 Summary
A few weeks later. Stella is packing Blanche’s belongings while Blanche takes a bath. Stella has been crying. The men are assembled in the kitchen playing poker. Of them, only Mitch does not seem to be in the usual card-playing bull and bravado mood. Eunice comes downstairs and enters the apartment.
Eunice calls them callous and goes over to Stella. Stella tells Eunice she is not sure she did the right thing. She told Blanche that they had arranged for her to stay in the country, and Blanche seemed to think it had to do with her millionaire admirer. Stella couldn’t believe the story Blanche told her about the rape and still continue her life with Stanley. Eunice comforts her.
It was the only thing Stella could do, and she should never believe the story. «Life has got to go on,» Eunice says.
The men continue playing poker. Blanche emerges from the bathroom to the strains of the by-now familiar waltz. Stella and Eunice are gentle and complimenting; Blanche has a slightly unhinged vivacity. The sound of Blanche’s voice sends Mitch into a daydream until Stanley snaps him out of it. Stanley’s voice from the kitchen stuns Blanche. She remains still for a few moments, then with a rising hysteria demands to know what is going on. The women quiet and soothe her and the men restrain Stanley from interfering.
She is appeased for the moment, but anxious to leave. The other women convince her to wait a moment yet. Blanche goes into a reverie, imagining her death at sea from food poisoning with a handsome young ship’s doctor at her side.
The doctor and nurse arrive. Eunice goes to see who’s at the door. Blanche waits tensely, hoping that it is Shep Huntleigh, her millionaire savior. Eunice returns and announces that someone is calling for Blanche. The waltz begins again. Blanche and Stella pass through the kitchen and cross to the door. The poker players stand as she passes, except for Mitch, who stares at the table. When Blanche steps out onto the porch and sees the doctor, and not Shep Huntleigh, she retreats to where Stella is standing, then slips back into the apartment. Inside, Stanley steps up to block her way. Blanche rushes around him, claiming she forgot something, as the weird re ections and shadows return. The doctor sends the nurse in after her. What follows is a wrenching capture scene, which Stella cannot bear to watch. She rushes to the porch, where Eunice goes to comfort her. The nurse succeeds in pinning Blanche. The doctor enters, and at Blanche’s soft request tells the nurse to release her. The doctor leads her out of the bedroom, she holding onto his arm.
«Whoever you are,» she says, «I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.» The doctor leads her through the kitchen as the poker players look on. They head out the door and onto the porch. Stella, now crouched on the porch in agony, calls out her sister’s name. Blanche, allowing herself to be led onward, does not turn to look at Stella. Doctor, nurse, and Blanche turn the corner and disappear. Eunice brings the baby to Stella and thrusts it into her arms, then goes to the kitchen to join the men. Stanley goes out onto the porch and over to Stella, who sobs over her child. He comforts her and begins to caress her. In the kitchen, Steve deals a new hand.