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A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams

Scene Three

Scene Two

Scene Four

Summary

It is around 2:30 a.m. Steve, Pablo, Mitch, and Stanley are playing poker in the Kowalskis’ kitchen, which is bathed in a sinister green light. Their talk is heavy with testosterone and the effects of whiskey, several glasses of which litter the table. Stanley dominates the table with his tough talk, while Mitch, who frets about whether or not he should go home to his sick mother, shows himself to be the most sensitive and sober man at the table. After exchanging a few harsh words with Stanley, Mitch rises from the table to go to the bathroom.

Stella and Blanche return. Blanche insists on powdering her face at the door of the house in anticipation of the male company. Stella makes polite introductions, but the men show no interest in Blanche’s presence. When Stella asserts that it’s time to stop playing for the night, Stanley refuses her request, tells her to go upstairs to Eunice’s, and disrespectfully slaps her on the buttocks. Stella is shamed and joins Blanche, who is planning to take another bath, in the bedroom. Mitch emerges into the bedroom from the bathroom and is sheepish and awkward upon meeting Blanche, indicating that he is attracted to her. Once he has left the room, Blanche remarks that there is something “superior to the others” in Mitch. Stella agrees that Mitch is polite but claims that Stanley is the only one of them who will “get anywhere.”

Stella and Blanche continue their sisterly chat in the bedroom while the poker game continues. Stanley, drunk, hollers at them to be quiet. While Stella is busy in the bathroom, Blanche turns on the radio, further angering Stanley. The other men enjoy the music, but Stanley springs up and shuts off the radio. He and Blanche stare each other down. Mitch skips the next hand to go to the bathroom again. Waiting for Stella to finish in the bathroom, he and Blanche talk. Blanche is a little drunk and unabashedly flirtatious. They discuss Mitch’s sick mother, the sincerity of sick and sorrowful people, and the inscription on Mitch’s cigarette case. Blanche fibs that she is actually younger than Stella, and that she has come to New Orleans because Stella is ailing and needs her assistance. She asks Mitch to put a Chinese lantern she has bought over the naked lightbulb. As they talk Stanley grows increasingly annoyed at Mitch’s absence from the game.

Stella leaves the bathroom, and Blanche impulsively turns the radio back on and begins to dance, slyly engaging the clumsy Mitch and preventing his leaving to go to the bathroom. Stanley leaps up, rushes to the radio, and hurls it out the window. Stella yells at Stanley, and he advances violently toward her. He follows her as she runs offstage, and the stage directions call for sounds of him beating her. The other men pull him off. Stella cries out that she wants to get away, and Blanche scrambles to gather clothes and take Stella upstairs to Eunice’s apartment. Mitch condemns Stanley’s behavior to Blanche. Then the men attempt to revive the now limp and confused Stanley, but when they try to force him into the shower to sober him up, he fights them off. They grab their poker winnings and leave.

Stanley stumbles out of the bathroom, calling for Stella. He cries remorsefully and then telephones upstairs, but Eunice won’t let him speak to Stella. After calling again to no avail, he hurls the phone to the floor. Then, half-dressed, he stumbles out to the street and calls for his wife again and again: “STELL- LAHHHHH!” Eunice warns him to stop, but his bellowing cry continues. Finally, a disheveled 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, tenderly caresses her face and belly, then lifts her up and carries her into their flat.

Blanche emerges from Eunice’s flat, frantically looking for Stella. She stops short at the entrance to the downstairs flat. Mitch returns and tells her not to worry because Stella and Stanley are crazy about each other. He offers her a cigarette. She thanks him for his kindness and waxes poetic while he quietly listens.

Analysis

Scene Three underscores the primal nature of Stella and Stanley’s union, and it cements Stanley’s identity as a villain. After Stanley’s drunken radio-hurling episode, Stella yells at him and calls him an “animal thing,” inciting Stanley’s attack. Later that night, Stanley bellows “STELL-LAHHHHH!” into the night like a wounded beast calling for the return of his mate. Their reunion is also described in terms of animal noises. Stanley’s cruel abuse of his wife convinces the audience that genteel Blanche has her sister’s best interests in mind more than Stanley does. Yet Stella sides with Stanley and his base instincts, infusing the play with an ominous sense of gloom.

Audience sympathy may establish itself in Blanche’s favor, but nothing about Blanche suggests that she will emerge as a heroine. The sense of mystery surrounding Blanche’s peculiar arrival in New Orleans takes on a sinister taint, and Blanche’s reluctance to be in bright light calls attention to this mysterious nature. Both metaphorically and literally, bright light threatens to undo Blanche’s many deceptions. While conversing with Mitch, she asks him to place a Chinese lampshade on the bare lightbulb in the bedroom, claiming that the naked bulb is “rude” and “vulgar.” Bright light, whether from a naked bulb or the midday sun, reveals Blanche’s true age. She can claim to be a woman of twenty-five in semi-darkness, but the glare of sharp light reveals a woman who has seen more, suffered more, and aged more. In addition, probing questions and honest speech function as a metaphorical light that threatens to reveal Blanche’s past and her true nature. Blanche is in no mental condition to withstand such scrutiny, so she has fashioned a tenuous make-believe world. Her effort to create a more flattering, untruthful portrait of herself for Mitch continues in upcoming scenes.

Mitch and Blanche clearly feel attracted to one another, perhaps because both have a broken quality as a result of their experiences with the death of loved ones. Blanche lost her husband and Mitch the girl who gave him the cigarette case with the poetic inscription. Both also nursed their parents through lingering deaths. However, whereas Mitch’s experiences have engendered in him a strong sincerity, Blanche seeks refuge in make-believe and insincerity—insincerity that is painfully obvious in her remarks about the sincerity of dying people. The difference in their reactions to similar experiences and in their approaches to life suggests that they are not an ideally matched pair. Blanche thinks on a spiritual level, while Mitch behaves practically and temperately. When they dance, we see that they are ill suited to one another even on a physical level—Mitch dances clumsily, awkwardly mimicking Blanche’s grand movements.

Prior to Scene Three, the piano music that sounds throughout the play functions chiefly to create atmosphere, suggesting the play’s setting in a somewhat seedy section of New Orleans. Over the course of the poker game and the Kowalskis’ fight, however, the piano’s sound changes, registering the turbulent emotional shifts of the action onstage. For example, discordant sounds play as the violent drama heightens.

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How was Blanche's rape inevitable

by PoeticProclivity, September 03, 2012

I don't understand your view of how Blanche's rape, In which you stated, "Blanche's most visceral experiences are illusions and repressed memories that torment her, so that her rape seems an almost inevitable consequence of her psychological pain." How exactly, in anyway, is Blanche's rape inevitable? Did she appeal weak stimulating Stanley's carnal desire to conquer Blanche's threatening, bourgeoisie personality?

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105 out of 128 people found this helpful

fundamental gentlemanliness: I don't think it means what you think it means.

by ParisCoffee, March 06, 2014

Wait, wait. Mitch -doesn't rape someone- and that makes him a gentleman? C'mon. That's a pretty low bar for "gentleman" isn't it? That word has a specific meaning and it is for sure not "doesn't commit a horrible, violent crime even though he wants to."

I think the wording you're looking for there is something other than "fundamental gentlemanliness." There is a whole lot of daylight between simply not being a violent criminal and being a gentleman.

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8 out of 8 people found this helpful

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