I thought you would never come back to this horrible place! What am I saying? I didn’t mean to say that. I meant to be nice about it and say—Oh, what a convenient location and such—Ha-a-ha!
Blanche begins to reveal her dual personality early in Scene One as she speaks to Stella. In a rare moment of honesty, she admits that she intended to be diplomatic but her true feelings slipped out and she criticized her sister’s choice of home and marriage. There are two voices in Blanche’s head, one in conflict with the other, predicting her eventual mental collapse.
Open your pretty mouth and talk while I look around for some liquor! I know you must have some liquor on the place! Where could it be, I wonder?
In pretending she doesn’t know where the liquor is kept, Blanche is lying to her sister, Stella. We know she has already discovered and helped herself to a tumbler of whiskey from the closet. Blanche’s lines reveal her propensity to deceit. As she retrieves the bottle for the second time, she shakes and pants and nearly drops it, betraying her alcoholism.
I want to be near you, got to be with somebody, I can’t be alone! Because—as you must have noticed—I’m—not very well . . .
Blanche explains to Stella that she cannot stay in a hotel because she can’t bear to be alone. This is closer to the truth than the reason Blanche tells herself, that she needs to stay with Stella because she is out of money. The audience comes to understand many of Blanche’s actions are driven by her extreme loneliness. Stella notices that Blanche is agitated and overwrought, and Blanche makes numerous references to her nerves. In addition, Blanche’s attraction to Mitch is mainly motivated by the desire to not be alone rather than an interest in him in particular.
Oh, in my youth I excited some admiration. But look at me now! [She smiles at him radiantly] Would you think it possible that I was once considered to be—attractive?
Blanche is flirting with Stanley while Stella is out of the room. She is fishing for a compliment about her looks, which Stanley reluctantly gives saying, “Your looks are okay,” which is not much of a compliment at all. Moments earlier, Stanley questioned the furs in Blanche’s trunk, asking about their cost and intimating they were purchased with family estate funds that ought to be shared with the Kowalskis. She claims that an admirer gave them to her.
I know I fib a good deal. After all, a woman’s charm is fifty per cent illusion, but when a thing is important, I tell the truth: I haven’t cheated my sister or you or anyone else as long as I have lived.
Blanche’s lines reveal to us a lot about her true character. The first sentence is the only truth spoken, and the audience recognizes an understatement. Blanche values illusion above all else, and convinces herself that lying is necessary to be attractive. In addition, her choice of words that she hasn’t “cheated” her sister and Stanley out of money from the sale of the family home implicates her all the more.
We thrashed it out. I feel a bit shaky, but I think I handled it nicely, I laughed and treated it all as a joke. I called him a little boy and laughed and flirted. Yes, I was flirting with your husband!
Blanche admits to Stella that she had a confrontation with Stanley before the poker game. Stanley confronted Blanche about the sale of the family home and grabbed some papers from her trunk, one of which contained the name of a mortgage company. Blanche resorted to her favorite form of self-protection: weakness and nervousness. However, Blanche’s admission of flirting with Stanley plays an important role in how Stella reacts to events that occur later in the play.
I’m afraid he does have me mixed up with this “other party.” The Hotel Flamingo is not the sort of establishment I would dare to be seen in.
Blanche denies any connection with the Hotel Flamingo when Stanley tells her that he met a man named Shaw who knew her when she lived in Laurel. Her lie is the first of a series about Blanche’s past that will come to light in the next several scenes. The Hotel Flamingo becomes a symbol of the promiscuity that Blanche has left behind, not by her own choice, and her struggles to come to terms with her past.
But even the management of the Flamingo was impressed by Dame Blanche! In fact they was so impressed by Dame Blanche that they requested her to turn in her room-key—for permanent! This happened a couple of weeks before she showed here.
Stanley tells Stella this bit of gossip while Blanche is soaking in one of her many baths. He has heard that Blanche had to leave Laurel because she was so promiscuous. Stanley claims that she was not only a town character, she was considered “downright loco.” This discussion marks the beginning of Blanche’s unraveling. Her truth is catching up with her.
They kicked her out of that high school before the spring term ended—and I hate to tell you the reason that step was taken! A seventeen-year-old boy—she’d gotten mixed up with!
While Blanche sings in the bathtub, Stanley continues to share with Stella what he’s learned about Blanche’s past, including this particularly salacious detail about Blanche having a physical relationship with a student at the school where she was employed. After the relationship was discovered, Blanche was asked to leave her job and her town. Stanley also confesses that he’s shared the information with Mitch, whom they should not expect to join them to celebrate Blanche’s birthday that evening.
I can smell the sea air. The rest of my time I’m going to spend on the sea. And when I die, I’m going to die on the sea. You know what I will die of? I shall die of eating an unwashed grape one day out on the ocean.
By the end of the play, Blanche’s mind has snapped, and she allows herself to talk dreamily about her own death. She imagines dying holding the hand of a young, handsome doctor, and then being dropped overboard at noon, finally united with her husband. Even in her final fantasy Blanche struggles with seeing reality, as she confuses the doctor with her old flame Shep Huntleigh.
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