A Streetcar Named Desire

by: Tennessee Williams

Appearances

1

You know, I haven’t put on one ounce in ten years, Stella? I weigh what I weighed the summer you left Belle Reve. The summer Dad died and you left us . . .

Blanche has commented on Stella’s weight gain and here compares her own trim figure. Blanche is extremely conscious of her physical appearance throughout the play. She is concerned that she is growing old, and she lies about her age and works tirelessly to appear younger than she is. In these lines, she also reveals that she resents Stella’s new life away from home and feels abandoned in the succession of deaths beginning with her father’s.

2

When she comes in, be sure to say something nice about her appearance .. . . And admire her dress and tell her she’s looking wonderful. That’s important with Blanche. Her little weakness!

Stella is telling Stanley how to best handle Blanche by complimenting her appearance. As she is speaking with the voice of experience, Stella has always catered to her sister’s need to be acknowledged as pretty or attractive. The fact that Stella’s mindset is a habit supports the idea that for Blanche, appearances have always mattered more than reality. Illusion matters more than substance. The appearance of youth matters more than the wisdom of age.

3

I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can stand a rude remark or a vulgar action.

Blanche has purchased a cheap paper lampshade at a tourist shop and asks Mitch to put it on the bulb. Blanche attempts to appear as a woman of refined sensibilities, who cannot tolerate crudeness, whether in a light bulb or in a man. Blanche’s declaration that she can’t stand “a rude remark or a vulgar action” is an example of dramatic irony since she will prove herself capable of many rude remarks and vulgar actions.

4

I simply couldn’t rise to the occasion. That was all. I don’t think I’ve ever tried so hard to be gay and made such a dismal mess of it. I get ten points for trying!—I did try.

Blanche apologizes to Mitch when they return to the Kowalski flat after an evening together. Blanche explains that she tried to keep up the appearance of having a good time but admits that she failed. As they both agree that the date wasn’t much fun, they continue the evening in a scene of rare honesty for Blanche. She discloses the details about her former husband Allan Grey, which was the turning point of Blanche’s life and one reason why Blanche does all she can to avoid her reality.