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A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams

Scene Four

Summary Scene Four

Scene Four reveals Blanche to be entirely calculating when it comes to her relations with men. As she rambles on about money, Shep Huntleigh, and other things, she rejects Stella’s imperative that she “Talk sense!” by insisting, “I’ve got to keep thinking.” This comment suggests that Blanche survives by scheming up ways to get money from men. Blanche’s threat to “laugh in [Stella’s] face” if Stella tries to claim that her attraction to Stanley is “just one of those electric things” shows that Blanche does not truly believe in love. Throughout the play, Blanche claims to possess romantic notions of timeless relations, but her comments to Stella in this scene reveal her as a cold cynic.

Scene Four also contains one of Blanche’s most famous speeches, in which she describes how humankind has evolved too far past the beast that Stanley represents for Stella to reduce herself to his level. This passage best articulates Williams’s examination of the widely held belief among plantation owners and their descendants that the end of the South’s agrarian culture led to a decline of American civilization. He depicts Blanche as an antiquated relic of a dead society, while Stanley epitomizes the new type of American, who lacks refinement, education, and spirituality. Yet, although Williams gives voice to Blanche’s nostalgia and exposes her fears, he does not necessarily share her belief that the new Americans are lesser beings on the evolutionary scale. He even illustrates the irrationality of Blanche’s opinions by having her hysterically cry to Stella, “Don’t—don’t hang back with the brutes!