A Streetcar Named Desire

by: Tennessee Williams

Scene Five

Sipping her drink, Blanche sits alone in the apartment and waits for Mitch. A young man comes to the door to collect money for the newspaper. Blanche flirts with him, offers him a drink, and launches a seduction. The young man is uncomfortable and nervous. Blanche declares that he looks like an Arabian prince, then kisses him on the lips and sends him on his way, saying, “I’ve got to be good—and keep my hands off children.” A few moments later, Mitch appears with a bunch of roses. Blanche accepts the flowers with much fanfare, while Mitch glows.

Analysis

Although Stella’s reassurance and comforting of Blanche about her relationship with Mitch is a rare moment of unchecked affection between the two sisters, by not revealing her past Blanche prevents Stella’s full comprehension of the desperate nature of Blanche’s situation. Even without Stanley around to prevent free and open communication, Blanche cannot bring herself to explain her belief that Mitch is her last chance of salvation from ruin. Because Stella does not know the full weight of the baggage Blanche is carrying, she cannot provide the advice and support Blanche needs, and she simply expresses hope that Mitch will bring Blanche the same contentment that Stanley brings her.

When she throws herself at the young newspaper boy, Blanche reveals her hypocrisy—she is lustful underneath her genteel, morally upright facade. Blanche condemns Stanley and Stella’s purely sexual relationship, but we see that her urges are every bit as strong as Stella’s, yet much less appropriate. Compared with Blanche’s behavior, Stella’s love life looks healthy and wholesome. Eunice and Steve’s quick reconciliation after their fight also underscores the notion that Stella and Stanley’s violent love is the norm in these parts. Like the sexual attachment between Stella and Stanley, Eunice and Steve’s sexual attachment appears far healthier than Blanche’s, and Blanche’s expectations for love begin to seem unrealistic. As a dramatic device, the scene with the newspaper boy prepares us to learn the truth about the circumstances surrounding Blanche’s departure from Mississippi. She is one of the “epic fornicators” of her clan, the last in a line of aristocrats who secretly indulged in forbidden acts because they could not find a stable outlet for their desires. When a bumbling Mitch arrives at the apartment for his date with Blanche, he quickly becomes an antidote to Blanche’s strong carnal desires.

As the identity Blanche has constructed for herself begins to disintegrate, she begins to lose ground in her battle against Stanley. Stanley’s questioning of Blanche about her acquaintanceship with Shaw is the play’s first direct mention of Blanche’s blemished past. Blanche does a poor job of pretending not to know Shaw. Her claim that she needs to avoid revealing her past to Mitch further supports our suspicions about her truthfulness. Up to this point, Blanche’s jitteriness and her need to hide herself from the outside world have suggested that she also had a past to hide. Now, the emerging facts of Blanche’s past begin to confirm the hypocrisy of her social snobbery.