A Streetcar Named Desire

by: Tennessee Williams

Scene Six

Summary Scene Six

Blanche’s revelation of the story of her first love occurs in a heavily symbolic manner. Blanche describes her all-consuming first love in terms of lightness and darkness, using the concept of light to explain her interior state as she does earlier in the play. She says that when she fell in love, the once-shadowy world seemed suddenly illuminated with a “blinding light.” She extends the metaphor when she describes the aftermath of her thoughtless, cruel remark to her husband, saying, “[T]he searchlight . . . was turned off again and never for one moment since has there been any light that’s stronger than this—kitchen—candle.” We see in earlier scenes that a lack of light has enabled Blanche to live a lie, but now we see also that, without light, Blanche has lived without a clear view of herself and reality.

The music of the Varsouviana that plays in the background during Blanche’s story is also symbolic. Blanche mentions that the Varsouviana was playing as she told her husband that he disgusted her, and the music represents Blanche’s memory of her husband’s suicide. When the polka surfaces from this point on, it signals that Blanche is remembering her greatest regret and escaping from the present reality into her fantasy world. Blanche’s husband’s suicide was the critical moment in her life, the moment she lost her innocence.

Mitch’s lack of formal manners and education make him an imperfect match for Blanche, but he and Blanche are able to relate on a ground of common suffering and loneliness. Though she is clearly the object of Mitch’s affection, he is the one with the upper hand in the relationship. Blanche needs Mitch as a stabilizing force in her life, and if her relationship with him fails, she faces a world that offers few prospects for a financially challenged, unmarried woman who is approaching middle age. Unfortunately, though Blanche lets down her flippant guard and confesses her role in her husband’s suicide to Mitch at the scene’s close, her failure to be upfront about her age, her entire past, and her intentions signals doom for her relationship with him. She tacitly admits that she needs Mitch when she accepts his embrace, but her fears of acknowledging reality overpower her and prevent her from telling the full truth.