A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams

Scene Eight

Summary Scene Eight


People from Poland are Poles, not Polacks. But what I am is a one hundred percent American, born and raised in the greatest country on earth and proud as hell of it, so don’t ever call me a Polack.

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Forty-five minutes later, Blanche’s gloomy birthday dinner is winding down. The place set for Mitch remains empty. Blanche tries to break the gloomy silence by asking Stanley to tell a funny story. He declines, so Blanche tells a lame joke involving a priest and a swearing parrot. Stanley makes a point of not laughing. Instead, he reaches across the table for a chop and eats it with his fingers. Stella scolds him for having greasy fingers and orders him to help clean up. He smashes his plate and declares that he is sick and tired of being called derogatory names such as “greasy.” He orders both sisters never to forget that he is the king of his house. He smashes his cup and saucer, yells that he has cleared his place, and storms out onto the porch. Stella begins to cry. Blanche again asks Stella what happened while she was taking a bath, but Stella says that nothing happened.

Blanche declares that she will call Mitch to find out why he didn’t attend her dinner. Stella implores her not to, but Blanche goes into the bedroom to make the call. Stella joins Stanley on the porch. Blanche leaves a message—Mitch is not home—and stays by the phone, looking frightened. Stanley holds Stella, ignoring her reproaches, and promises her that things will be all right again after Blanche leaves and the baby comes. Stella goes back inside and lights the candles on the cake. Blanche and Stanley join her.

Blanche announces that she should never have called Mitch and that she doesn’t need to take insults from a man like him. Stanley begins to complain about the lingering heat from Blanche’s steam bath, and she snaps that she has already apologized three times. She says that a healthy Polack like Stanley wouldn’t understand her need to calm her nerves. Stanley angrily retorts that Polish people are called Poles, not Polacks, and that he is “one hundred percent American.”

The phone rings, and Blanche tries to answer it, expecting Mitch. Stanley intercepts her and speaks to the caller, one of his bowling buddies. While Stanley speaks on the phone, Stella touches Blanche on the shoulder. Blanche, confused and angered by Stella’s unexplained pitying behavior, tells Stella to back off. Stanley erupts, yelling for Blanche to be quiet. She tries her best to control herself as Stanley returns to the table. With a thin veneer of kindness, Stanley offers Blanche a birthday present. She is surprised and delighted—until she opens it and sees that it is a one-way ticket back to Laurel on a Greyhound bus, leaving Tuesday.

The Varsouviana music begins to play as Blanche tries first to smile, then to laugh. When her efforts fail, she runs to the bedroom and then to the bathroom, clutching her throat and making gagging noises as if Stanley’s cruelty has literally taken her breath away. Stanley, pleased with himself and his actions, prepares to go bowling. But Stella demands to know why Stanley has treated Blanche so callously. She admits that much about Blanche is insufferable, but argues that Blanche’s naïve trust and kindness have been abused over the years, and that the current Blanche is the product of suffering. He explains that Stella thought he was common when they first met, but he took her off her pedestal, and things were wonderful until Blanche arrived and made fun of him. As he speaks, a sudden change comes over Stella, and she slowly shuffles from the bedroom to the kitchen. After a minute, Stanley notices that something is wrong and cuts his diatribe short. Stella quietly asks to be taken to the hospital. Stanley is with her in an instant, speaking softly as he leads her out the door.


In Scene Eight, Stanley, Blanche, and Stella become increasingly short-tempered. Stanley shows that he has taken all that he can handle of Blanche and will allow Stella to sway him with her protestations no longer. He is intent on removing Blanche from his house, and he sees no need for delicacy or kindness in doing so. However, Blanche too seems to have reached the limit of her capacity for niceness. She loses her temper briefly when she snaps to Stanley that she has already apologized three times for her bath. Her outburst constitutes the first time Blanche openly express anger in the play.