A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams

Scene Nine

Summary Scene Nine


Later the same evening, Blanche sits tensely in the bedroom. On a nearby table are a bottle of liquor and a glass. The Varsouviana, the polka music that was playing when Blanche’s husband killed himself, can be heard. Williams’s stage directions state that the music we hear is in Blanche’s head, and that she drinks to escape it.

Mitch, unshaven and wearing work clothes, comes to the door. The doorbell startles Blanche. She asks who it is, and when he gruffly replies, the polka music stops. She frantically scurries about, applying powder to her face and stashing the liquor in a closet before letting Mitch in with a cheerful reprimand for having missed her birthday celebration. She expects a kiss, but Mitch walks right past her into the apartment. Blanche is frightened but continues in her light and airy mode, scolding him for his disheveled appearance and forgiving him in the same breath.

Mitch, a bit drunk, stares and then asks Blanche to turn off the fan, which she does. He plops down on the bed and lights a cigarette. She offers him a drink, fibbing that she isn’t sure what the Kowalskis have on hand, but Mitch says he doesn’t want Stanley’s liquor. Blanche retorts that she’s bought her own liquor, then changes the subject to Mitch’s mother’s health. Mitch is suspicious of Blanche’s interest in his mother, so she backs off, saying she just wants to know the source of Mitch’s sour mood. As Blanche retreats into herself, the polka music again begins in her head, and she speaks of it agitatedly, identifying it as the same tune that was playing when her husband, Allan, killed himself. She breaks off, then explains that the usual sound of a gunshot, which makes the music stop, has come. Mitch has no idea what Blanche is talking about and has little patience for her anxiety.

As Blanche rambles on about the birthday evening Mitch missed, she pretends to discover the whiskey bottle in the closet. She takes her charade so far as to ask what Southern Comfort is. Mitch says the bottle must be Stan’s, and he rudely rests his foot on Blanche’s bed. Blanche asks Mitch to take his foot off the bed and goes on about the liquor, pretending to taste it for the first time. Mitch again declines a drink and says that Stanley claims Blanche has guzzled his liquor all summer on the sly.

At last Blanche asks point-blank what is on Mitch’s mind. Mitch continues to beat around the bush, asking why the room is always so dark. He comments that he has never seen Blanche in full light or in the afternoon. She has always made excuses on Sunday afternoons and has only gone out with him after six to dimly lit places. Blanche says she doesn’t get Mitch’s meaning, and he says that he’s never had a good look at her. Mitch tears the paper lantern off the lightbulb. She begs him not to turn the light on, but he says that he wants to be “realistic.” Blanche cries that she doesn’t like realism and “want[s] magic.” She explains that her policy is to say what “ought” to be true. Mitch switches the light on, and Blanche lets out a cry and covers her face. He turns the light off.

Mitch says he doesn’t really care about Blanche’s age, but he cannot stand the way Blanche lied to him all summer, pretending to be old-fashioned and morally upright. Blanche tries to deny Mitch’s charge, but Mitch says that he has heard stories about her from three different sources: Stanley, Shaw, and a merchant from Laurel named Kiefaber with whom Mitch spoke on the phone. Each man presented the same facts about Blanche’s shady past. Blanche argues that all three men are liars, and that Kiefaber concocted stories about her as revenge for her spurning his affection.