A Streetcar Named Desire

by: Tennessee Williams

Scene Nine

Summary Scene Nine

Finally, Blanche breaks down and admits the truth through convulsive sobs and shots of liquor. She says that she panicked after Allan’s death and looked to strangers for human companionship to fill her loneliness. She did not know what she was doing, she claims. She eventually ended up in trouble with a seventeen-year-old student from Laurel High School and was forced to leave her position. She thought she had nowhere to go, until she met Mitch. He gave her hope because he said he needed her as she needed him. But, says Blanche, she was wrong to hope, because her past inevitably caught up with her. After a long pause, Mitch can say only that Blanche lied to him, “inside and out.” Blanche argues that she didn’t lie “inside . . . in [her] heart.”

A blind Mexican woman comes around the corner selling bunches of tacky tin flowers to use at funerals. In Spanish, she says, “Flowers. Flowers for the dead.” Hearing the vendor’s voice, Blanche opens the door, and she is terrified when the woman offers her funeral flowers. She slams the door and runs back into the apartment as the vendor continues down the street. The Varsouviana polka tune resumes.

Blanche begins to think out loud while Mitch sits silently. Every so often, the Mexican woman’s call can be heard. In her tortured soliloquy, Blanche discusses regrets, and then legacies. She speaks about pillowcases stained with blood, and seems to be recalling a conversation she had with her mother about not having enough money to pay a servant. Blanche then begins to speak about death, saying that it once seemed so far from her. She says that “the opposite [of death] is desire.” And she begins to reminisce about camp of soldiers that used to be near Belle Reve. On Saturday nights the drunken soldiers would stumble onto Blanche’s lawn and call for her while her deaf mother slept. Occasionally, Blanche went outside to meet them.

The polka music fades. Mitch approaches Blanche and tries to embrace her. He says that he wants what he waited for all summer. Blanche says he must marry her first, but Mitch replies that Blanche isn’t fit to live in the same house as his mother. Blanche orders him to leave, rapidly collapsing into hysterics. When he does not move, she threatens to scream “Fire!” He still does not leave, so she screams out the window. Mitch hurries out, and Blanche falls to her knees, devastated. Piano music can be heard in the distance.

Analysis

Mitch’s act of turning on Blanche’s light explicitly symbolizes his extermination of the fake persona she has concocted. Mitch recognizes that Blanche’s deceptions have relied on darkness to obscure reality, thereby giving Blanche the freedom to describe things as she feels they “ought to be.” For example, in Scene Six, Blanche revises reality by lighting a candle, claiming that she and Mitch will be bohemian and imagine they are in Paris.

Mitch behaves with resignation rather than anger when he confronts Blanche, showing that he holds genuine feelings for her. He initially bides his time, getting up the nerve to say what he has come to say. Sadness over lost love tempers his anger and frustration. When Mitch turns on Blanche’s light, he violates Blanche’s false dignity, but he does not violate Blanche sexually when she refuses him. However, his advances demonstrate that the only way he knows how to express his frustration over the relationship ending is through sexuality.