Summary Of A Streetcar Named Desire by anthonyvela


									A Street Car Named Desire – Summary Notes
Scene 1

Scene / Atmosphere
“Elysian Fields” Ironic choice of location as this is where Greek heroes went after death; this invokes
the sense of irony. This is portrayed as a heaven where Blanche comes to escape everything. The
description of the town; “faded”, “weathered grey”, “atmosphere of decay” conveys a rundown
atmosphere where Blanche probably does not wish to be seen. When Blanche enters, Williams
describes a “rickety outside stair” this suggests that the occupant’s lives are on weak supports. The
oxymoron “raffish charm” conveys the idea that the town though disreputable is charming in its own
way. They enjoy a fairly easy society with an “intermingling of races” and the only problems which
arise are caused by Blanche

The blue piano playing music throughout the play is used to convey the sad, mournful moments in
Blanche. These are generally critical moments in the play and usually occur when Blanche falls apart.
The meat which Stanley brings home is also used as a symbol of Stanley’s status in the house.
Blanche describes Stanley as “a survivor of the stone age”. The scene in particular sets the tone of
common place brutality where the delicate, sensitive Blanche is set to enter. Another controlling
motif is Blanche’s aversion to light. She fears being connected with her dead husband or being
closely examined. – The light exposes her real self. She prefers the illusionary world of semi-

Blanche’s Entrance
Blanche is clearly unhappy where she is – and is constantly looking down on her surroundings. – “her
appearance is incongruous to this setting”. She arrives “dressed in riches” showing that what she is
used to is far superior. Her “white suit” is used to convey an image of purity and innocence; however
we later learn that this is only the image she wishes to convey. Not the real Blanche. The first person
who meets Blanche is Eunice; however Blanche is immediately arrogant and asks her to leave. When
she meets Stella “she begins to talk with feverish vivacity, as if she feared either of them to stop and
think” This reveals her underlying securities, and she is afraid of Stella discovering the truth. She
uses two Streetcars to arrive at Stella’s home, once called desire, another called Cemetery. For
Blanche there is only desire, death and the escape to Elysian Fields – her piece of heaven and
fantasy. Sex, desire and death. Is she attracted towards death? As Blanche is wearing white, Williams
gives her a moth like appearance, using the dress to hide her inner sins. Her actions depict the
flutterings of a delicate moth. Just as a moth is attracted to the light, which consequently kills it.
Blanche tries to avoid the light and when Mitch ultimately forces her into the light, her destruction
begins. Blanche DuBois itself means white woods. The word ‘white’ is a play on innocence, while
woods reveal the dark sexual prowess in her. Whereas Stella means star, and the loss of Belle Reve
means the loss of a beautiful dream. Blanche’s reliance on drink gives her confidence, however she
claims to Stanley that “she rarely touches it” this lie is what she wishes were true. Traumatic loss of
Belle Reve and her frequent encounters with death account for her current neurotic state. And
Stanley’s brash, crude, sexual dominance threaten to overwhelm Blanche. – His animalish attitude
threatens to destroy Blanche’s aristocratic roots. During their first encounter Blanche feels sick after
Stanley’s rough, brutal and common questions which end by hitting on the most sensitive aspect of
her past life – her dead husband. Stanley likes his cards on the table and dislikes subtly and hinting.
This is why he takes an immediate dislike to Blanche as he knows she has lied about the whisky. Also
their names, Kowalski, and Dubois contrast. Blanche prefers the spiritual element of love, whereas
Stanley goes after lust and sexual desire. Stella is his, and he is prepared to fight for her. While
Blanche is economical with the truth.

Scene 2

Blanche’s hot baths are another way of annoying Stanley. The open and flagrant way in which she
flirts with him is typical of Blanche. – This is the only way she knows to handle relationships with
men. “If I didn’t know you was my wife’s sister” This shows Stanley’s reaction towards Blanche’s
advances and later balances the rape. Blanche sees Stanley’s world as destructive. When asked
about her dead husband she replies “I hurt him in the way you would like to hurt me.” This
aggression towards each other shows their contempt for one another. Blanche also thinks its fitting
that the aristocratic home’s papers end up in Stanley’s “big capable hands”. His aggressive, violent
nature again is shown through his rummaging through her possessions. He is not complex and lacks
finesse. Blanche’s equal contempt for Stanley is highlighted through “burn them afterwards”. Her
hesitation is shown in the dashes, which create a break in the dialogue. Here, we get the first
glimpse of Blanche’s insanity “Blanche’s laughter ringing out once more”, and “I’m sorry I must have
lost myself for a moment” When she realises that she has revealed too much. There is also a
recurring appearance of “hot red rods”, highlighting anger.

Scene 3

In the poker game, the colours which Stanley and his friends are wearing reflect the strong, macho,
aggressive mood. As such Stanley’s colours are the boldest, conveying a sense of power and
masculinity. He uses the poker game as a sanctuary to try and forget his encounter with Blanche. His
reactions “Deal”, “shut up” show his blunt, forward, and dominant personality. When Blanche enters
she says “Please don’t get up”, clearly showing that she has a high opinion of herself. However, none
of the men are prepared to do so. Even Stella is shown to be angry with Stanley at this moment “It
makes me so mad when he does that in front of people”. Mitch is a character whom is shown in
contrast to the others; he is shown to have manners “Excuse me. Please” he is educated and
sensitive, which is what attracts Blanche to him. Blanche is frank with Stella as to Stanley’s
intelligence, but Stella, his wife, sticks up for him; “I’m sorry, but I haven’t noticed the stamp of
genius on even Stanley’s forehead.” When Stanley confronts Blanche she manages to maintains her
strength, but Mitch sticks up for her. Who she later asks to cover the light bulb, this is ironic as he is
the one who removes it. There is a key incident in this scene with the white radio. This is a symbol of
a higher society, and when they play it, the conflict reaches its worst. “Drunk animal thing you!” this
is where Stella and Stanley argue and she reveals she is pregnant. This animal brutality is foreign to
Blanche and she remains puzzled at the thought of Stella returning to Stanley, but they have a sexual
basis to their relationship
Scene 4 + 5

This is the morning after the night before, there is a calm, peaceful atmosphere containing no
evidence of events from the night before. Here, Stella tells Blanche of their wedding night, where
Stanley went around smashing light bulbs with her slipper leaving her amazed. Blanche cannot
believe what she is hearing as this describes such raw aggression. However, outside of the confusion,
the house is tranquil. We now know, after reading the end of the play that this is the point where
Blanche is rapidly approaching breakdown and beginning to let the worst of herself out. The dress
which she had used to protect her in earlier scenes now has a stain on it. This ruins her and reveals
how she no longer feels pure. But like everything else she makes the little things seem big, just as
she over exaggerates everything. In many ways Blanche is somewhat like the streetcar; “is it still
going about, even at this hour”; in that she moves around from place to place. She is very protective
of her looks and doesn’t want anyone to see her without her make-up. At this stage a relationship
between Mitch and Blanche seems impossible, if she cannot even be honest with herself how can
she hope to be honest with anyone else.

          In her own head she feels she has a charm of perfection. She constantly fishes for
compliments, regularly seeking assurances that she is beautiful. Blanche is a definite outsider and in
her attempts to show to Stella that Stanley is a beast she in fact isolates herself. In this scene we first
hear of Shep Huntley, he is her fantasy escape route and can be seen as a symbol of her escape.
Really, Blanche feels that Stanley is far too common and bestial, these views characterise Stanley,
highlighting how utterly different he is from the kind of man which Blanche is used to. The
confrontations between Blanche and Stella represent the conflicts of two different ways of life.
Initially at the start of the play Stanley overheard Blanche insulting him in his own house and so is
justifiably angry and is right in a way to want rid of her. Stanley is associated with power, sexual
power. Stella likes Stanley’s violent side; she accepts her situation and is content with her
relationship. And this sexual aspect binds them both together.

        Scene five introduces the first signs of Stanley’s plans to bring Blanche down. The young man
whom she kisses seems odd at the time, but later we realise the link with her dead husband. This is
also the first introduction of the Varsouviana.

Scene 6

Scene six is very much a scene of hope in which we may think Blanche may succeed. We begin to
wonder if she real is the innocent girl who she shows to Mitch of the woman whose past haunts her
– the one discovered by Stanley. Blanche wants to be in reality the way she is with Mitch – that’s
who she is in her head. As such she feels that it is her duty to entertain men. Together, she and
Mitch might have worked, they had much in common – both were lonely, both have dead spouses.
The scene ends on a note of hope, and the blinding light of her past. This previous marriage which
she is discovered to have had is the basis of all her problems. She was young and naive back then
and the impact of his death means that a light has gone out in her life – is this why she f the light so
Scene 7

In this scene Blanche starts off in the bath – calming her nerves, this way allowing her to start a fresh
again after Mitch has gone. Here the playful splashes are child like; “like a child frolicking in a tub”;
this depicts her regressing backwards mentally. It is seen as ironic that she is in such a good mood
especially as Stanley has been working so hard in an attempt to destroy her – he feels his life is
better than hers. He plans to finally rid himself of her by unveiling the truth of her deceit to Stella
and eventually everyone catches on to exactly what she is. Initially Stella sticks up for her sister. Here
we see the evil side of Stanley who is no longer hiding his feelings from Stella. Finally Blanche’s past
is revealed to the audience and we learn the truth about her. We learn of her desperation and
realise why she is there ‘visiting’ them in the first place. Stanley feels proud of his actions. He does
not need to convince himself that he is doing the right thing by telling Mitch and Stella. Towards the
end of the scene the piano begins to play in “hectic breakdown” mirroring the breakdown in the
relationships of the characters. When she leaves the bathroom Blanche knows that something has
gone, but Stella lies to try and protect her sister from what they have learned about her. Stanley
cannot tolerate illusions – he lacks sensitivity. In doing so he destroys any chance of happiness for
both Blanche and his friend Mitch. Is he justifiable in his actions?

Scene 8

This is the scene which tells of Blanche’s birthday. It starts off relatively calm, mirroring that of the
rape. However it soon becomes clear that all of the characters are putting on an artificial front to try
and get along with each other. Stanley is smugly happy that Mitch has not shown – he feels that he
has got one over on Blanche. He uses sarcasm to show how he knew of Blanches feelings towards
him. Yet again, Stanley’s aggression is portrayed through his smashing of the plate. A very sexist
attitude is conveyed, he feels that he is in charge and that the women are inferior. Stella also begins
to realise that Blanche’s mental state is deteriorating. Stella gets angry and begins to use more
formal language – showing that she too is upper class. As the two argue Stanley’s language too,
becomes more broken and they both begin to retract into the different social backgrounds in which
they are from. Mitch’s ‘no show’ effectively illustrates the emptiness of Blanche’s life. Blanche calls
Stanley a ‘polack’. Stanley makes patriotic statement; “he is one hundred percent American”. This
conveys Blanche’s naivety to other worlds besides her own. This scene also follows Stanley’s cruel
nature; he presents Blanche with a birthday present which initially makes her immensely happy but
upon opening it and discovering it is a one way ticket to Laurel she drops and becomes totally
deflated, and again the Varsouviana plays. Stanley believes that the impending arrival of the baby
will bring happiness to his marriage again. Overall this is a scene of violence and tension caused by
Stanley and Stella knowing that Mitch is not coming. Trapping Blanche is a situation that will equal
the death of her husband.
Scene 9

After the party has finished, Mitch returns to see Blanche. Blanche is feeling very low, she has been
destroyed by her past being revealed. The Varsouviana plays, symbolising how her traumatic past
still haunts her. Mitch enters unshaven and scruffy, Blanche puts up a front by claiming that she is
offended by his appearance. She puts on a very strong front – determined to hide her depression.
Mitch forces her under the light. This completely destroys her. She has now been completely
revealed and has no more barriers to protect her. The flower vender is used as a symbol of the death
of their relationship and reminds the audience of her husband’s death. Blanche’s decent into
madness intensifies due to Mitch totally destroying her. This is seen as the last chance for both of

        Throwing Blanche under the light takes on many different symbolic meanings;

   i.   Realistic – she lied about her age and now he can literally see what she really is.
  ii.   She has constantly avoided the light since her husband died and has entered nothing but
        candle light. Thus symbolically she has spent most of her life in semi-darkness, and to force
        her into the light makes her violate her inner nature.
 iii.   Truth of her past life, she must face up to her old ways.
 iv.    Her whole theory of living involves magic and illusion. She does not want to face reality. She
        lives for “what ought to be” and not for the truth.

She claims that she never lied inside herself. – She does tell the truth when she tells Mitch that she
needs him. She can give herself freely to a stranger but not to someone she feels close towards like

Scene 10

This is the final conflict scene. We see that she is clearly in a deteriorated mental state. She is
dressed up like a princess “crumpled white satin evening gown” this is symbolic of the dress at the
beginning of the play, however now it is ‘crumpled’ and ruined reflecting Blanche. She talks
nonsensically assuming she is in a room full of people. Her change in mood culminates in her
smashing the mirror, this broken mirror can be seen as a warning – bad luck. Blanche is now
constantly in a world of illusion, while Stanley is on the prowl (animal like) after the birth of his child.
He seizes this moment to ‘pay back’ Blanche for the grief which she has caused him. The rape gives
him a sense of superiority. – She almost destroyed his marriage so he has no regret in destroying her
- “date from beginning”. The silk pyjamas which Stanley wears during the rape scene convey a sense
of elegance, softness and show someone who appears delicate. This contrasts the Stanley’s rough
attitude and his actions during the rape. This could be seen as the calm before the storm. It is also
sadistic that these are the same pyjamas which he wore on his wedding night with Stella. Blanche
herself represents old traditional ways of life, and her rape symbolises the new world destroying and
annihilating the old. It is the thought of being raped by someone who represents everything she
hates which sends her into her madness – not the brutality of it. During Blanche’s leaving scene
there are many characters on the street which represent the different aspects of Blanche; a drunk, a
prostitute and a thief.
Scene 11

In the final scene of the play Blanche no longer has the strength to continue. Stanley’s taking down
of the lantern is symbolic of him taking his home back. Stanley comforts Stella the only way he can –
sexually – even after raping her sister. The poker game is the final act, symbolising that life is a game
of chance. Blanche came in or her last chance and lady luck has not shone on her. This poker game is
much more subdued than the one earlier one in the play. Now Stanley is winning – just as he has
won in getting rid of Blanche. Compared to the one played during Blanche’s entrance where Stanley
was losing. She talks of being buried at sea, we wonder if this is a connection to her constant bathing
in which case being constantly surrounded by water would mean that she would be eternally clean.
Again the Varsouviana is playing until the sound of the gun shot and then it starts all over again.
Stella sends her to the asylum, she does not want to believe her sister and this way she can remove
the problem and continue on with her life. However, when the doctor arrives reality dawns on her,
but by then its too late. Blanche happily leaves with the doctor “I have always depended on the
kindness of strangers” – highlighting how easily taken in by people who are nice to her and treat her
with attention and affection. Almost all strangers have sympathy. Stanley takes the lantern, a final
blow for Blanche.

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