A Streetcar Named Desire | Study Guide

Tennessee Williams

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Course Hero. "A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide." October 13, 2016. Accessed May 24, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Streetcar-Named-Desire/.

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Course Hero, "A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide," October 13, 2016, accessed May 24, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Streetcar-Named-Desire/.

A Streetcar Named Desire | Scene 10 | Summary

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Summary

Blanche drinks liquor and packs her trunk. She wears a crumpled, satin, evening gown and scuffed, silver slipper. Blanche puts a rhinestone tiara on her head and looks at herself in the hand mirror, then slams the mirror face down on a table. Somewhat drunk, Stanley enters. Blanche asks how Stella is doing, and Stanley says she won't have the baby before morning, so Stanley has come home to get some sleep. Blanche wonders if they are to be alone. Stanley says "yep" and asks why Blanche is dressed in fancy clothes. Blanche claims to have received a telegram from her millionaire friend, Shep, inviting her on a Caribbean cruise. Stanley plays along with Blanche's tale.

Stanley enters the bedroom, which makes Blanche skittish. He gets some silk pajamas from a dresser drawer, saying he'll wave them around when he hears the good news about having a son. Blanche talks about Shep being a gentleman who can appreciate the fine qualities a woman like Blanche can offer, such as "beauty of the mind and richness of spirit." She then calls herself stupid for "casting my pearls before swine." Blanche says Stanley and Mitch are swine for slandering her good name. She concocts a fake story about Mitch bringing roses to her and apologizing but that she rejected his plea for forgiveness, saying that he and she are too different. Stanley has had enough. He calls Blanche out about her lies, declaring there was no telegram or roses. Stanley's outburst shocks Blanche. Stanley says she looks ridiculous in her evening gown and tiara. He has been on to her from the start. He laughs at her pretense of being a refined lady like "the Queen of the Nile." Stanley goes into the bathroom.

Frantic, Blanche places a call to Shep. As she does this inhuman cries are heard, as if from a jungle, and "shadows and lurid reflections move sinuously as flames along the wall." Blanche talks to an operator, asking for Western Union to send a telegram. Stanley comes out of the bathroom, wearing his silk pajamas. He walks between Blanche and the outer door. Frightened, Blanche backs away from the phone. She wants Stanley to let her out. He tells Blanche she has to walk past him. She wants him to step aside. The "inhuman, jungle voices" get louder. Stanley menacingly approaches Blanche, who backs up into the bedroom. He enters the bedroom and continues to move toward her. She smashes a bottle and threatens to "twist the broken end in your face." He lunges at her. Blanche strikes at him with the broken bottle. Stanley gabs her wrist and tells her to let the bottle go. The bottle drops to the floor. Stanley carries Blanche to the bed.

Analysis

This scene hints that Blanche is edging closer to insanity due to the combined pressure of Stanley kicking her out, the failed romance with Mitch, and the revelation of her disreputable past. In a drunken state, Blanche plays at the illusion of being a refined lady by wearing fancy clothes and putting on a tiara. However, when she looks at herself in a hand mirror, she can't maintain the illusion and slams the mirror on the table, cracking it.

When Stanley arrives Blanche continues her playacting, claiming to have received an invitation from Shep. For Blanche, her illusions are her way of coping with the harshness of the world, which Stanley personifies. Stanley plays along with her fantasy for a while. However he drops his act when Blanche calls him and Mitch swine, which angers him. Her insistence on his inferiority has again sparked a class conflict between them, and it causes Stanley to come out with the truth. Stanley uses what he knows about Blanche's past as a weapon to unmask her and expose her raw vulnerabilities. He laughs at her conceited affectations, describing her as "sitting on your throne swilling down my liquor."

Blanche, with her refined manners and sharp tongue, threatens Stanley's dominance. She has disrupted his family life, in which he believes he should be the king, and she has labeled him as inferior, even subhuman. Therefore Stanley wants to assert his dominance over Blanche. This desire to overpower her leads him to rape her. Williams emphasizes the brutality of Stanley's confrontation with Blanche by using inhuman voices and shadows on the wall that resemble the jungle.

Blanche is trapped by her use of desire to escape harsh reality and death, which, in turn, causes her to become trapped by them. At one point Blanche yells, "Help me! Caught in a trap." Blanche hopes her ladylike act will manipulate men into protecting her. Instead her act has been ripped apart by Stanley, the school administration where she taught, and the residents of Laurel. In other words, the harsh light of modern life with its practical, uncompromising values has destroyed Blanche's dimly lit world of illusions. By clinging to the outdated values of Southern tradition, Blanche has unwittingly set herself up to be destroyed by modern values.

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