A Streetcar Named Desire | Study Guide

Tennessee Williams

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A Streetcar Named Desire | Scene 6 | Summary



Early in the morning Blanche and Mitch arrive at the Kowalski apartment, after spending the evening at an amusement park. Exhausted and sad, Blanche apologizes for not being more entertaining during their date. Mitch is concerned about Blanche and wonders why she tried to act happy if she actually felt dejected. Blanche says acting happy to please a man is expected of women. Mitch asks if he can kiss her. It is not the first time he has asked, but Blanche puts him off, maintaining her façade of a prim and proper lady. She mentions her intention to leave the Kowalskis soon and invites Mitch in for a drink.

Blanche and Mitch enter the kitchen; the Kowalskis are out with friends, so Blanche invites Mitch into the bedroom, claiming it is "more comfortable." Blanche compliments his physique, and Mitch says he works out often at an athletic club. He proudly says he weighs 207 pounds stripped and asks Blanche what she weighs. She tells him to guess. To make an estimate Mitch lifts Blanche. When he sets her down, Mitch embraces Blanche awkwardly. She puts him off, saying she has "old-fashioned ideals." Mitch lets her go.

Blanche asks Mitch if Stanley has talked to him about her. He says not much and wonders why she asks. Blanche says Stanley intentionally acts rudely to annoy her, showing how much he hates her. Mitch can't believe this. Blanche repeats that Stanley indeed hates her, saying "that man will destroy me, unless." Mitch then asks Blanche how old she is. Blanche wonders why. Mitch admits his mother asked him the question after he told her how much he liked Blanche. Blanche asks if Mitch is sincere about his feelings for her, and Mitch says he is. Mitch expresses his concern for his sick mother, who will probably die soon. Blanche admires his devotion and knows Mitch will be lonely when his mother is gone. Blanche says she knows about loneliness because "the person I loved I lost."

Blanche shares with Mitch the story of her marriage. When she was 16, she married a boy named Allan who was about her age. Blanche fell deeply in love with him but sensed something different about him. After they got married, Blanche felt somehow that she failed Allan but didn't know why. She now knows her husband was desperately wanting her to help him. Later Blanche found Allan in an intimate situation with an older man and realized Allan was homosexual. The three of them ignored the situation and went out drinking and dancing. When dancing with Allan, Blanche told him, "I saw! I know! You disgust me." Her husband broke away, went outside, and shot himself dead. Blanche was devastated. Mitch comforts Blanche, saying, "You need somebody. And I need somebody, too." They embrace, and she begins to cry.


In Scene 6 Williams's exploration of the theme of truth versus illusion leads to a deeper understanding of Blanche's relationship to desire, destruction, and death. At the beginning of the scene, Blanche is so exhausted she has trouble keeping up the illusion of being a carefree, happy person. She compares the expectation of a woman entertaining a man to a law of nature, thereby showing how engrained this idea is for her. Even so she continues to have difficulty keeping up the pretense. For example, Blanche tries to pretend she and Mitch are having drinks at a Paris café. When Blanche learns that Mitch does not understand French, she says, "Voulez-vous couchez avec moi ce soir?" which translates into "Will you sleep with me tonight?" This again illustrates the theme of truth versus illusion; Blanche acts modestly to create the illusion of purity in an effort get Mitch to marry her, but the truth is she is a sexual being who wishes to act on her desires. She tells Mitch to get comfortable, and they flirtatiously guess each other's weights. But her attempt to be lighthearted breaks down. Instead she tells the truth: she admits that Stanley hates her and she moved in with her sister and husband because she's broke.

When Mitch admits how much he likes Blanche, she allows herself to be completely vulnerable. Blanche candidly describes her relationship with her deceased husband, Allan. Blanche deeply loved Allan but discovered he was a closeted homosexual. Blanche was unable to accept her husband's sexuality and told him that he disgusted her. Allan, once his true desires were revealed, was destroyed by Blanche's disgust, and killed himself. Blanche is traumatized and realizes how much he needed her help to deal with his situation. Blanche's story shows a clear path from desire (her love for Allan, his homosexuality) to destruction and death (destruction of her marriage, as well as Allan's literal death). The theme of sexuality is also important here. Blanche's sexual attraction to young men is an echo of her love for her first husband and may be a subconscious desire to recapture the lost love of her youth.

Light is symbolic during Blanche's speech. When Blanche says she realized her love for Allan, she felt as if a blinding light was turned on. But Blanche did not know that Allan was secretly a homosexual. When his true identity came to light, she cruelly expressed her disgust for him. At that moment Blanche says that the "searchlight which had been turned on the world was turned off again." She has never experienced that light again. Allan's death inspires the tension that Blanche experiences between the light of truth and the shadowy world of illusion. Blanche wants to remain in the shadows because she doesn't want to face the truth about herself, which the bright light would expose. Because of this Blanche prefers the shadowy light cast by the bulb covered with a paper Chinese lantern.

Music also plays an important symbolic role in this scene. The Varsouviana polka plays as Blanche tells Mitch about the destruction of her marriage. Blanche and Allan were dancing to this music when she told him that he disgusts her. Shortly afterward Allan killed himself. A polka is cheerful dance music. However, when contrasted with Allan's suicide, the music's mood no longer fits the scene. The Varsouviana polka signals how Blanche's desire for her husband has been forever linked with his suicide. This combination of desire and death haunts Blanche throughout her life and sparks her downward spiral of self-destruction.

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