A Streetcar Named Desire | Study Guide

Tennessee Williams

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A Streetcar Named Desire | Scene 7 | Summary



Several months have passed. Stella is decorating for Blanche's birthday celebration. Stanley enters and wonders what all the decorations are for. Stella reminds her husband that today is Blanche's birthday. Blanche can be heard singing the song "It's Only a Paper Moon" as she takes a bath.

Stanley tells his wife that Blanche has been feeding them a bunch of lies. Stella denies this, but Stanley goes into more detail. First of all, Blanche is not the demure lady she pretends to be. After she lost Belle Reve, Blanche stayed at the Hotel Flamingo where she used her refined Southern charm to get men to ask her out. However, after a few dates, the men wised up about Blanche's act and dropped her. Then she would go on to the next man and so on. Stanley also suggests that Blanche was living a lifestyle so wild it got her kicked out of the hotel. This story appalls Stella, who claims it's a lie. Stanley, though, says he verified it as a fact. Blanche's seductions made her infamous in Laurel. Blanche continues to sing lightheartedly as she takes a bath, oblivious to what Stanley is saying about her in the next room.

Secondly, Blanche got in trouble at the school where she taught when she had "gotten mixed up" with a 17-year-old male student. The administration told her to leave. After this Blanche came to stay with Stella. This second story makes Stella feel sick. Blanche finishes her bath and asks Stella for a towel to dry her hair. Stunned Stella hands her a towel. Blanche goes back in the bathroom. Stella tells Stanley that the stories might be partly true, but Blanche had a traumatic experience at a young age when she found out the husband she adored was a homosexual.

Stella says Mitch has been invited to the party, but Stanley says not to expect Mitch to attend. Stanley told his friend the truth about Blanche and justifies this by saying he couldn't stand by and allow Mitch to be deceived. Upset, Stella wonders if Mitch is through with Blanche. Stanley says Mitch might not be through with Blanche, but he definitely will not marry her. Stella worries what Blanche will do, since she doesn't have a job. Stanley doesn't care. He has bought Blanche a bus ticket and expects her to leave shortly. Blanche says her sister won't leave, but Stanley insists she will. Finally Blanche comes out of the bathroom. As Stanley passes her by on the way to the toilet, Blanche looks fearfully at him. Blanche soon senses that something has happened. Stella says nothing is wrong. Blanche replies, "You're lying!"


In Scene 7 the main development is Stanley's revelation about the truth concerning Blanche. Angry about Blanche calling him common, Stanley has been looking secretly into her recent history. Like a lawyer compiling evidence for the prosecution, Stanley has verified that the stories about Blanche's scandalous reputation are accurate.

For Stanley the whole situation is cut and dried. Blanche has lied and deserves to be punished. So Stanley tells Mitch what he has heard and decides to kick Blanche out of his apartment. However, for Stella, the situation about Blanche is not so simple. Stella loves her sister and knows her background. Although she admits the stories might be partly true, she tempers the truth with compassion, mentioning Blanche's tragic history with Allan. When Stanley declares Blanche will have to leave in a few days, Stella wonders, "What'll—she—do? What on earth will she—do!" Stanley doesn't care what happens to Blanche.

Blanche dearly loved her husband, but could not accept his homosexuality. As a result he killed himself. Blanche then began to act out a pattern of deception and sexuality similar to her ancestors, who became increasingly self-destructive, and like her ancestors, this resulted in the loss of the remaining portion of Belle Reve. At the Hotel Flamingo, Blanche pursued her desire to form a relationship with a man by pretending to be a proper lady. When the men realized Blanche's deception, they dropped her. However Blanche could not give up her act. She kept up her impossible pattern of behavior. The hotel asked her to leave, suggesting the sexual encounters with various men she admits to later in the play likely played a part. Finally her relationship with the 17-year-old student forced her to a breaking point. Unable to move past the suicide of her young husband, Blanche tried to relive her desire for him by getting involved with young men like her student. This led her to be fired from her job.

Stanley's revelations about Blanche's exploits at the Hotel Flamingo also interweave the themes of class differences and dependence on men. Blanche tries to maintain the façade of being a refined, upper-class woman who is superior to other people. However, because this veneer is a lie, it crumbles. Blanche is obsessed with the idea of needing to get a man to take care of her. Indeed she seems to believe that she cannot survive on her own. In addition Williams uses the symbol of music through Blanche singing the song "It's Only a Paper Moon" to highlight the theme of truth versus illusion. The lyrics of this song represent Blanche's situation: "It's a Barnum and Bailey world, Just as phony as it can be." Blanche lives in a phony world and relies on illusion to put on a show for others.

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