A Streetcar Named Desire | Study Guide

Tennessee Williams

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A Streetcar Named Desire | Scene 8 | Summary



In the Kowalski kitchen, Stanley, Blanche, and Stella sit around the table and finish eating Blanche's birthday dinner. Mitch's chair at the table is conspicuously empty. The mood is tense. Blanche tries to take Mitch standing her up in a lighthearted manner but obviously feels shaken. Upset by Mitch's absence, Stella nags Stanley about eating like a pig. Stanley yells that he'll eat the way he wants and throws his plate and cup on the floor to prove his point.

Stanley goes out on the porch and lights a cigarette. In the kitchen Blanche asks Stella why Mitch didn't come. Stella claims to know nothing. Blanche insists on being given an explanation and calls Mitch's house. Mitch isn't home, and Blanche leaves a message for him to call her. Stella joins Stanley on the porch. He says, "It's gonna be all right again between you and me the way that it was." Stanley says that he and Stella will be able to make love again as before without being inhibited by having Blanche in the next room.

Stella goes back in the kitchen followed by Stanley. As Stella puts candles on the cake, Blanche seems intimidated by her birthday celebration. When Stanley complains about the steamy heat from Blanche's hot baths, Blanche insults him by calling him a Polack. Angered, Stanley tells Blanche to call him a Pole not a Polack. He hands Blanche an envelope, which is her "birthday gift." The envelope contains a one-way bus ticket for Blanche, which will take her back to Laurel on Tuesday. Blanche is upset. She runs into the bathroom, where she is heard coughing and gagging. Stella scolds Stanley for treating her sister so cruelly. Stanley recalls how Stella viewed him as common when they first met, but then he brought her down off her high horse, and they were happy. Stella feels the beginning of labor and tells Stanley to take her to the hospital.


In Scene 8 Williams develops the theme of desire, destruction, and death by contrasting Stanley's and Blanche's desires. Stanley's main desire in this scene is to get Blanche out of his home and thereby restore the balance of power in his family and his intimacy with his wife. He asks Stella, "You remember the way that it was?" which suggests that Blanche has infringed on their sex life. Stanley gives Blanche a one-way bus ticket back to Laurel. In contrast Blanche wants Mitch to marry her, thereby giving her some security. However Mitch does not attend Blanche's birthday party, and her plans are disrupted. When she receives the bus ticket, Blanche fears her dream of marrying Mitch will not take place. Instead she faces the possibility of being thrown back into the terrible situation in Laurel from which she fled.

Williams again uses transportation routes symbolically. To get to the Kowalski home, Blanche took the streetcars Desire and Cemetery to reach Elysian Fields. As has been shown, this symbolic route represents Blanche's desire to escape her past, a desire which leads ultimately to her destruction. The gift of the bus ticket takes Blanche's journey full circle. She will be taking the bus back to Laurel, which means she will be returning to what she has tried to escape.

Stella tries to plays the role of mediator between Blanche and Stanley. Stella claims not to know why Mitch didn't come to the party because she wants to keep Blanche calm. Also Stella tells Stanley what Blanche was like as a child in an attempt to elicit some sympathy from him for her sister. However Stella's attempts at peacekeeping prove futile. Both Stanley and Blanche seem set on their courses.

As always class conflict is a defining factor. One of the main reasons why Stanley hates Blanche is because she feels superior to him. Blanche sees Stanley as a dumb, crude man from an inferior background. She even uses a derogatory term ("Polack") to his face. Of course this upsets Stanley, who correctly says, "People from Poland are Poles, not Polacks." But Stanley can be insulting as well. He accuses Blanche and Stella of acting like "a pair of queens," then harshly reminds them that he is the king in his house.

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