A Streetcar Named Desire | Study Guide

Tennessee Williams

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic
MLA

Bibliography

Course Hero. "A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 Oct. 2016. Web. 24 June 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Streetcar-Named-Desire/>.

In text

(Course Hero)

APA

Bibliography

Course Hero. (2016, October 13). A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 24, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Streetcar-Named-Desire/

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)

Chicago

Bibliography

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

Footnote

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

A Streetcar Named Desire | Scene 9 | Summary

Share
Share

Summary

Blanche sits alone in the Kowalski bedroom with the Varsouviana polka running through her head. The doorbell rings. When Blanche realizes the visitor is Mitch, she dabs "her face with cologne and powder." Blanche lets Mitch in and scolds him in a teasing way about missing her birthday party. Half-drunk, Mitch pushes past Blanche and sits on the bed. Flustered Blanche asks how Mitch's mother is and complains about the polka tune stuck in her head. Blanche hears an imaginary gunshot, and the music stops. Blanche's behavior perplexes Mitch. She looks for something to drink. Mitch says he doesn't want any of Stanley's liquor and notes that Blanche has been drinking too much this summer. Nervously Blanche wonders where he could have heard such a story.

Mitch accuses Blanche of intentionally avoiding bright light. For instance she will never be seen in public during the afternoon. Blanche fearfully asks why he wants to see her in the light. Mitch rips the paper lantern off the bulb. Blanche orders him not to turn on the light, but he does, and Blanche cries and covers her face. Mitch turns off the light and says he doesn't mind Blanche being older than he thought, but doesn't like her lying to him. He states that Stanley told him the nasty details about Blanche's downfall in Laurel.

Blanche admits to sleeping with strangers after her husband's suicide in an attempt to "fill my empty heart ... hunting for some protection." She even admits that she got involved with a 17-year-old student and was fired from her job for it. When Blanche met Mitch, she hoped he would offer her protection from a harsh world through marriage. Mitch accuses Blanche of lying to him all summer.

Then a blind Mexican woman turns onto the street, selling tin flowers for the dead. The woman's call of "Flores para los muertos" reminds Blanche of living at Belle Reve "where dying old women remembered their dead men." As the polka music begins to play, she recalls having to take care of dying relatives. Being in such close contact with the dying disturbed Blanche who preferred to ignore the reality of death.

Blanche confesses that before she lost Belle Reve, she sometimes had affairs with soldiers from a nearby camp. Blanche asks Mitch what he wants. Mitch says, "What I been missing all summer" and makes a pass at her. Blanche begs Mitch to marry her, but Mitch doesn't want to marry Blanche anymore, saying she is no longer "clean enough." Blanche begins to scream "Fire!" to get Mitch to leave, which he does.

Analysis

In the first part of Scene 9, Mitch turns on a bright light to cut through Blanche's illusion about her age. This action seems to break through the façade of lies between Mitch and Blanche. After turning on the light Mitch accuses Blanche of lying to him. Blanche then tells the truth, admitting to having affairs with strangers. After she confesses this, Blanche pours out more disreputable truths about herself, like water bursting through a broken dam. She confirms sleeping with young soldiers before Belle Reve was lost, and confirms that having sex with young men is a pattern of behavior that started for her soon after her husband died.

As a young woman, Blanche was surrounded by destruction and death. First, her marriage was destroyed when her husband Allan committed suicide. Later, Blanche had to care for her dying relatives, a gruesome task. However, because of her traditional Southern values, which value refinement over reality, Blanche felt the need to deny her proximity to the terrible reality death represents by sleeping with young men. These fleeting contacts with youth were her desperate attempt to escape the destruction and death that she had experienced. Instead her actions lead to the destruction of her reputation in Laurel.

Now, living with her sister, Blanche still desires to obtain protection from harsh reality. Blanche tries to trick Mitch into marrying her by creating an illusion of youth and concealing her sexual history. However, when the truth is exposed, Blanche's plans crumble. Before confessing to Mitch, she tells him, "I'll tell you what I want. Magic! ... Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don't tell the truth, I tell what ought to be truth." The trap Blanche creates for herself comes about because of telling "what ought to be truth" and her dependence on men. If Blanche became more emotionally self-sufficient and confident, she would not need to rely on men to escape from reality. She could stand on her own and face life's hardships, including destruction and death. In a way Blanche needs more of Stanley's stubborn, arrogant strength. However Blanche's sense of superiority is based on seeing herself as a softer, more sensitive person than Stanley. In Scene 5 Blanche says, "I never was hard or self-sufficient enough ... soft people have got to shimmer and glow."

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about A Streetcar Named Desire? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!

Ask a homework question - tutors are online