A Streetcar Named Desire: Scene Notes – Scene 10



·         The scene opens with Blanche, who has been “ drinking fairly steadily”, standing in the middle of the bedroom with clothes hanging out of her open trunk

·         She is very drunk at this point and has dressed up in an evening gown and is addressing a group of imaginary admirers. She is distressed when she sees her reflection in her hand mirror, she slams the mirror down and breaks the glass

·         Stanley, also slightly drunk, enters the apartment, and tells Blanche that the baby will not be born till the next morning; only the two of them would be in the apartment

·         Stanley asks why Blanche is dressed up; Blanche claims that she received a telegram from Shep Huntleigh inviting her to a Caribbean cruise. Stanley asks Blanche if they want to celebrate their good news (Stanley’s baby and Blanche’s millionaire) – Blanche says no

·         Blanche starts to describe Shep Huntleigh’s “gentleman” nature and contrasts him to Stanley and Mitch who she feels are “swine”; she claims that Mitch came back to her with roses and “implored my [Blanche’s] forgiveness ”Stanley brings Blanche to reality and makes her realise her “lies and conceit and tricks”

·         Blanche is surrounded by “lurid reflections” and “menacing” shadows; she tries to call Shep but cannot remember his number; the back wall of the rooms become transparent

·         She then tries to call Western Union – she thinks she is “caught in a trap”; Stanley blocks Blanche’s path to the door. Blanche asks Stanley to move – he moves a pace, asks why he would “interfere” with her, then ‘takes a step towards her’ and decides that actually, she ‘wouldn’t be bad to – interfere with…’

·         Blanche breaks a bottle to use as a weapon but Stanley manages to subdue her

·         The scene ends with the implied rape of Blanche as Stanley carries “her inert figure” to the bedroom



Motifs & Connotations:


Williams often uses the motif of colour in this scene to indicate and highlight certain aspects of Stanley and Stella. First of all, the clothes of Blanche and Stanley are described by their colours. Blanche is described as being in “scuffed silver slippers” which shows how the “white” clothes she had initially been described in at the start of the play had deteriorated into silver; this reflects the audience’s understanding that she is no longer as pure and “dainty” as they initially thought. Stanley is portrayed wearing a “vivid green silk bowling shirt” and later on ‘brilliant silk pajamas’, both which reflect the vibrancy and boldness of his character. Secondly, Stanley claims that it is a “red-letter night for” the both of them; the use of the colour red reflects not only celebration but also the desires of Blanche, but also the passion and violence of Stanley.



This is another motif that is heavily relied upon by Williams in this scene. Blanche’s insanity is initially established at a mild level when she talks about Shep’s wire with such detail that it suggests that she is starting to believe that it is true. After Stanley begins to break down these delusions Blanche begins to see “lurid reflections and shadows that are “grotesque and menacing” and this reveals to the audience the extent to which Blanche is losing her grip on reality. Her call to the Western Union crying out that she is in ‘desperate, desperate circumstances!’ further reinforces her descent into insanity as she exaggerates her situation which in the end backfires as her fear is detected by Stanley who is amused by it. This insanity reflects how much Stanley has affected her and it symbolises not only his victory over her, but also the victory of his society’s values over those of the aristocratic society.


Death/Fear of Death

Symbolically, this scene is used by Williams to show the death of the aristocratic values of Blanche. Blanche herself realises this and believes she is in “desperate circumstances” as she is “caught in a trap” and needs “help”. The “trap” is reality and Blanche feels that her dreams her dying before her eyes and she can no longer protect herself; this is why she “presses her fists to her ears until” the sounds of reality (an approaching locomotive) pass by her.



Williams utilises the motif of light to achieve a number of purposes. First of all, Blanche’s wishes for a “moonlight swim” reveal how she wishes to purify herself of what she has done in the past by having a swim in the “moonlight”, which, as it is not as bright as the sun, would not evoke as much scrutiny. Williams uses light to describe Blanche’s behaviour, to “cover the light-bulb with a paper lantern” allows Blanche to escape the real world and view the world from her own perspective. It is important to realise that Blanche does not hate light; she just wants it to be at an intensity that would suit her.



This motif is extremely significant in this scene as Williams wishes to use it to reveal to the audience that it is one of the many flaws of Stanley’s world and the value system that he represents. The “rough-house” treatment of Stanley to Blanche reflects this society’s primal instincts and Blanche’s pleas, “let me get by you!”, show how she is unable to escape from this male domination and violence. Moreover, the violence in this society goes unchecked as the audience realises in the next scene that Stanley suffers no consequences for what he has done to Blanche; it is only Blanche who suffers.



Themes & Connotations:

Inside versus Outside

The outside world intrudes upon Blanche as the walls “become transparent” and this is symbolic of Blanche’s dream succumbing to reality. Moreover, the outside world is shown to be a place of violence and thievery as we can see a drunkard and a negro women who stole a “sequined bag” from a prostitute. This reflects how Blanche feels the real world is not tolerable and is forced to create a false illusion just to survive.


Pleasant dreams versus unpleasant gritty reality

In this scene, Blanche’s illusions completely fall apart and she is forced to accept the reality of her age and the situation that she is living in which is what drives Blanche insane. Furthermore, Blanche is shown to have a very good understanding of reality as she ‘slams the mirror’ down, breaking it at the start of the scene because she cannot bear to live in the real world. This is what makes Blanche such a tragic character; even though she has these dreams, she has a better understanding of reality than most characters in the play, and as a result, she knows that her dreams will eventually collapse, but she is forced to believe in dreams because the real world is something that she is unable to bear. The poignancy and pathos of her situation is reinforced by the fact that her evening gown is soiled and crumpled and the jewels in her tiara are merely rhinestone – cheap imitations, which echo Blanches, somewhat, pathetic attempts to paint reality in better colours than it warrants.


The fact that Stanley destroys Blanche’s illusions, which he calls “lies and conceit and tricks”, helps to create a cruel image of him and the ‘real world’ that he represents. Stanley, and his ilk, are what will destroy Blanche and her world of beautiful illusions. His rape of Blanche helps reveal how this reality is violent and brutal; only strong men such as Stanley are able plough through it.


Loneliness and longing for love

Blanche feels like she needs a man in order to survive in this world and, symbolically, Shep represents her of a ideal man. He represents her emotional needs and thus, the quotation, “What he wants is my companionship. Having great wealth sometimes makes people lonely”, is significant as it not only reveals how Blanche feels she needs money to gain power and protection, but also because Blanche expresses her desire to be with someone. She cannot survive this world alone. This foreshadows the next scene where Stella refuses to ‘believe [Blanche’s] story as if she did, she would no longer be able to ‘go on living with Stanley’ and she too would become lonely the way Blanche has been.


Destructive nature of desire/sex

Williams makes it clear that desire is destructive. Blanche’s desire for a man and for her dreams to be true only leads to her rape by Stanley. Thus, Williams wishes to portray that desire can lead to dire consequences and he made this extremely clear from the very opening scene where the “streetcar named Desire” leads to another one called “Cemeteries”. This is reinforced by Stanley’s quotation on page 211 where he says, “This millionaire from Dallas is not going to interfere with your privacy any?”, which helps to highlight how even Shep may use Blanche for his own needs and this desire from Blanche to be with a man such as Shep would lead to her downfall.



Undoubtedly, conflict plays a key role in this scene. First of all, we see Blanche try to defend her dreams with a broken “bottle top” and the fact that it is broken symbolically reveals how this conflict has undermined the dreams that Blanche has had. Moreover, the violence of Stanley during his conflict with Blanche is used to indicate the animalistic instincts of the members of his society; this is what Williams feels is wrong with Stanley’s world. The rape of Blanche shifts the sympathies of the audience away from Stanley and towards Blanche. However, the audience still feels that Blanche’s manipulative treatment of Mitch was unacceptable. Thus, the conflict between Blanche and Stanley reveals how Williams is advocating neither society; the audience is left unsure who to support.


Decayed modern society

The rape of Blanche is used by Williams to reveal the extinction of the morals and values that Blanche’s society represents. At the time when Williams wrote this play, the social structure of America was changing and the aristocratic way of life represented by Blanche and the world of Belle Reve, was giving way to a more dynamic (albeit more violent) world of working class immigrants. This play shows how Williams believes that the working class was winning this struggle, but he does raise one important consequence; if the rape of Blanche is intended to reflect the real world, then isn’t the fantasy world and sophistication of Blanche worth keeping? Williams leaves it up to the audience to decide if the decay of modern society should be allowed to continue as he believes that both societies have their own flaws.



Symbols & Connotations:

Silk pyjamas

This is what Stanley wore on his wedding night and hence these are symbolic of his passion; they represent the vibrant vitality of his society. Thus, it helps to foreshadow the rape of Blanche not only due to the fact that this is what he wore during his first night of passion with Stella but also because Williams wants to show the violent aspect of this society. It is somewhat repulsive however, that Stanley chooses to wear these pajamas whilst raping his wife’s sister, the night before his child is born. He is at the peak of his manhood, more triumphant then ever, which may the reason why he feels the need to once again exert and show off his power in some way.


Beer Bottles

On numerous occasions during this scene, the audience can see beer bottles on stage. Initially, the audience sees Stanley bringing “some quart beer bottles” which is intended to indicate that he may be inebriated. We see a glimpse of William’s foreshadowing the rape when he says ‘This is all I’m going to undress right now’ as he ‘rips the sack off a quart beer-bottle’. However, the beer bottle is more significant at the end of the scene where Blanche “smashes a bottle on the table and faces him, clutching the broken top”. Alcohol is one way that Blanche is able to escape reality and believe that she is her illusory dream. Thus, the breaking of the bottle may be indicative of how Stanley has broken the very foundations of her dream and “clutching the broken top” shows just how little she to hold on to; if she suffers any further, her desires will drive her insane.   



In Stanley’s last line of the scene, he describes Blanche as a “Tiger”. The connotations of this word reflect Stanley’s view of Blanche. Primarily, it instils in the minds of the audience the impression that Blanche is a predator who seizes any opportunity available in order to get what she wants. However, from a feminist perspective, one could interpret Stanley’s use of the word “Tiger”, a physically strong and imposing animal, as an indicator of the mental strength required for a woman to break through in the patriarchal, animalistic society that Stanley represents.





There is a clear progression in Stanley’s character through Scene 10. Stanley initially seems happy enough to ignore Blanche’s lies about Shep, even though they are not true. However, when Blanche describes Stanley and Mitch as “swine”, Stanley can no longer control himself and he crushes Blanche’s fabricated reality. There are two ways in which the audience can interpret the way Stanley destroys Blanche’s illusory dream; they could either view him as someone who is doing the right thing by bringing Blanche to the real world or they could view him as a villain for destroying the dreams that Blanche feels she needs in order to survive. Either way, by the end of the scene, the audience must condemn Stanley because of his cruel assault on Blanche; this is in stark contrast to the opening scene where Williams presents Stanley as a lively and vibrant, down-to earth character. Thus, Williams reveals the downside of such an animalistic society: violence. Stanley’s cruelty is emphasised through his relentless mockery of Blanche, which made all the more cutting by the fact that she does not appear to realize she is being mocked. 



The inevitable extinction of the morals and values of the aristocratic society that Blanche has come to represent is clearly implied through the course of this scene. Her illusions, the very foundation of her life, are destroyed and this reflects the decay in her power, status, and mental capacity. At the start of the play, she is clearly shown to be someone who is holding onto the image of a sophisticated and “dainty” character that comes from an aristocratic society but by Scene 10, she has become fully aware that this is a delusion which is why she “slams the mirror face down” at the very start of the scene as she has realised that she is unable to fool herself anymore. When Stanley appears, she is forced to imagine that she has received a telegram from Shep Huntleigh in order to escape the reality that she is being forced out by Stanley and that Mitch no longer wants her. When Stanley asks a question about the telegram, and Blanche replies “What telegram?”, it becomes quite evident to the audience that this was all pretence; Stanley destroys Blanche’s delusions and makes her face the truth. Moreover, Blanche’s insanity becomes more and more apparent through the “lurid reflections” and “grotesque” shadow that surround her. Her rape symbolises her final defeat to the values that Stanley’s society represents and the extinction of the morals and values of the aristocratic society.


One of the most important quotations in this scene is ‘Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable. It is the one unforgiveable thing in my opinion and it is the one thing of which I have never been guilty.’ This redeems Blanche’s character because it shows that despite Blanche’s lies throughout the play, she never intentionally sets out to hurt other people. This in turn vilifies Stanley, as in contrast he does set out to hurt people intentionally and so in this scene Blanche is presented as a defenceless victim which encourages us to sympathise with her.



Imagery and Setting:

Animal Imagery

Blanche also hears “inhuman jungle voices” which reflects her impending insanity. Stanley is described almost as being snake like as his bites ‘his tongue which protrudes between his lips.This image displays Stanley as venomous and creates a repulsive image of him as he ‘takes a step towards’ Blanche. Moreover, the fact that Stanley “springs towards” Blanche indicates his predatory and violent nature. Stanley describes Blanche as a “Tiger” which reveals how Blanche always seizes opportunities in order to get what she wants.



There are numerous sounds in this scene. The fact that the “barely audible ‘blue piano’ begins to drum up louder” helps to add to the tension in the scene and the “roar of an approaching locomotive” reveals Blanche’s insecurity as the outside world, which represents reality, is intruding and destroying her fabricated reality. The scene ends with the “hot trumpet and drums of the Four Deuces” which is intended to show how Blanche is being raped as the Four Deuces is a brothel and the  trumpet and drums signify Stanley’s victory over Blanche.


The walls becoming transparent

The audience sees a prostitute, a drunkard, and a thief in the real world as the walls become transparent. This not only reveals how Blanche’s fabricated reality is falling apart but also how her final place of sanctuary, the house in Elysian Fields, can no longer protect her from the real world.


The bathroom

In previous scenes, the bathroom was a place of refuge for Blanche as she could protect herself from reality by locking herself away and washing her memories of the past. However, in this scene, it is Stanley who “goes into the bathroom and closes the door” which shows how Stanley has symbolically stolen Blanche’s last place of refuge. Moreover, it is during Stanley’s time in the bathroom that Blanche’s state of mind deteriorates even more rapidly as she is unable to even recall Shep’s number and as she feels that she is “caught in a trap”.



Relation of Part to Whole:

This scene is the climax of the play. Everything in the play has been building up to this point as Stanley and Blanche have “had this date with each other from the beginning”. The seemingly inevitable rape of Blanche allows Williams to not only reveal how following desire can lead “to cemeteries”, but also how the vibrant yet violent society of Stanley is founded on animalistic instincts. Thus, Williams presents the audience with no character to truly sympathise with and follow; Williams is advocating neither the working class nor the aristocratic society as he believes both societies have their own intrinsic flaws. However, the fact that Blanche loses the struggle with Stanley is a clear sign by Williams that he believes the sophisticated and “dainty” morals and values that Blanche represents will inevitable face extinction


Although Stanley is clearly in the wrong here, there is no way that raping your wife sister while she is giving birth to your child can be viewed in a good light. It is possible to interpret Blanche unsympathetically as she does antagonise Stanley, both throughout the play and in this scene, and she can be seen to bring this rape upon herself as Stanley comes home in a good mood until Blanche’s continuous lying and insults annoy him. Although Stanley seems much more dangerous and ready to attack when he returns from the toilet, is it just Blanche’s fear of the rape that triggers Stanley’s decision?


In addition, earlier in the play Blanche flirts with Stanley and on page 181 Blanche considers that Stanley may be sexual attracted to her as she says ‘-perhaps in some perverse kind of way he – No! To think of it makes me …’ Indeed the fact that she has thought of this at all may suggest that perhaps Blanche, in some way, does feel an equal form of attraction, as is perhaps indicated when Stanley says they have had this date from the beginning.