A Streetcar Named Desire: Scene Notes – Scene 3



Summary of scene:

·         The scene begins with the men playing poker in Stanley’s apartment – Stanley dominates the conversation and is becoming frustrated because he is losing

·         Stella and Blanche return from the show. Stanley whacks Stella’s thigh in a primitive gesture of ownership and Blanche meets Mitch as he is coming out of the toilet: he seems very attracted to her.

·         Blanche undresses in the light through the portieres in order to attract Mitch’s attention and pretends she didn’t realise she was in the light when Stella tells her to move.

·         When Stella goes into the bathroom, Blanche moves back into the streak of light.

·         Mitch uses going to the bathroom as an excuse to go back into the bedroom to see Blanche.

·         Mitch shows her his silver cigarette case and Blanche pretends she can’t make out the inscription in order to make Mitch move closer with a lighted match – it appears they have both lost a loved one

·         Blanche says that she doesn’t usually have more than one drink and admits that she had had three that night in an attempt to flirt with Mitch and imply that she could be taken advantage of if he wished

·         Blanche tells Mitch that Stella is her older sister although she calls her “little sister”.

·         She also asks him to put a lantern over a light bulb, as she cannot stand a “naked light bulb”.

·         Blanche appears to be fishing for compliments and Mitch does give her those compliments, although he appears to be sincere rather than obliging.

·         When Blanche turns on the radio again and begins dancing with Mitch who is delighted but, unable to dance, shuffles in an ungainly fashion resembling a bear

·         Stanley, angered, throws the radio out of the window.

·         Stella calls Stanley a drunk and Stanley chases her offstage and hits her.

·         Mitch says that poker should not be played amongst women.

·         Blanche is shocked and takes Stella upstairs to Eunice.

·         When Stanley is more sober, he calls out for Stella in a brutally animalistic way and she eventually comes down and they come together with ‘low animal moans’

·         The scene ends with Blanche and Mitch talking on the steps of the building.





·         Pg 145 – “I think I will bathe.” “Again.” – The fact that Blanche requires a bath again suggests that she might have the need to subconsciously wash something away. At this point the audience is not sure what although we suspect it may be to do with the death of her husband. In reality, if she were washing anything away it is more likely to be the memories of disgraceful dismissal from the school in Laurel. However, a more likely interpretation of Blanche constant bathing is that the bathroom is the only place in the house where she can fantasise about the way she wishes the world to be (for it to be beautiful, aristocratic, for her to be young, etc) without having to face the truth. Even in the house itself, we constantly see her being alarmed by noises from outside, e.g. the vendor, and it is as if she has to seek sanctuary from this invasive truths in the bathroom.

·         Bathing is also explored with Stanley’s character. After the disturbing event of Stanley hitting his wife, Mitch orders to “put him under the shower,” demonstrating that bathing is used to refresh, cleanse and purify. Stanley comes out the shower sober as he realizes that Stella has left him.


Light/the avoidance of light

·         Pg 146/147 – Blanche purposely stands in the streak of yellow light when undressing. This could be because only the outline of her body is shown, as opposed to the actual view of her body which reinforces the view of her character as being insecure about her appearance but desirous of attracting male attention.

·         Pg 150 – “I can’t stand a naked light bulb” – Blanche may feel that the naked light is unflattering and may show any flaws that she might not want Mitch to see. The bright naked light could also symbolise a harsh, rough society, one that is ‘beneath’ her and that she looks down on.

·         Blanche’s reluctance to be in the light could be for the following reasons: she feels the light reveals her true age (deteriorating beauty); metaphorically, she feels the light will reveal her past; the light reveals the truth she tries to hide. It is also a symbol of the world she wishes to hide from, the world of ugly truths and grim realities which contrasts with Stanley and his garish embrace of all that is colourful and loud



·         The game of poker reflects the lively atmosphere of Elysian Fields: the colours of the shirts, the lurid light over the table, the greasy food and beer all help create a scene seething with life and excess which is in stark contrast to the aristocratic and gentile society from which Blanche and Stella originally come. There is a down to earth honesty and sense of friendship and camaraderie among the men at the table which we never witness between characters from the upper classes however this positive picture of life in New Orleans is consistently undermined throughout the scene by Stanley’s coarse, violent and bullying nature which represents the downside of this more ‘honest’ way of life.


Physical violence

·         Pg 152 – [There is the sound of a blow].Stanley hits Stella even though she is pregnant and we learn from Mitch that this is not the first time. This happens right after Stella yells at Stanley in front of his friends and calls him a drunk. Stanley hitting Stella may be him trying to assert his control over her and reinforcing his role as the dominant male in the relationship. It also reveals the downside to the lively vibrant life that we have seen Elysian Fields (frequent violence, brutality and coarseness) and it foreshadows the violence that will continue throughout the play culminating in the rape of Blanche.




Male vs. female conflict

·         Pg 145 – [Stanley gives a loud whack of his hand on her thigh] – Stanley is playing the stereotypical role of the husband who feels like he owns his wife and therefore can treat her in any way he wants, hence the numerous imperatives directed towards her such as, “why don’t you women go up and sit with Eunice,” in addition to the sexually possessive action of striking her thigh. The sense of male dominance is reinforced by Stella’s ineffective response, as she says “sharply: that’s not fun, Stanley,” and the laughter of the other men at the table which only serves to further accentuate the passive role of women in the play.

·         Male dominance is evident here even among the men as Stanley orders the others by either “yelling” at them or giving short imperatives such as “deal. We are given the impression that there is a definite sense of hierarchy among the men and that Stanley is clearly at the top.

·         Pg 150 – Mitch describes himself as being “rough” and this has connotations of being rugged and tough. Blanche has shown herself to be someone who would look down on people of a lower class, like Mitch. In this scene however, she says that she is “adaptable” and this suggests that perhaps she is so desperate to depend on a man that she is willing to ignore what she has always been concerned with: social class.

·         Pg 150 – “Thank you sir! I appreciate your gallantry!” – Blanche is shown to be very dependent on Mitch for compliments and reassurances about her appearance. This could also be seen as Blanche attempting to assert some form of control over Mitch by seducing him, as he seems to be very enamoured with her. The word ‘gallantry’ has connotations of being brave and strong; all the qualities a ‘real man’ should have, and Blanche uses this word to describe Mitch. Again this suggests that she is looking for a man whom she can depend on.

·         Pg 152 – “Drunk – drunk – animal thing, you! … You lay your hands on me and I’ll – ” – Once again Stella’s attempt to remonstrate with Stanley is immediately undermined as she is shown to be backing away after she says this.

·         Pg 154 – while it is possible to view Stanley as emasculated here when he is crying out for Stella a more plausible interpretation is that this excessive remorse is just another example of how Stanley’s character is one of extremes, varying from violence to regret within a matter of minutes. Here Williams may be revealing the more animalistic, immoderate behaviour of the working classes which violently swings from one extreme to the other with little notice – we see this repeated again later in the play with Steve and Eunice after their fight. This interpretation is reinforced by Stella’s lack of lines when she comes back to Stanley, suggesting that he remains dominant throughout, as well as the ending of the scene which sees Stanley carry Stella into the apartment where they will make love. Passionate violence having been transformed into passionate lust by way of passionate regret.

·         Pg 155 – “I’m terrified!” “Ho-ho! There’s nothing to be scared of.” – Blanche is playing the weak, frightened female role while Mitch takes the role of the fearless, protective male. Blanche could be feigning her fear (although this is probably unlikely) in which case it is ironic that she needs to act like a weak female in order to be the stronger character.


Declining upper class vs. burgeoning working class

·         Firstly, the playing of poker itself indicates the lively atmosphere that these people have, opposed to the aristocratic society.

·         Pg 150 – “I’m very adaptable – to circumstances.” – Blanche came from a higher social standing and is not used to the kind of men that she encounters while staying with Stella. The loss of the family home and wealth forces Blanche to lower her usual standards and this may be why she finds Mitch attractive. She feels that he is “superior” to the others and this shows that she still does retain an aristocratic attitude by judging people based on their status.

·         The sister’s conversation reflect the theme of rich aristocratic societies verses the simple basic immigrant lives as Stella’s old values are echoed in her dialogue; “[with girlish laughter] You ought to see their wives.” This comparison indicates how Stella may always have some part of her past present in her.


Pleasant dreams vs. ugly reality

·         Pg 154 – [Her eyes go blind with tenderness] - Even after Stanley has hit her (and it was implied by Mitch that this wasn’t the first time) Stella still decides to return to him. The word ‘blind’ is a very clear reference to how Stella seems unable to see the exploitative nature of the relationship that she is in.


Loneliness/longing for love:

·         In this scene, Blanche is portrayed as being desperate as she is trying to attract Mitch. This can also be seen as her being lonely and longing for love. With this interpretation, the audience can feel sympathy for her as she just wants a companion and perhaps they audience can forgive her slightly manipulative ways to look like a woman in need of a man to look after her.

·         The theme of loneliness is reflected by Mitch’s need to go home early to assist his ailing mother. Both Blanche and Mitch have lost a loved one and thus further demonstrates their desperation to find a replacement.


The Destructive Nature of Desire

·         Physical love being destructive is revealed with the reunion of Stella and Stanley with, “low animal moans.” It is disturbing that after such horrific violence experienced by Stella, her love is so strong that she comes back to Stanley, illuminating this slightly insane side of physical animalistic love





Stanley Is portrayed as the strong, dominant male, who we now see as the potential villain in this play, as he is unable to control his violence. Williams uses Stanley to portray how manly characters are very egotistical and believe that they are always correct. The structure of this scene shows the progression of Stanley’s violence as at first it is a innocent slap on his wife’s thigh, followed by throwing the stereo out and ending with hitting his wife, an increasing violence which foreshadows the later events of the play.

·         Pg 144 – “Aw, for God’s sake, go home, then!” – Stanley is seen to be impatient with Mitch the moment he shows a little care and concern for his mother. This fits the stereotypical view that men have no tolerance for emotion or sensitivity of any kind.

·         Pg 145 – “Where you been?” “Till we get ready to quit.” – Stanley’s lines in response to Stella are short and curt and these show Stanley’s control and power in the relationship. He immediately asks Stella where she had been and the audience can detect a sense of possessiveness about his character. Stanley again can be seen as the dominant male as he refuses to let Stella dictate when he stops playing poker and brushes her off by saying “Till we get ready to quit.”

·         Pg 147 – “Well, you can hear me and I said to hush up!” – Here Stanley reasserts his control over Stella and Blanche, the two women in the apartment, by preventing their talking.

·         Pg 148 – “[yelling] Sit down!” – Stanley is once again seen as a dominating character, here in his relationship with his friend Mitch. The imperative, along with the monosyllabic short line make the words seem harsh and highlight the extent to which Stanley has control in this environment.

·         Pg 151/152 – Stanley throws out the radio and hits Stella. The physical violence depicted here portrays Stanley as being a rash, unpredictable character that resorts to being violent to satisfy his personal wants.


Stanley as the vulnerable and pathetic male

·         Pg 153 – [Stanley comes out of the bathroom dripping water and still in his clinging wet polka dot drawers]. – This image that the audience are given presents Stanley in a different light, as he looks vulnerable and incapable of the violence he had previously shown towards Stella.

·         Pg 153 – “My baby doll’s left me!” [He breaks into sobs.] – This is a drastic contrast to his previous temper. However, the audience may not feel sympathy for Stanley as they had just seen him hit Stella and it is more likely that this is meant to be interpreted as another example of Stanley’s extreme behaviour – this time an extreme of regret



Stella remains a passive, submissive character, who at points threatens her husband, “if you lay your hands on me I’ll…” but is quickly overpowered. Stella is a tool used to represent the oppression of women present in America at the time.

·         Pg 145 – [Sharply] “That’s not fun, Stanley.” – Stella is shown here to assert a little power by telling Stanley off. This power is undermined when Stanley’s friends laugh at her and she does not retaliate and instead, goes into the bedroom.

·         Pg 147 – “This is my house and I’ll talk as much as I want to!” – This line conveys a strong sense of power and control and this is one of the few times when Stella’s assertion of herself is not undermined.

·         Pg 152 – “Drunk – drunk – animal thing, you! … You lay your hands on me and I’ll – ” The second part of this quotation sounds like Stella is threatening Stanley but her backing away reveals her fear and undermines any sense of real authority.

·         Pg 154 – Stella had previously said, “I want to go away, I want to go away!” (Pg 152) and this shows her standing up for herself and by doing so, gaining the upper hand over Stanley. However, she is shown to be weak as she forgives Stanley and returns home with him.

·         Throughout the scene Stella is portrayed as a character struggling to gain a sense of control, or at least an equal standing, in the relationship but constantly failing.



She is seen as a flirtatious character in this scene as she is very friendly with Mitch. Again desperation is shown here. Blanche intentionally moves into the light when she is undressing so as to be noticed. This is a manifestation of Blanche’s desire to be the centre of attention, and her use of her body to attract attention foreshadows her later attempts to seduce Mitch. Blanche lies about her age saying, “Stella is my precious litter sister. I call her little in spite of the fact that she’s somewhat older than I,” and that she “came down to help her for a while.” On the other hand, there is something very sincere about Blanche's affection and kindness. She lies, but never with the intent to hurt. She seeks to become what she thinks will please others. We sympathize her for this and again her character is used to portray the desperation of women is a restrictive society, where beauty has a significant stance.

·         Pg 144 – “Wait till I powder before you open the door.” – This is evidence that Blanche is overly obsessed with her image and with her appearance and shows how superficial she can be.

·         Pg 146 – “That one seems – superior to the others.” – Blanche is shown to still be concerned with status and social standing and only appears to be attracted to Mitch, as he looked “superior” to the others.

·         Pg 146/147 – Blanche undresses in the light of the portieres and pretends not to notice (“Oh, am I!”). She is presented here as being desperate as she is resorting to measures such as these to attract men.

·         Pg 148 – “[She has slipped on the dark red satin wrapper.]” – This description portrays Blanche as the flirtatious seductress. The colour red has connotations of romance and passion and thus makes it seem as though she is deliberately trying to gain Mitch’s attention.

·         Pg 149 – [reading with feigned difficulty] – This again portrays her as playing a weaker female role in order to attract a protective male such as Mitch. This manipulation gives her more power.

·         Pg 149 – “The little there is belongs to people who have experienced some sorrow.” – This quotation creates the impression that she herself has experienced sorrow, which we learned about in scene 2 where she talks about the boy who loved her, which creates sympathy for her.

·         Pg 149 – “I’m not accustomed to having more than one drink.” – This obvious lie presents Blanche as an alcoholic and shows how she lies to preserve her image as a dainty, feminine figure. This suggests that perhaps some of Blanche’s other actions may have been a show to maintain a clean image and does not reflect her true character.

·         Pg 150 – “Put it over the light bulb! Will you, please?” – The fact that the imperative comes before her politely requesting Mitch to carry out the task reminds the audience of her aristocratic background as it suggests that she is used to ordering people to do things for her. The question following this imperative makes her seem as though she is trying to gain Mitch’s favour by making her seem as the weak female who needs someone else to take care of her.

·         Pg 150 – “I’m an old maid schoolteacher!” – Blanche is fishing for compliments and this shows her insecurities and fears about her appearance.

·         Pg 152 – “I want my sister’s clothes! We’ll go to that woman upstairs!” – Blanche seems to be showing genuine concern for her sister and this redeems her character slightly and we see her capable of making quick, sensible decisions

·         Pg 154 – “[…She looks right and left as if for sanctuary…”] – This quotation creates a sense of sympathy for her as she seems lost and vulnerable. It also echoes one of the possible reasons for having come to Elysian Fields: she is looking for a new home now that she has lost Belle Reve.



A new character is explored in detail in this scene. In some ways Mitch is similar to Blanche, being lonely and perhaps desperate but Mitch’s experiences have engendered in him a strong sincerity and he acts practically and thus we sympathize with him more as Blanche tries to take advantage of his vulnerability.

·         Pg 144 – “All the while I keep wondering how she is.” – Mitch shows sensitivity here and the audience sees him as being slightly different from the other men as he openly shows concern for his mother and is perhaps less rough and “macho” as the other men.

·         Pg 146 – Stella and Blanche’s discussion about Stanley and Mitch’s jobs – this conversation revealed that Stanley is “superior” (pg. 146) to Mitch in terms of his “drive” (pg. 147), Mitch is superior to Stanley in terms of his sensitivity.

·         Pg 148 – “[MITCH laughs uncomfortably and continues through the portieres…]” – This quotation may present him as weak as, even though Stanley’s condescending comment has insulted him, he does not attempt to defend himself.

·         Pg 150 – Mitch’s lines are mostly short, monosyllabic words and these could show his interest in Blanche as he is willing to let her talk while he listens. This again sets him apart from the other men as he, in contrast to Stanley, does not just brush off a woman when she is talking. It also creates an impression of simplicity about Mitch which suggests he will be easily taken advantage of by Blanche.

·         Pg 150 – “I guess we strike you as being a pretty rough bunch.” – This quotation shows that Mitch is self-aware, thus making him seem superior to the other men.

·         Pg 152 – “Poker should not be played in a house with women.” – again we see a sensitive side to Mitch as he appears to be aware that there are certain rules about behaviour that should be followed and some things that should not be done in front of women. This harks back to the values of the aristocratic society which Blanche represents and suggests that those values are not completely lost in the new world of Elysian Fields. However, Mitch’s utter insignificance in comparison to Stanley (after all it is eventually Stanley who will eventually have rape Blanche where Mitch is unable to) reveals how gentile ideals have little influence in the world of 1940s America.

·         Pg 152 – “Get him in here, men.” – Mitch had previously been seen as the weaker male in the group. However, when Stanley hits Stella, the audience see Mitch take control of the situation. This could be Mitch’s real character and suggests that he may only assert his control and power if the situation demanded it, as opposed to being a powerful character all the time like Stanley, even in small petty situations.

·         Pg 155 – “There’s nothing to be scared of.” – This line presents Mitch as being strong and he is shown to feel protective about Blanche as this line was said to reassure Blanche. Although, tragically, it also reveals how common domestic violence is in Elysian Fields and how accustomed people have become to it

·         The audience get a generally good impression of Mitch in this scene as he is shown to be caring, strong, and protective.




·         Pg 155 – “Such a pretty silver case.” – Blanche appears to be more concerned with the silver case as she says this line when Mitch is asking her to sit with him on the steps, further emphasised by the fact that she already pointed this out earlier (“What a pretty case. Silver?” – Page 149). This reflects how she is superficial and is concerned with outward appearances and materialistic things. The ‘silver’ also has connotations of being more sophisticated than another metal such as ‘tin’ and could explain why Blanche focuses on the “pretty silver case”.

·         The image of Blanche standing p. 146 “in her pink brassiere and white skirt in the light,” is important as this is the only time so far we see her seeking the light, suggesting her desperation as she shows off her body to entice Mitch. This is also seen when she dances in front of him once again and begins to “waltz[es] to the music with romantic gestures.” The contrast to the description of Blanche dancing to Mitch’s dance when he p. 151 “moves in an awkward imitation like a dancing bear” also highlights the contrast between the upper and lower class as Blanche is the only one who is experienced with this dance form usually seen in aristocratic parties.

·         Violent imagery is present throughout the whole scene, finally ending with “the sound of blow” when Stanley hits his wife.

·         Pg 154 – “[…There he throws his head back like a baying hound and bellows his wife’s name…”] – The animal imagery created here works to show Stanley’s strength and makes him seem more rough and wild violent. There is also animal imagery when Stella and Stanley reunite as this is done with, “low animal moans.”




This scene is set in the Kowalskis’ apartment and once again we see how being inside does not afford any safety or refuge. Stanley reacts quite violently and hits Stella. In addition the poker night has the ambience of the “lurid nocturnal brilliance, the raw colours of childhood’s spectrum,” and the variety of colours present indicates this lively and energetic reality. This is further emphasized by the “yellow linoleum,” and the “vivid green glass shade,” highlighting the basic and simple life that creates this atmosphere as well as the music which is heard throughout the scene (“The ‘blue piano’ plays for a brief interval”, “the low clarinet moans”. The men are said to “wear coloured shirts” emphasising their strength and again showing freedom to be active and “at the peak of their physical manhood, as coarse and direct and powerful as the primary colours.” This mirrors the social changes in America during this time, when the set of aristocratic values represented by Blanche were giving way to a new, vibrant, young life making its mark on America. Making the “bedroom relatively dim,” and relying on the “light that spills…through the wide window on the street,” reflects how open this society is, where people on the outside can see in, thus an important motif of how the inside and outside merge with each other in the household.



Relation of part to whole:

This scene comes after scene 2, which is where the audience find out that Stella is pregnant. This makes Stanley’s physical violence towards her all the more shocking and the audience are less likely to feel sympathy for him. The tension created at the end of this scene due to violent interaction between Stanley and Stella may foreshadow similar interactions in the future, e.g. Blanche’s rape. This scene also presents Stella as being weak, as she returns to Stanley after the violence, and this is carried forth into the next scene where Stella makes up excuses to pardon Stanley’s behaviour. The scene is also significant as it develops Mitch’s character as he plays a prominent role for the first time.


This scene develops two key relationships. Firstly, the interaction between Stanley and Stella which develops Stanley’s character in that we see his violent nature as well as the fact that he does have some weaknesses (seen when he is calling out for Stella). It also develops Stella’s character as we see that even when she does take some step towards taking control, she loses her confidence and her love for Stanley stops her from taking any drastic measures, e.g. leaving him as she had threatened to do so.


Secondly, the interaction between Mitch and Blanche is important as it allows the audience to become acquainted with Mitch who is a prominent character in this scene: we learn that is mature, and protective, and seems to contrast Stanley’s rough demeanour. Blanche’s character is further developed through the descriptions of her flirtatious actions, e.g. dancing and standing while half-clothed where the men can see her, as well as when she is flirting with Mitch. We also see Blanche in a sensitive and vulnerable light when Blanche talks to Mitch on the steps, a view of what we have seen of her in earlier scenes and which reflects how she would rather hid in pleasant dreams than face ugly realities.