A Streetcar Named Desire: Scene Notes – Scene 4




·         The scene begins with Stella waking up relaxed the night after the fight with Stanley. She finds it normal to come back after the violence, whereas Blanche is hysterical and scared of Stanley. This reflects the clash in culture between the two sisters.

·         Stella protects Stanley, claiming that he hurt her unintentionally as he was drunk and she cleans up the mess from the night before. Although superficially this sounds loving it is probably being used by Williams as another example of how love can be destructive – in this case the passion that she feels for Stanley seems to have blinded Stella to the fact that she is in an abusive relationship. Alternatively Stella is perhaps being realistic while Blanche is being overly idealistic – however, given that we as the audience are probably not meant to find this kind of violence acceptable Williams may be suggesting how ideals like Blanche’s are the correct ones to have but that there is no place for them in the modern world of Elysian Fields.

·         Blanche thinks of wiring Shep Huntleigh for money in order to ‘escape’ so Stella doesn’t have to live this life. Here Williams presents the audience with a prime example of Blanche’s contradictory nature: she seems to realize the truth, both she and Stella are ‘trapped’ (possibly an entrapment that reflects the lives of most women at that time), however her solution reveals not only her further dependence on men (unable to ‘go it alone’ Blanche can only escape one man with the help of another) but also her desperation and the extent to which she is delusional as it is unlikely that her old boyfriend, now a Texan oil magnate, would be willing to help her out. These internal contradictions create a sense of pathos for Blanche – her tragedy is seeing the world too clearly, realizing its flaws and yet, because she is unable to do anything about it, the only solution she can find is to retreat into a better world of imagination, illusion and ultimately madness

·         Blanche’s materialistic nature is revealed as she says she would have married Shep if he didn’t have a wife already simply because he has money. This is another key moment because it shows how desperate Blanche is for money and an easy and dream like life.

·         Blanche writes a note to make herself and Stella sound helpless before she calls the operator for Shep. However, Stella makes it clear that she is not in anything that she wants to get out of which further emphasises the difference between the two sisters and the extent to which Stella has come to accept unacceptable behaviour as an inevitable downside of the passionate, colourful life she lives with Stanley.

·         We find that Blanche is has no money, Stella offers 5 dollars which Stanley gave to her in the morning to smooth the incident of the night before. Here we see not only how important money is to Blanche but, once again, how women only have access to money and means through men.

·         Blanche reveals what she feels about Stanley saying “he’s a madman” which reflects the tension between these two characters, and foreshadows their later conflict

·         Blanche reveals that she is ashamed to be in New Orleans where Stella lives. Reflecting how Blanche has been forced to come here. Hence possibly intimating that she had no choice but to leave Laurel.

·         Stanley hides outside the house as he comes back and overhears their conversation. Stanley hears Blanche insulting him and comparing him and his actions to one of an animal, claiming he is ‘a survivor of the stone age’ (163) but Stella listens to her unmoved.

·         The scene closely with Stanley entering under the noise of the train and embracing Stella, with a grin at Blanche which reflect a sense of victory as he knows that Stella will be more loyal to him (and his world, values and way of life) than she will be to her sister and, equally, the values and way of life that Blanche represents.



Motifs & Themes:

The contrast between the upper class and the working class

The opposing vies of Blanche and Stella (her a representing the working classes to which she has ‘converted’) are evident in this scene, as Blanche complains of the mess in the house “One tube smashed – beer-bottles – mess in the kitchen” (Page 158) and tells Stella that she wants to help her escape and will arrange for money, clearly suggesting she thinks that this is no way to live. Blanche not only hungers for luxury “It brought me here….where I’m ashamed to be” (Page 162), but she seems to be appropriately outraged by the domestic violence which Stella seems to accept as the inevitable downside of life with Stanley. Hence she says “I have to plan for us both, to get us both-out!” [pg161] but Stella merely replies [with a laugh] [pg160].


Moreover, Blanche speaks of her old college beaux, she tells Stella of her recent rendezvous with him, and she speaks of his wealth and fortune, “…literally spouting gold in his pockets” (Page 159). In contrast she expresses her low and demeaning opinion of Stanley, claiming “he’s common” (Page 153), depicting him as a caveman, the contrasting ways in which she speaks of the two men and the distinct opinions she has of them further makes the stark contrast between the two classes clear, in this scene.


Male dominance and the role of women in a patriarchal society

This theme runs throughout the play, however in this scene it becomes extremely clear as we see Blanche referring to an old beaux for help, “Darling Shep. Sister and I are in desperate situation…would you be interested in-” (Page 160). Similarly Stella claims “Stanley doesn’t give a regular allowance”, which suggests that she too is financially reliant on a man. The implication, however, is not just that men are the source of money but more that women are unable to act on their own without the protection of men – hence Blanche can only ‘escape’ from Stanley with Shep’s help. We see this echoed later in the play when Blanche likens Mitch to a ‘cleft’ in the rock of the world where she can shelter after having run from ‘one leaky roof to another’. Both metaphors refer to men as forms of shelter with Blanche’s previous lovers being merely temporary ‘leaky roofs’ only interested in casual sex while in contrast Mitch seems to offer a more permanent, secure and lasting haven.


An alternative view is that Blanche is manipulative and uses her sexuality to take advantage of men. She knows, for example, that she has to be careful when approaching Shep for money as ‘you never get anywhere with direct appeals’ and we see an even more coldly manipulative streak in her relationship with Mitch, whom we pity because he seems caring and genuine and less able to see through Blanche’s advances than Shep. Ultimately a Feminist reader might forgive Blanche her behaviour towards men as, in a male dominated world, what other tools does she have at her disposal with which she can look out for herself?


The Destructive Influence of Desire

The morning after all the hysteria, Blanche cannot believe that Stella slept with Stanley, “What you talking about is brutal desire” (Page 162). However, we see Stella is content with her husband and admits that she is thrilled by Stanley's sexual desires, which we discover is clearly what heightens Stella’s desire for him. Moreover, we see Stella embrace Stanley “…with both arms, fiercely, in full view of Blanche” (Page 164) in this scene. The fact that Stanley then grins at Blanche infers that he has control over Stella through his sexuality. Sexuality is what binds Stella and Stanley together.


Through out the play Williams makes several references to desire, in fact it is a physical desire which keeps Stanley and Stella together. In this scene, Blanche makes reference to the Streetcar named desire, “Desire! - the name of that rattle-trap street car that bangs through the Quarter…” (Page 162) which connotes how she feels desire leads an individual to the wrong places “It brought me – Where I’m not wanted and where I’m ashamed to be” (Page 162).


Williams uses this theme to foreshadow the eventual destruction of Blanche which happens as a result of at least three kinds of desire: firstly, her previous sexual promiscuity which forced her to leave Laurel; secondly her desire for a life of beautiful illusions similar to that of her aristocratic childhood which makes her unable to adapt to the ugly truth of the changing world which she now finds herself a part of and, finally, of the immediate desire that Stanley has for her in the rape scene.





Blanche depicts Stanley as a brute from the Stone Age on a ‘dark march’ to some kind of cultural, intellectual and moral oblivion. This may be Williams’ view and, if we sympathise with him and Blanche, then our opinion of Stanley is duly worsened. This view of Stanley is reinforced by the underhand way in which he listens in on their conversation and the sinister grin with which he ends the scene.


However, in contrast to Blanche’s opinions of Stanley our sympathy for him may actually increase. The fact that he heard Blanche referring to him as a brute and attempting to convince Stella to leave him perhaps justifies his future actions against her. This reading can be supported by the impression created of him as “He stands unseen by the women, holding some packages in his arms…wear[ing] an undershirt and grease stained seersucker pants” (Page 164). Here he is portrayed as a hardworking and assiduous man and his calm response to Blanche’s accusations as he does not challenge her when he enters the house reinforce this positive interpretation.


Ultimately, this reading seems the least convincing of the two as we are aware that Stanley has just beaten his pregnant wife and there is something cold and calculating about him as he stands on the porch which suggests his devious side. However, it does depend on how we view Blanche and how highly we value the set of ideals associated with Stanley (truth and vibrancy) over the value we place on the ideals that we associate with her: gentility and pretending that the world is a better place than it is.



Initially we see that she is unable to fit into this middle-class society and is ‘ashamed to be’ in this situation. The fact that she is unable to accept this is a clear indication of her previously upper-class lifestyle and her inability to adapt to a new way of living.


Blanche reveals a little bit about her own relationship with men, we discover how reliant she is on men and we learn of her materialistic and monetary concerns. We learn that she went on holiday hoping to “meet someone with a million dollars.” [pg159] and that only money matters to her as she would have married Shep already if he weren’t already wed: “Honey I wouldn’t have been here if that man weren’t married?” [pg160] this rhetorical question emphasizes how “indifferent I am to money” [pg160]. This is materialism is reinforced when she speaks of him as ‘literally spouting gold in his pockets’ and seems awestruck by his “Cadillac convertible; must have been a block long!” (Page 159). This also suggests her manipulative nature as she schemes to get them out of the situation.


Finally, the impression of Blanche as someone on the edge of a nervous breakdown is further reinforced by the desperation with which she scribbles out her note to Shep and her frantic tone when she says she has ‘got to keep thinking’ of a way out of here. This sense of impending insanity is accentuated by the short sharp questions in her speech such as “He’s left?...will he be back?” [pg156].



Although Stella returns to Stanley after his violent behavior, ironically in this scene, we see her as a stronger character, than previously. She justifies her return to Blanche by saying, “He was good as a lamb when I came back and he’s really very ashamed…” (Page 157), thus it is suggested that it’s not merely because she is reliant on him but because she loves him and it is his radical behavior that captured her heart. Furthermore, Stella is evidently assertive in this scene, “[Slowly and emphatically] I’m not in anything I want to get out of” (Page 158), as she tells Blanche she is happy with her husband, even when she “has listened gravely to Blanche”; she is calm and not manipulated by her sister. In this scene, we see her developed as stronger character than previously. However, there is clearly a sense in which this strength is misguided as it has taken Stella back into an abusive relationship. Perhaps Williams is simply portraying the reality of his times (domestic violence was common place),  perhaps this is a judgment on Stanley and the world and value system which he represents which is unacceptable but which is not being fought against, perhaps this reveals how women are dependent on men, perhaps it is being used to reveal the destructive nature of desire – this time it desire is blinding Stella to the true nature of her dangerous and ultimately sordid (although occasionally exciting) life with Stanley or finally, perhaps, it is another example of how we would rather take a pleasant illusion (a life where Stanley is a lamb who really does love Stella) over the ugly truth that he is a violent brute. In the latter case we can see that Stella shares with Blanche her preference for delusion and this perhaps foreshadows her decision to not believe Blanche’s story about the rape so that she is able to go on living with Stanley, a decision supported by Eunice who counsels her to never believe it.




Blanche, in this scene, gives crude depiction of Stanley “Bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle! … Maybe he’ll strike you or maybe grunt and kiss you!” The animalistic imagery is clear as she portrays him as a brute, “Somebody growls – some creature snatches at something – the fight is on” (Page 163). She uses the animalistic imagery to illustrate how unrefined she believes Stanley is and to convince Stella to leave him.



Relation to whole play:

This scene, in relation to the whole play is evidently significant. Although in the scenes prior to this one we have already seen an increase of tension between Stanley and Blanche, now we see the conflict between these two characters crystallise. The fact that Stanley has heard Blanche call him a savage and a brute in his own house, his territory, foreshadows the strong sense of resentment he will have towards her later in the play, and perhaps partially justifying his actions against her later on. His “grin through the curtains at Blanche” (Page 164) suggests the rivalry between these two characters. 


Furthermore, this scene once again highlights how Stella is a weaker character than Blanche, as she is seen speaking very little, and in a way is forced to listen to Blanche insulting her husband.


Perhaps the most significant speech in this scene is Blanche’s denunciation of Stanley (and the value system he represents) as something from the Stone Age on a ‘dark march’ towards oblivion in opposition to the truths of art, literature and culture with which Blanche feels she is aligned. This reflects the conflict between the two classes (and their respective value systems) that Williams sees being played out in the world him. On the one hand we have Stanley’s vibrant, lively, passionate world of the working class immigrants who will become the new driving force behind modern America, the downside of which is their coarse brutishness and violence. On the other hand we have Blanche who represents the fading aristocratic values of gentility, chivalry, intellectual enlightenment and ‘decent’ behaviour but the world she comes from is corrupt (witness her forefathers and their ‘epic fornications’), deceitful and manipulative. Each side has its drawbacks and ultimately Williams does not seem to either Stanley or Blanche … instead it appears he is simply reflecting in his play the changes he sees occurring in the world outside.