A Streetcar Named Desire: Scene Notes – Scene 4
The scene begins with Stella waking up relaxed the night
after the fight with
· 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
Blanche reveals what she feels about
Blanche reveals that she is ashamed to be in
· 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
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
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 “
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
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.
However, in contrast to Blanche’s
Ultimately, this reading seems the least convincing of the two as we are aware that
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
Blanche, in this scene, gives crude
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
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