A Streetcar Named Desire: Scene Notes – Scene 5


·        Blanche breaks out in laughter at her letter to Shep Huntleigh, encouraging Stella to ask about the contents of the letter. Blanche reads the letter aloud, in which she suggests visiting Shep in Dallas, and also announces that she and Stella have been attending society parties and visits to country homes.

·        Here Blanche lies in order to establish the façade of a genteel life for herself and her sister, hoping that these lies will maintain the illusion of their aristocratic status. Blanche writing to her high school sweet heart, shows her loneliness in New Orleans and desperation as she feels that he is the only one who can help her escape.

·        The conversation is interrupted by the sound of Steve and Eunice fighting in the apartment above. Eunice accuses Steve of being unfaithful, claiming she is going to the police however Stanley says he just saw Eunice at a bar around the corner. Steve later follows finding Eunice at the bar. This re-emphasises the violence and passion that permeates the lives of those in Elysian Fields, and the fact that Steve and Eunice can be overheard so clearly reflects the idea that the walls are permeable and that there are limitations to the safety and privacy that can be found in the Kowalski home. Finally the fact that Eunice did something ‘practical’ and went to a bar rather than to the police shows that Elysian Fields is a place where practical realities have replaced ideals. The characters in Elysian Fields cope with the ugly truths of their lives rather than trying to make them better or polishing over them like Blanche does.

·        Blanche subtly insults Stanley’s lower class status with superficially charming compliments. He has learnt of Blanche’s past and asks her if she knows a man named Shaw. Blanche becomes evasive. Stanley says that Shaw claims Blanche was often a customer at a small hotel with a reputation for indecency. Blanche denies the accusations. Eunice and Steve come back to the apartment; Stanley goes to the bar, asking Stella to meet him there.

·        Steve and Eunice’s quick make-up after their argument shows that Stella and Stanley’s relationship, one punctuated with violence followed by passionate intimacy, is the norm in this society. The mention of Shaw suggests Blanche’s shady past and the idea that she will not be able to escape from the truths that she has left behind there and from which she is trying to run.

·        Stella doesn’t notice Blanche’s shaken state of mind. Blanche demands to know what people have been saying of her, confessing she had behaved inappropriately during the past few years, which implies that she has been sleeping around. She criticizes herself for not being self-sufficient, describing herself as ‘soft’ and admits she no longer has her youthful appearance. Blanche puts alcohol into her Coke and although Blanche tries to help herself, Stella insists on pouring for her as it ‘reminds her of their childhood’. Stella accidentally spills some Coke on Blanche’s dress and she reacts hysterically. Blanche promises to leave soon.

·        Blanche, nervous about her date with Mitch, explains she hasn’t been honest with him about her age. Blanche claims she needs Mitch for protection and as an escape from Elysian Fields. Stella assures Blanche that things will work out. Stella, Eunice and Steve go to the bar.

·        Blanche’s desires to not reveal her past to Mitch makes us further suspicious about her past in Mississippi and her truthfulness.

·        Blanche answers the door to a young man who is there to collect payment for the newspaper. Blanche flirts with him, offering him a drink, declaring that he looks like an Arabian prince, then kisses him on the lips and sends him off. Mitch later appears with a bunch of roses. This reveals Blanche’s nature that she is lustful underneath her conservative façade. Blanche condemns Stanley and Stella’s sexual relationship however here we see she is being hypocritical, and inappropriate, by the way she acts around the newspaper boy. The phrase ‘keep my hands off children’ foreshadows Stanley’s revelation about why she had to leave her job as a school teacher in Laurel.



Motifs, Themes & Connotations:


·        It is suggested that Eunice is having trouble with Steve, shown through the stage directions ‘Eunice’s voice shouts in terrible wrath’ indicating her rage and anger towards her husband Steve, claiming him to have been unfaithful to her.

·        We find Blanche in conflict with Stanley as he questions her about her acquaintance with Shaw. This is important as it reveals that Stanley is the first person to actually see through Blanche’s façade. The stage directions: ‘Her face expresses a faint shock.’ reveal the unsettling effect that this has had on her.

·        Although not a physical conflict, the difference between the opposing backgrounds of Blanche and Mitch are made obvious when she says: ‘Look who’s coming! Mr. Rosenkavalier! Bow to me first! Now present them!’ – This clearly shows a difference in status between the two different people. Mitch, comes from a working class background whereas Blanche comes from a well educated family. The different levels of the characters at the point of bowing indicate this hierarchy of status.

·        The conflict between Eunice and Steve is also reflected through this scene, beginning with a fight and ending with their eventual reconciliation. This relationship reveals key points about the society, as it seems to be similar to that of Stella and Stanley’s relationship, where they fight in a loud and possibly violent manner, yet soon seem to return back to normal as ‘Eunice shrieks with laughter and runs down the steps. Steve bounds after her with goat-like screeches and chases her around the corner.” (p.172) Furthermore, Stella’s calm response to this argument “she and Steve had a row” shows that this type of situation is quite normal as and even though it seems quite dramatic as Eunice threatens to “call the police”, the other characters do not interfere and are not concerned or alarmed. This argument also reflects the extremely intense lifestyle in this society, thus depicting the kinds of vibrant, raw and animalistic relationships common in this society. The different reactions towards this argument by Blanche and Stella further reflect their characters, as Blanche seems excited by the situation as she says ‘brightly’ ‘did he kill her?’, in contrast to Stella’s understatement, revealing how she has accepted and is used to this society.


Loneliness and the need for Protection:

·        Blanche writes letters to Shep, her high school sweetheart, in which she embellishes facts about herself in order to create a respectable façade to present to him. There is also a sense in which she is trying to make this illusion real for herself

·        Blanche briefly reveals her misdeeds from her ‘last two years or so, after Belle Reve had started to slip’ away from her. She says ‘I never was hard or self-sufficient enough’ and here we being to learn of Blanche’s experiences and sullied reputation, although the pathos created does evoke sympathy for her as we see her (or at least she paints herself) as the victim of a cruel, harsh and unloving world. Although sex is not explicitly mentioned, it is implicitly suggested through her long speech to Stella announcing her reasons for her actions – ‘I’ve run for protection’, ‘It isn’t enough to be soft’

·        Blanche’s desires to ‘have’ Mitch are expressed; although it seems that she desires him more for the protection that he can offer her from the harsh world than out of true love. This is implied in Blanche’s selfish ‘I want to rest! I want to breathe quietly again! Yes – I want Mitch… very badly! Just think! If it happens! I can leave here and not be anyone’s problem…’ – the use of ‘if’ suggests a kind of desperation – as if she is clinging to a fragile hope.

·        On pg.169 Williams evokes sympathy for Blanche by portraying her as weak and vulnerable: I’ve run for protection, Stella, from under one leaky roof to another…People don’t see you men don’t-don’t even admit your existence unless they are making love to you. And you’ve got to have your existence admitted by someone…’ This not only evokes sympathy for Blanche but also represents women’s dependence on men in the play and the society of the time. Blanche further shows that this dependence is not only for financial security but further for happiness and indeed life itself.


Fantasy’s Inability to Overcome Reality

·        (pg.165) Blanche: ‘Darling Shep. I am spending the summer on the wing, making flying visits here and there. And who know, perhaps I shall take a sudden notion to swoop down on Dallas!’ When Blanche is writing her letter to Shep she finds herself telling lies about what she has been up to the past few months. ‘…Most of my sister’s friends go north in the summer but some have homes on the Gulf and there has been a continued round of entertainments, teas, cocktails, and luncheons –‘: As the audience we oscillate between finding Blanche’s lies pathetic, after all she is attempting to seduce this Texas oil millionaire into helping her, and feeling sympathy for her as she is unable or unwilling to admit that she can no longer take part in the indulgences of the wealthy, such as ‘spending summer on the wing.’ Obviously, looking at her surroundings and her dependence on Stella and Stanley she will be doing no such thing. Beyond this tension in Blanche’s character we can see that Shep is another male figure in the play that Blanche is appealing to. Thus, there is the reoccurrence of the idea of female dependence on men for financial (and other) security.

·        Stanley attempts to unsettle Blanche’s by asking about a man named Shaw, indicating that he knows about her shady past and that the illusion of gentility which she has surrounded herself with will soon be challenged by the ugly truths that Stanley has learnt from his contacts. In response, and with a touch of desperation, Blanche tells Stanley that he has been told lies and that she would never be seen in a hotel like ‘The Flamingo’; however, her nervous appearance implies that she is lying. Stanley knows the truth and so does Blanche. Stanley seems to the first character of the play to see through Blanche’s ‘show’ as he slowly acquires information about Blanche’s past from Shaw.

·        Blanche’s ‘…Of course he – he doesn’t know – I mean I haven’t informed him – of my real age!’ implies that Blanche is sensitive about her appearance. She feels her appearance/beauty is the only thing going for her as she constantly needs reassurance that she maintains a particular ‘young’ appearance.

·         ‘I want to deceive him enough to make him – want me…’ Although her manipulation of Mitch is selfish, there is pathos in Blanche’s implicit admission that she does not believe herself truly worthy of someone to love her.

·        (pg.169) the discussion between Blanche and Stella is important relating to this theme, as Blanche suddenly defends herself through her long speech. ‘Men don’t – don’t even admit your existence unless they are making love to you. And you’ve got to have your existence admitted by someone’, here Blanche reveals her emotional need to be recognized and we feel sympathy towards her as women seem to merely be a tool used by men for pleasure, a tool which only ‘exists’ if a man recognizes them. Throughout this speech by Blanche we see her at her most honest and vulnerable; this tragic manner creates sympathy for her and reflects her loneliness and ultimate need for constant comfort from men. Blanche believes that you have to ‘put a – paper lantern over the light’ revealing the idea of pleasant dreams verses reality, as she is covering the light / the truth and reveling her inability to face the truth. Furthermore, throughout this speech she reveals that she is fading and that she is putting up appearances, one again revealing Blanche as an honest character who knows her that she uses her looks for seduction but who is now, again tragically, aware that this power of hers is fading. While we are aware that Blanche did use her sexuality for comfort and that she continues to live this ‘pleasant dream’ and create ‘temporary magic’. the majority of the audience probably do sympathise with Blanche’s idea of trying to add ‘magic’ to the ugly reality and this reveals how Williams possibly appreciates her motives for lying as she is attempting to make the world a better place.

·        The presence of paper particularly at the start of this scene is also related to the theme of inability of pleasant illusions to overcome the ugly reality. The letter that Blanche is writing at the start reflects how paper is used to hide reality and lie. It is similar to the legal documents present at the start of the play concerning Belle Reve, while the legal documents detailing the sale of the Belle Reve estate are true they reveal that Blanche’s pretentions and aristocratic grandeur are all unfounded. Therefore the presence of paper here suggests the deterioration of the upper class since Blanche only appears to be wealthy on paper, thus depicting the decay of the ideals of the upper class and the possible decay of Romance. 

·         Finally, Blanche’s physical attraction towards the young man enhances the idea of a pleasant dream and temporary magic as she describes him as a ‘Prince out of the Arabian Nights’ which is representative of her constant attempt to Romanticize things by depicting them as more attractive than they really are. This ‘dressing up’ of events and attempts to romanticize them, contrasts to Stella and Stanley’s relationship, which is blunt but pure.


The Destructive Nature of Desire/ Sexuality/ Lust

·        Blanche seems to be leading Shep on in her letter as she flirts with the idea of swooping down to Dallas to see him, thus emphasizing her lustful and flirtatious nature with men. The idea of swooping here seems almost predatory.

·        Blanche’s flirtatious and lustful actions towards the young newspaper man slowly begin to reveal her true sexual desires. This incident reveals that Blanche’s conservative and proper faced covers a lustful nature; ironically, it is Stella’s sexual relationship with Stanley that Blanche condemns; however we learn at this point that she is just the same, perhaps worse than her younger sister and that she is hiding the truth of her past. Here we again see Blanche in the role of wicked temptress and the line ‘I’ve got to keep my hands off young boys’ foreshadows Stanley’s later revelations about the reasons for Blanche’s dismissal from the school in Laurel. Blanche’s attraction to her husband broke her heart, her attraction to other men (especially the soldiers near Belle Reve) destroyed her reputation in Laurel, her attraction to the schoolboy ended her career there and her final partial attraction to Stanley (and in particular) his attraction to her will be what eventually steals her sanity. Beyond this, this incident in the play goes to show the audience that Stella uses younger man as a means to build her own self-esteem and comfort herself as her looks have begun to fade. The scene ends with Mitch’s arrival and Blanche says “look who’s coming! Bow to me first! Now present them.” The contrast between this behaviour and her obvious lust for the newspaper boy emphasises Blanche’s deceitful nature and the sympathy we feel for Mitch.

·        Although Blanche admits that she ‘want(s) Mitch…very badly!’ (p.171) it would be a mistake to interpret this as a sign of passion, it is a more a hunger for protection and shelter.



·        Stanley comes around the corner in his green and scarlet silk bowling shirt’ – the hideous appearance of his shirt colour suggests his gaudy and low status but at the same time its bright vibrancy suggests life, energy and vitality – in contrast to the exhausted and washed out whiteness of Blanche

·        Blanche: ‘Right on my pretty white skirt!’ – The connotations of the colour white suggest purity. However, in this case, we as the audience know that Blanche is not so pure and therefore find this ironic. The fact that her skirt is ultimately unstained merely suggests her ability to hide her past reputation, her lies and her drinking problems.


·        Stanley: ‘Naw. She’s getting’ a drink.’ – This suggests that the majority of the characters turn to alcohol when times fail with their relationships. This is further emphasized with Blanche’s drinking and later Stanley’s drinking after getting into an argument with Blanche. Alcohol represents a means of escape for nearly all the characters in the play. In Eunice’s case it is from domestic abuse. This type of escape is interestingly accepted when Stella says it is more practical than the police. In the case of Blanche her need to drink further shows her need to escape from her situation and reality in general, having just been questioned by Stanley.

·        Blanche: ‘Why, you precious thing, you! Is it just coke?’ – In this case, it is suggested that Blanche had prior alcoholic problems as she fails to have a drink without having a shot in her soda.




Blanche Dubois

Visits her younger sister, Stella, and her husband, Stanley, in New Orleans and stays with them throughout the summer. She is initially seen as a conservative, proper and condescending however, she drinks, smokes and tells lies to those around her. Stella loves her sister, though Stanley dislikes her, possibly because of the challenge she poses to his control of the house and the different value system she represents, which is at odds with his own. Blanche is overly concerned with her appearance, accessories and age and therefore doesn’t want to be seen in direct light. She has a romance with Mitch in this scene and once again the audience sees the precarious state Blanche is in. She fails to have a full grasp of reality and her surroundings. Beyond this, she is unable to admit her actions in the past as shown by her denials to Stanley in the scene. Furthermore, she has strong sexual urges as shown by the encounter with the newspaper boy, but she puts on the airs of a woman who has never known indignity.  From this scene above all else we find that Blanche avoids reality, preferring to live in her own imagination reaching into this escape again through drink.


Stella Kowalski

She is Blanches’ younger sister and the wife of Stanley’s, she moved to New Orleans from Mississippi when she was young and fell in love with Stanley. As the audience, we learn she is pregnant and is eventually torn between her love for her husband and devotion to her sister. Stella continues to be the gullible ‘foil’ to the other two characters as she represents the majority of us torn between the competing values represented by Blanche (the beautiful dreams / lies of aristocratic gentility) and Stanley (the vibrant, thrusting competitive nature of modern Capitalist America. Throughout this scene Stella is further contrasted with Blanche as Blanche constantly attempts to ‘dress’ events up, however Stella seems to accept the society she has chosen to live in, for instance as when the row between Eunice and Steve is occurring she does not interfere or seem disturbed or exited by the situation, unlike Blanche.


Stanley Kowalski

Stella’s husband, he is strong and good looking. He works in a factory and has had a limited education. He has trouble controlling his rage. However, he is ‘street smart’ and he is the first one to see through Blanche’s superficial appearance. He bowls, drinks and is in love with Stella. Stanley’s insistence on questioning Blanche about a man named Shaw and The Hotel Flamingo shows that he has a personal vendetta to discredit and do away with Blanche. Further Stanley is depicted as a shrewd individual. Although Blanche attempts to subtly insult his lower class position, by brushing off her statements then raising questions as to Blanche’s somewhat murky past Stanley asserts his authority and undermines Blanche’s remarks.



Mitch is a friend of Stanley’s from the factory who in this scene develops a romance with Blanche. For the majority of the play he is the object of sympathy as the audience see him beguiled and manipulated by Blanche. The end of this scene demonstrates how he is clearly being used to undermine Blanche’s character in our eyes as she takes advantage of his good natured gentility.


Shep Huntleigh

Although unseen throughout the play, Blanche is constantly mentioning him. He is now a Texas millionaire who Blanche used to date in college. Blanche believes that he will save her from the New Orleans trap that she currently lives in. In a sense he represents the dream world that Blanche wants to live and the fact that the audience is aware of the implausibility of him coming to rescue Blanche reveals how we are also aware that Blanche’s dreams of safety and happiness are unachievable.



A friend of Stanley’s who also remains unseen throughout the play. He knows of Blanche’s past and reputation, and tells Stanley much of the information he knows that he uses against her. In contrast to Shep, Shaw represents the intrusion of unwelcome realities / truths into Blanche’s life. In the end he (along with Stanley and Kiefaber) are the ones who tie a tin can to the tail of the kite of Blanche’s dreams.



Imagery & Setting:

Scene 5 of A Streetcar Named Desire is mainly set in the Kowalski household. Throughout this scene, we find that Blanche and Stella can hear Eunice and Steve arguing from their apartment above, emphasizing the idea that even the walls seem to be permeable, suggesting lack of privacy, safety, refuge and escape, the very things that Blanche is so desperately in need of.



Relation of Part to Whole:

This scene is important as we slowly begin to learn of Blanche’s past through the discussion with Stanley and her lustful actions towards the young newspaper man. Furthermore, the fight between Steve and Eunice and their reconciliation represents another example of the numerous instances of domestic abuse followed by forgiveness that we find throughout the play. This reveals the reliance of the women on men as they return despite the abuse. This is accentuated when Blanche’s desire for Mitch is revealed,  when she says ‘I guess I am just feeling nervous about our relations… men lose interest quickly…’ suggesting that she is afraid to lose him as she feels he is her escape from New Orleans and Mississippi. Furthermore, Blanche’s desire for Mitch also reflects her ultimate need for comfort and to have her ‘existence admitted by someone’. Though we feel deeply sympathetic towards Blanche in this scene as she seems to reveal and honest side of herself (p.169 speech) and further conveys her ideal of creating a better impression of reality through her self created ‘temporary magic’, this pathos is ultimately undermined due to manipulative nature. Finally, this scene additionally develops further the motif of drunkenness as both Eunice and Blanche turn to alcohol as means of escaping from distressing situations.