A Streetcar Named Desire: Scene Notes – Scene 6
· The scene opens with the return of Blanche and Mitch to Stella’s apartment from what appears to have been an amusement park. The mood appears to be somber as it is evident that Blanche ‘simply couldn’t rise to the occasion’ (p.175).
Blanche announces that she will soon be leaving as she feels
that she has overstayed her welcome, thus reemphasising the degree of tension
· An awkward moment ensues as Mitch asks Blanche whether he can kiss her goodnight as she had previously reprimanded him for attempting to kiss her. This image of purity that she attempts to uphold in Mitch’s presence serves to emphasise her duplicitous and calculating nature.
Blanche invites Mitch in for a night-cap as Stanley and
Stella are out; however she insists that they remain in darkness and pretend
that they ‘are sitting in a little artists’ café on the Left Bank in
· During their conversation, Mitch, obviously flustered by her presence, talks clumsily to Blanche about her weight and his perspiration, while she reveals her disdain for Stanley and emphasises her dire and, in her opinion, ‘pretty frightful situation’ (p.181) due to the fact that she ‘didn’t save a penny last year and so [she] had to come here for the summer’ (p.181). One interpretation of Blanche is that she is attempting to make Mitch aware of her situation and thus coerce him into marriage. Another interpretation is that she is desperate for recognition and acceptance, even from a man she does not like, which shows how low her self-confidence is.
· Despite Mitch’s questioning of her age, Blanche avoids the question and therefore reinforces her insecurities regarding her age.
· Blanche reveals her marriage and love for her dead husband, Allan, who ‘came to her for help’ however, she ‘didn’t know anything except [she] loved him unendurably but without being able to help him or help [herself]’ (p.183). The demise of their relationship due to her revelation that he appeared to be gay and her subsequent remark, ‘I know! I know! You disgust me…’ led to his suicide and gives the audience a unique insight into her as a character and many of the reasons for her current actions. This disclosure reveals the reasons behind her fear of light; however also indicates her vulnerability and consequently strengthens Mitch’s love and adoration for her.
Themes, Motifs and Connotations:
Conflict is prevalent throughout this scene regarding the interaction between males and females and the declining upper class and the burgeoning middle class. Within the scene Blanche undermines the stereotypical role of a weak and submissive female to a certain extent due to the fact that she appears to hold a greater degree of power and authority within their relationship as Mitch is forced to ask her for permission to kiss her when he states, ‘Can I – uh – kiss you – goodnight?’ (p.276). However, this power is undermined and she seemingly reverts back to a weak, dependent female at the end of the scene when ‘with a soft cry [she] huddles in his embrace‘ (p.184) thus reinforcing Williams’ perception of the gender roles within American society at the time. Moreover, a conflict is seen between the upper class and middle class as Blanche attempts to instill a degree of propriety in Mitch when she states, ‘Just because Stanley and Stella aren’t at home is no reason why you shouldn’t behave like a gentleman’ (p.179). Furthermore, Mitch is seen to be somewhat in awe of Blanche due to her upper class status when he states, ‘I like you to be exactly the way that you are, because in all my – experience – I have never known anyone like you’ (p.177). This thereby indicates a divide between the two classes and symbolises the conflict between them.
Destructive nature of desire/sex/passion
Throughout the scene Blanche is seen to allude to the destructive nature of desire, sex and passion. In response to Mitch’s attempts to kiss her, Blanche responds, ‘I was somewhat flattered that you – desired me! But, honey, you know as well as I do that a single girl, a girl alone in the world, has got to keep a firm hold on her emotions or she’ll be lost!’ (p.176). This quotation insinuates that one’s submission to desire has the potential to destroy the individual and thereby depicts its destructive nature.
Additionally, Blanche states regarding her feelings towards her husband, ‘I didn’t know anything except I loved him unendurably but without being able to help him or help myself’ (p.183). This love and passion for her husband eventually destroyed her and significantly altered her perception when she discovered that he was having an affair and was possibly gay. Moreover, in this instance, the audience is able to perceive that it was not only her desire and passion which was destructive, but, moreover, it was his passion and desire which destroyed her concept of reality, their relationship and his life.
Pleasant dreams vs. Ugly reality
Within this scene, the audience
witnesses Blanche’s attempts to create pleasant dreams in order to effectively
mask and enhance the ugly reality. The most obvious form of window dressing
that Blanche embarks upon is her attempt to pretend that they ‘are sitting in a
little artists’ café on the Left Bank in
In addition, the conflict between pleasant dreams and ugly reality is observed in the relationship between Blanche and her husband. When describing their relationship, Blanche states that she ‘didn’t know anything except [she] loved him’ thereby indicating that during their relationship she was living in a pleasant dream from which she was awakened by her discovery of the ugly truth that there were “two people” (p183) in the room that she “thought was empty” (p183). Moreover, Blanche indicates that she attempted to maintain her fantasy through the phrase ‘afterwards we pretended that nothing had been discovered’, thus indicating her desire and desperation to create and maintain a safe haven. However, this is eventually undermined by the death of her husband. Furthermore, Blanche is seen to contrast the pleasant image of her discovery of love with the ugly reality that she was ‘deluded’ indicating that one cannot escape from reality’s pursuit. Her love for him which she describes as ‘unendurable’ is juxtaposed with her discovery of his affair and his eventual suicide both of which emphasise the cruel nature of reality. Despite the fact that Blanche’s attempts to live in pleasant dreams generally undermine her character, it is apparent that in this instance, the harsh reality that she has been forced to endure evokes pathos for her as a character.
Light is used as a key motif throughout the play to represent truth and reality, therefore we can analyse each character’s approach to their living state – namely whether they live in the real world or in a superficial land of pleasant dreams – by observing their relationship with light. For example, Blanche avoids light whenever she can, thus indicating how she does not want to confront the harsh reality of her situation.
Avoidance of light
Within this scene, Blanche once
again indicates her desire to avoid the light, ‘Lets leave the lights off,
shall we?’ (pg.177) and will only allow Mitch to observe her in the soft and
forgiving light of a candle. The avoidance of light provides the audience with
an insight into the character of Blanche on many levels. Firstly, it enables
her to create a mood as she states, “we are going to pretend that we are
sitting in a little artists’ café on the Left Bank in
Furthermore, Blanche describes her discovery of love when she states, “It was like you suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been half in shadow, that’s how it struck the world for me” (p.182). Here unusually we do not see Blanche attempting to run from light, this time because it does not portray the truth but rather the strength of her love, which was overwhelming and seems to be a good thing. However, the fact that the romance ended in the death of her husband at which point Blanche states that “a searchlight which had been turned on the world was turned off again and never for one moment since has there been any light that’s stronger than this – kitchen – candle…” (p.184). suggests that now this light of love has gone out of the world. Now the only light in Blanche’s world is the one of ugly truths, which Blanche runs from, but while running from truth there is a sense in which she is also searching for a light, a spark, a love as powerful as that which she once new.
Loneliness and longing for love
Within this scene both Blanche and Mitch are portrayed as being lonely and longing for love. This is evident at the conclusion of the scene when Mitch states, ‘You need somebody. And I need somebody, too. Could it be – you and me, Blanche?’ (p.184). However, it could be argued that this phrase fails to indicate the presence of love and simply depicts loneliness and a relationship of necessity due to the fact that although Mitch seems to be in love with the idea of Blanche, Blanche simply wants the security of a man. For her it would be a marriage of convenience rather than one based on intense passion and physical desire for each other which is the case with Stella and Stanley.
Throughout the scene Mitch attempts
to illustrate his love and affection for Blanche, for example when he states,
‘Can I – uh – kiss you – goodnight?’ (p.276). However, his hesitation and
uncomfortable movements, illustrated by stage directions such as, ‘He
shuffles and coughs a little’ (p.176), indicates that he remains in an
inferior position of power and is somewhat apprehensive to act upon his
feelings. These actions enable him to be directly contrasted with
Furthermore, Blanche expresses a loneliness and longing for love throughout the scene. As a result of the loss of her dead husband who she loved and lost, Blanche indicates that she ‘understand[s] what that is [to be lonely]’ (p.182). However, it is apparent that although she once loved she does not have a longing for love, what she longs for is protection. Hence her response to Mitch’s request for them to be together Blanche ‘stares at him vacantly for a moment. Then with a soft cry huddles in his embrace…Her breath is drawn and released in long, grateful sobs’ (p.184). This therefore indicates that she perhaps does not love Mitch but simply sees him as a source of financial security and someone whom she can depend upon.
Images of and the effects of death are prevalent throughout this scene. Death is seen to connect both Mitch and Blanche as both are seen to have endured the death of a loved one. The impending death of Mitch’s mother is discussed within this scene and Mitch indicates, ‘She wants me to be settled down before she –‘ (p.182). Mitch’s relationship with his mother evokes pathos from the audience in that it elevates him above the other men and portrays him as sensitive and caring thereby further vilifying Blanche in her attempts to manipulate him.
Moreover, death is seen as a being a method of escapism regarding the suicide of Blanche’s husband. Through his death he was able to escape Blanche’s judgement and criticism which was evident when she stated, ‘I know! I know! You disgust me…’ (p.184). However, in addition, Blanche’s husband could be interpreted as somewhat cowardly as suicide is merely a way by which to avoid reality and the consequences of his actions. It is evident, that death has further reaching consequences in that the suicide of Blanche’s husband significantly altered her character as well as the way in which she perceived love, light and life. It could be therefore argued that his death may not only explain, but to a degree excuse her later behaviour with regard to love.
Although physical violence does not directly occur within this scene, it is apparent that its undertones resonate throughout the play. Within this scene Mitch states, ‘Just give me a slap whenever I step out of bounds’ (p.179). Despite the fact that this is clearly meant to be interpreted as a joke, it provides an insight into the nature of their relationship as well as the relationships of the other characters in the play. This statement insinuates that violence permeates every relationship in Elysian Fields, despite the fact that physical violence is not present within this relationship. Moreover, this statement indicates an inversion of the power dynamic which is prevalent within the other relationships due to the fact that Blanche, the woman, seems to be in control.
The character of Blanche is seen to
develop significantly and becomes increasingly complex within this scene.
Blanche’s monologue about her husband, the boy whom she loved and lost, enables
the audience to gain an insight into and an explanation for many of her later
actions: for example the way in which she views relationships, love and light.
Through phrases such as, ‘He came to me for help. I didn’t know that.’ as well
as ‘He was in the quicksands and clutching at me – but I wasn’t pulling him
out, I was slipping in with him!’ and ‘I didn’t know anything except I loved
him unendurably but without being able to help him or help myself.’, Blanche’s vulnerability
and to a degree naivety is evident, thus evoking pathos from the audience. The
repetition of the phase, ‘I didn’t know that’ may suggest that she is
attempting to distance herself from her role in his suicide and avoid
responsibility, despite the fact that she attributes his death to her statement
‘I know! I know! You disgust me…’ Alternatively, it may be an echo of the
confusion and bewilderment that she felt at the time. However, it is apparent
that she is not condemned for her role, due to the fact that her naivety, and
the fact that she was blinded by love and emotion, is clear. This expression of
emotion in her past, in turn, creates a clear comparison with Stella. Within
Stella’s relationship with
It is questionable as to whether Blanche’s relationship with her husband excuses her later actions and promiscuity. It is clear that this relationship had a profound influence on her life and has distorted the way in which she views men. It could be argued that the relationship explains her later promiscuity, due to the fact that the suffering she has endured as a result of love has caused her to avoid a relationship to which her emotions are tied or because she has been searching for some kind of love or companionship to fill the gap left by the death of her husband.
Moreover, Blanche indicates that as a result of her husband’s suicide ‘a searchlight which had been turned on the world was turned off again and never for one moment since has there been any light that’s stronger than this – kitchen – candle…’. This phrase causes us to question previous views about Blanche and her avoidance of light and delve deeper into her character, as it is apparent that it may not be simply due to her vanity. It could be argued that Blanche’s avoidance of the light is a means by which to avoid facing reality and serves as a form of escapism. Therefore, this indicates that escapism is prevalent on more than one level, as through the avoidance of light Blanche is able to maintain her youth and thus emphasise her vanity; however in addition avoid facing the cruel, harsh and unforgiving reality. Blanche’s attempts at escapism have a significant effect on the manner in which she is viewed by the audience as it may lead to her being perceived as weak, cowardly and pathetic. Alternatively, this could evoke pathos as it is apparent that she is merely a product of the way in which she has been treated by society and her past experiences.
Conversely, Blanche’s relationship with Mitch undermines, to a degree, much of the pathos an audience may feel towards her as she is seen to be deceptive, calculating and cunning through phrases such as “I guess it is just that I have – old-fashioned ideals! [She rolls her eyes]” (p180) ‘I don’t want you to think that I am severe and old maid school-teacherish’ and ‘It was this other little – familiarity – that I – felt obliged to – discourage’ (p.176). Moreover, she is seen to attempt to instill a degree of propriety in Mitch despite her previous promiscuity, thus emphasising her duplicitous nature and further undermining her character. However, it is apparent that Blanche’s sexuality remains just below the surface when she states in French, ‘Voulez-vous couches avec moi ce soir?’, thereby reemphasising the contrast between the way in which she wishes Mitch to perceive her and her true desires.
Ultimately, it is apparent that although Williams ensures that no character is truly heroic within the play by emphasising their flaws. In this scene the character of Blanche is redeemed to a certain extent and evokes sympathy and pathos from the audience due to the effect that the suicide of her husband obviously had on her.
Throughout this scene Mitch is portrayed as somewhat sensitive through his devotion to his mother. The phrase, ‘She wants me to be settled down before she –‘ in conjunction with the stage direction, ‘His voice is hoarse and he clears his throat twice, shuffling nervously around with his hands in and out of his pockets’ serves to endear the audience to him and causes him to be perceived as a sensitive and thus respectable man. The audience’s perception of Mitch emphasises the way in which individual characters alter the way in which other characters are viewed. For example, Mitch’s sensitivity due to his caring relationship with his mother serves to further vilify Stanley and many of the other male characters and thus causes Mitch to seem more virtuous in comparison.
Similarly, the development of
Mitch’s relationship with Blanche further alters the way in which the audience
perceives both him and her. Mitch is seen to hold little power within their
relationship and acts as though he is inferior to Blanche. This thereby serves
to invert the power balance that is seen within the other relationships within
the play. This is evident when he asks her for permission to kiss her when he
states, ‘Can I – uh – kiss you – goodnight?’ His hesitation may be perceived
shyness or perhaps as him attempting to behave in a gentlemanly manner;
however, alternatively it could reflect his inferior nature and lack of
‘manliness’ which is observed within
Allan (Blanche’s husband)
Although Allan, Blanche’s husband, is not physically present within the scene it is apparent that Blanche’s recollection of their relationship plays a significant role in explaining and to an extent redeeming her character. His suicide may cause him to be perceived as cowardly; however, it is his relationship with Blanche and its effect on her that causes him to become a key character. He is portrayed as the man who had been the ‘true’ love of Blanche’s life, meeting her at a point when she was young, vulnerable and naïve. The discovery of his homosexuality seems to have irreparably damaged Blanche’s self-esteem, courage and ability to face the harsh truths of the world. Hence, in a way, he was the one who ‘ruined’ Blanche and made her the truth-avoiding, fragile, duplicitous character she is now. However, it is clear that we don’t really hold him responsible for this as it was clearly not intentional and the image of him desperately struggling to get out of the ‘quicksands’ he was in suggests that he was just as confused by his sexuality as Blanche was and neither of them were able to deal with it effectively.
Blanche’s discovery of love
‘It was like you suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been in half shadow, that’s how it struck me.’ (p.182)
Light is generally perceived as an element which enables one to clearly perceive the world and reality. However, the juxtaposition of ‘blinding’ and ‘light’ illustrates that love inhibits one’s vision and thereby essentially prevents one from clearly viewing and interpreting the world. However, alternatively the phrase ‘blinding light’ could emphasise the strength of her passion. Light seems to also have a relationship with desire; her love for Allan was bright and although Blanche experienced this as a positive thing at the time, she also experienced the destructive nature of desires and this may also be why she despises bright lights now.
‘He was in the quicksands and clutching at me – but I wasn’t helping him out, I was slipping in with him!’ (p.183)
The image of quicksand indicates the lack of control that Blanche’s husband had over their situation. Moreover, the word ‘clutching’ has connotations of desperation and hopelessness and indicates his dire need to be rescued. Additionally, this image represents that love has the potential to entrap an individual and one gradually sinks deeper thus losing sight of reality and contributing to the sense that desires are essentially destructive. Indeed it could be argued that it is Allan’s suppressed and unacceptable homosexual desires and the desires of Blanche’s ancestors as suggested by their ‘epic fornications’ that are actually responsible for the destruction of Blanche.
‘And then the searchlight which had been turned on the world was turned off again and never for one moment since has there been any light that’s stronger than this – kitchen – candle…’ (p.184)
The light imagery within this quotation indicates the interjection of reality, through the presence of the searchlight, which is dimmed in order to allow fantasy to prevail. This phrase reflects the profound effect that Blanche’s husband’s suicide had over her due to the fact that these images have haunted her and forced her to conceal and hide from reality in an attempt to survive purely in a pleasant dream. Moreover, within this phrase light represents escapism as through the absence of strong light, Blanche is able to conceal and escape her true appearance and hide amongst dreams so as to avoid having to confront the harsh reality.
This scene opens outside the building on the porch rail and Blanche gazing at the stars ‘looking of the Pleiades and the Seven Sisters’. Blanche’s desire to find the constellations could be paralleled to her desire to window dress and enhance the world thus rendering it fantastical and pleasant. This is because constellations are simply an illusion designed to tell a story and thus create a dream world and this interpretation would support the idea that Blanche is desperately trying to make sense out of her turbulent reality. The stars may also signify how lonely Blanche is; stars exist individually in the expanse universe, reflecting how Blanche is also a lonely individual in the vast world.
Moreover, although this scene is set
Furthermore, the manner in which Williams intended the play to be set indicates the encroachment of the outside world inside the apartment and Blanche’s inability to hide from the truth even here. The phrase, ‘A locomotive is heard approaching outside. She claps her hands to her ears and crouches over. The headlight of the locomotive glares into the room as it thunders past.’ depicts the intrusion of the outside world and thus the inability of the characters to create a safe haven where they are protected by the world.
Relation of Part to Whole:
Ultimately, this scene is an integral part of the play and a pivotal moment as the nature of Blanche’s relationship with her dead husband is revealed, thus adding a further degree of depth to her character and potentially acting as a balance to the otherwise manipulative and deceitful character that we see in the play. Furthermore, the naïve and vulnerable side of her character which was evident during their relationship is contrasted with the calculating and irrational personality which she previously exhibited. Therefore, this scene plays a crucial role in that it forces the audience to reevaluate their initial perceptions of Blanche and thus possibly understand and feel pathos towards her. Additionally, this scene continues to emphasise Blanche’s duplicitous nature as she continues to manipulate Mitch which foreshadows the eventual demise of their relationship due to her promiscuity and the web of lies in which she has trapped herself.