A Streetcar Named Desire: Scene Notes – Scene 7


·         It is Blanche’s Birthday, and Blanche is in the bathroom taking another bath.

·         Blanche appears to be relaxed, carefree and hopeful, this is shown by the lyrics to the songs she sings which are romantic and childishly gleeful.

·         Previously Stanley has heard about Blanche’s past from Shaw, a man he knows from work who travels to Stella’s and Blanche’s hometown in Laurel, Mississippi and he has know confirmed his information about Blanche’s bad reputation which he shares with Stella.

·         Stanley informs Stella that Blanche was asked to leave the hotel due to improper behavior.

·         Additionally, it becomes clear that Blanche was not given a leave of absence by her school, but in fact she was fired after a father reported that Blanche was having a relationship with a seventeen year old student.

·         Stanley makes it clear that the only reason Blanche has moved to New Orleans is because she had lost everything in her life (respect, reputation, residence and job) and that her aspirations to superiority are hypocritical.

·         Stella tells Stanley about Blanche’s  past as she was married to a homosexual man, implying that this experience unhinged Blanche somewhat and that she therefore deserves to be treated with some pity.

·         However, it is too late Stanley has already told Mitch about Blanche’s past and as a result he will not be coming to Blanche’s birthday dinner.

·         Stanley also reveals that he has bought Blanche a ‘birthday present’, which is a bus ticket to Laurel.

·         The scene ends with Stanley going into the bathroom and slamming the door whilst Stella lies to Blanche claiming that nothing is wrong.




Male vs female conflict

Stanley is once again the one in power in the scene. Although Blanche calls him common, the information he has discovered about Blanche could be said to give him the moral high ground. His possession of this knowledge reinforces the sense of superiority as the audience is made to see that he is only the one to have fully understood the truth about Blanche. For perhaps the first time we see Stella involved in an argument with Stanley “I don’t believe all of those stories and I think your supply-man was mean and rotten to tell them”, she is unwilling to surrender to Stanley’s description of Blanche; in some respects this could be seen as a victory for Stella because she is finally able to stand up to Stanley. However, the fact that she retreats in denial reminds us of Blanche, who does not want her pleasant illusions to be shattered, and therefore the weakness of women; this is further reinforced by the fact that Stanley is in fact right, and all Stella can do is childishly deny the truth about Blanche, even though she must half suspect that Stanley is right. Stanley is in this way seen as superior, as he has uncovered the truth about Blanche, even though she has desperately been trying to keep it secret.


The male / female conflict between Stanley and Blanche also continues when he evict Blanche from the bathroom, her place of refuge, at the end of the scene. The coarse and powerful lines "Hey, canary bird! Toots! Get OUT of the BATHROOM! Must I speak more plainly" (pg.191) which is littered with exclamation marks, emphasizes the dominant position of men over women. The fact that Stanley is able to so easily remove Blanche from the one place where she seems to feel safe and happy reinforces his strength and seems to foreshadow the fact that Blanche will ultimately lose the power struggle between the two of them.


Desire/Sex/Passion – Destructive

“But Sister Blanche is no lily! Ha-ha! Some lily she is!” Since her arrival Blanche has assumed an air of superiority in response to those around her. In particular she has tried to imply that she is not as base and crude as Stanley and that she is more refined and has higher ideals than him but we learn here that, in fact, Blanche is driven just as much by desire as any character and it is this desire which destroyed her standing in Laurel and resulted in her being forced to flee to New Orleans. An alternative reading is that Blanche was simply using her sexuality to find some security and comfort rather than being driven by desire, but it is still clear that sex and sexuality, whatever the motive, is what tarnished her reputation in Laurel.


Stanley, who Miller portrays as almost a wholly sexual and passionate being, is now especially derogatory towards Blanche, having realized that her superiority is merely something to hide behind while underneath she is just as base as he. Indeed, as is implied by the “seventeen-year-old boy- she’d gotten mixed up with!” Blanche may even be the more corrupt one of the two. Stella’s defence of Blanche once again reinforces this idea of the destructive nature of excessive passion when she says “I think Blanche didn’t just love him [her husband] but worshipped the ground he walked on!” Here it is implied that Blanche’s experiences with Allan Grey are what have made her, in Stella’s words, ‘flighty’ and it is clear that her intense love for Allan, which she likens in the previous scene to a blinding spotlight, has had a significant and damaging effect on her personality, her ability to cope with the real world and ultimately her sanity. Thus the ultimate cause of Blanche’s problems seems to be her original, misguided love of Allan with all of the rest of her problematical desires springing from this. In this light we can perhaps also see Allan’s homosexual desires, which were unacceptable at the time, as the ultimate destructive force in the play and similarly we can see how Stella’s sexual desires for Stanley eventually cause her to choose to remain in an abusive but passionate relationship rather than side with her sister.


An alternative, less sexual, form of destructive desire is evident in Blanche’s desire to live in a world that is more romantic or ideal than it actually is. It is this desire which drives her pretences, her delusions and the majority of her deceptions and it is possible that without this constant desire for a better world, the real world would have seemed less coarse and Blanche would have been better able to accept its realities.


Loneliness and longing for love

Blanche suffered serious emotional trauma as a result of her husband’s suicide, which haunts her. She tried to heal the pain with security and companionship (or perhaps tried to find a passion that could light up the world again in the same way that her love for Allan did) and to do this she used her sexuality. At points it seems as though she is longing for love while at other times it appears that she simply wants companionship, but the reputation she gains from her sexuality alienates her from the characters around her reducing her chances of finding either love or protection. Her physical absence from most of the scene illustrates her loneliness especially when juxtaposed with Stella and Stanley. Blanche’s attempt at a relationship with Mitch also suggests a longing for love however, his abandonment of her (unknown to Blanche at the moment but not to the audience) only re-emphasises how alone Blanche is in the world.


Pleasant dreams vs ugly reality

“It’s only a paper moon; Just as phony as it can be; but it wouldn’t be make believe if you believed in me!” The fact that Blanche is singing suggests her confidence in winning over Mitch and, possibly, a belief that in him she has found the shelter and protection from the world that she has craved for so long. Cynically the lyrics of the song could suggest that her future depends upon whether people will believe her act but more sympathetically they might suggest that, if two people together choose to believe in the illusion of a better world, then that can be enough to make that better world a reality. However, Williams creates tension and undermines the validity of these dreams by placing Blanche's singing ‘contrapuntally’ alongside Stanley's revelations to Stella about Blanche’s past, the fact that Mitch is no longer interested in her and that he is planning on sending her back to Laurel which make it clear that Blanche’s happiness is to be short lived.


The theme of the destruction of pleasant illusions is reinforced when Stella reveals how Blanche’s experiences with her husband “killed her illusions!” In a sense Blanche’s songs may be an attempt to rebuild these illusions, she sings about reality being covered up by belief, sheer faith. There is pathos and perhaps tragedy in the fact that she recognises that the world isn’t what she would like it to be but believes that it can be changed and perhaps this is where her insanity lies - in her refusal to accept reality, not in the fact that she cannot see it. The paper and cardboard represent that her dreams are a façade, fake and artificial. However it could be said that Blanche is just trying to bring some “glamour” to the world, glossing it over and making it more romantic. As she says in her song, if everyone believed, it would be real, although it only takes one person who doesn’t believe to shatter her dreams, which shows their fragility.





Blanche is the main focus of this motif, “And as time went by she became a town character. Regarded as not just different but downright loco-nuts.” She is disliked by Stanley because she calls him ‘common’ and looks down upon him. As such, Stanley does seem to now enjoy the fact that their roles are reversed with him as the superior one: his use of ‘loco-nuts’ is probably just used to imply that she behaved immodestly but it also clearly implies the mental instability which we can see is taking firmer and firmer hold of Blanche. This sense of madness is somewhat undermined by her evident happiness while bathing and her claim that “A hot bath and a long, cold drink always gives me a brand-new outlook on life!” However we quickly see her confidence crumble when she realizes that Stella is hiding something from her after Stanley stalks into the bathroom and this is revealed by the panic and desperation to be found in “You’re lying! Something has!”





She is possibly the most significant character despite making only a small appearance in the scene. We see an apparently honest description of her life from the viewpoint of Stanley and the supply man especially when compared with her tearful retelling of her past to Mitch. Her concealment of part of her past when talking to Mitch makes her seem manipulative as she gave the impression of confessing her past to Mitch when really she is withholding the one thing she should be confessing.


Blanche’s status is immediately lowered by this scene, as part of the failing gentry may have justified the sense of superiority she seems to feel towards Stanley. However, now Stanley has revealed the truth about her past, she will likely not be viewed with as much sympathy by the audience.


Within the bathroom (her escape from reality) Blanche is happier as we hear her Sweet, saccharine popular ballad (stage direction). It would seem an appropriate metaphor for Blanche, artificial sweetener just as Blanche uses her illusions to artificially romanticise the world and it is set contrapuntally with Stanley’s speech. This highlights perhaps her sole redeeming feature, her education, “Blanche and I grew up in very different circumstances than you did.” Dramatic irony, we know that Mitch is standing her up while she hides away in her sanctuary.


There is however a tragic side to Blanche’s character. Although her sexuality was used to exploit men, there is pathos in her awareness that her overuse of this power or her aging has rendered it useless. There is also something tragically pathetic about the dramatic irony created by the fact that the audience is aware that Blanche’s dreams of happiness with Mitch are about to come crumbling down while she remains blissfully unaware of this.



Stanley reveals his dominance in this scene because he appears to have outmaneuvered Blanche. His behaviour is almost triumphant when Blanche’s façade falls apart and he orders her out of the bathroom, the one place where she seemed to belong and feel at home: “Hey, canary bird! Toots! Get OUT of the BATHROOM! Must I speak more plainly?” However, he still remains vulgar and aggressive and so the audience cannot help but sympathise with Blanche instead of reveling in his victory.


Nonetheless, there are reasons to side with Stanley: he has demonstrated his loyalty to Mitch and has been constantly harassed by Blanche’s comments about him being a “common” “Polak”, all this while Blanche appears to be taking advantage of his hospitality, by drinking his whiskey, etc. Ultimately this is undermined by the sense that Stanley is no champion of the truth (indeed he lies at the end of the play about the rape) and that he has instead found out about Blanche’s past in order to destroy her. This reading is reinforced by his “gift” to Blanche, the ticket back to Laurel, which is cruel, especially as he pretends it is actually a present up until the moment she opens it.


The way our opinion of Stanley is formed, based solely on this scene, depends on how you view Blanche; if she is tragic then Stanley’s destruction of her dreams vilifies him. However, if you think that Blanche is a negative, manipulative character then Stanley’s actions seem more laudable.



Throughout this scene Stella tries to deny Stanley’s claims about Blanche’s past behaviour: “What - contemptible - lies!” and she even tries to order Stanley to “stop picking on Blanche” which therefore shows the caring nature of her character. She claims that Blanche and her grew up under different circumstances than Stanley and tries to protect her sister by using every excuse she could find. Stella, as befits her status as someone half way between the world of Stanley and of Stella seems torn between acknowledging the truth of Stanley’s statements and her duty to her sister “there are things about my sister that I don’t approve of” but ultimately this scene only serves to further reinforce Stella’s weakness as she is unable to stop Stanley from pursuing his vendetta against Blanche, nor can she find the strength to tell her the sister the truth, that Stanley has found out about her past and that Mitch will no longer be her suitor.




The images in the songs Blanche is singing “say, it’s only a paper moon, sailing over a cardboard sea- But it wouldn’t be make believe if you believed in me.” makes one think of forced romance, how they are only built up illusions which Blanche seems to realise as well but she is torn between the illusion and the real world. She can’t give up her illusions but she cannot ignore the real world; which is the tragedy of her character. The image in the song’s lyrics reveals how fragile Blanche’s dreams are in that they only need one person who doesn’t believe in them for them to be destroyed.


The image of the birthday cake with 25 candles; the image of her age remaining fixed is juxtaposed with the changing society, especially the change in Blanche’s life and social class. The fact that it remains in stasis is also a reminder of Blanche, who seems trapped by the memory of her dead husband or it could just be her fear of time which keeps the cake still. Stella, it appears, is complicit in this desire suggesting that she still retains some taste for a world more beautiful than it is but when we see Stanley challenge the image of the cake we realise that this cannot last forever.




This scene which is set indoors creates an intimacy which could be used to magnify the effect of Stanley’s revelations on the audience or could serve to intensify the intimacy of the secrets. The fact that Blanche is able to be present yet removed from the scene also reflects her insanity, how she is at once able to be present in the ‘real world’ yet still unable to recognise reality. Blanche uses the bathroom as a sanctuary of sorts, she enters for a ‘spiritual cleansing’ exiting refreshed. The removal of the bathroom from the bedroom also serves to emphasise Blanche’s loneliness, Stella and Stanley are together whilst Blanche remains isolated voluntarily in her privacy which she is always reluctant to give up, especially to Stanley.



Relation of part to the whole:

This scene is set directly after Blanche and Mitch return from their date although some time must have passed in the interim. That scene revealed to the audience a more sympathetic side of Blanche, who was hurt and guilty. As a result we perhaps feel some relief for her as she and Mitch seem to agree to be together, hence her happiness at the beginning of this scene. This happiness is soon undermined by Stanley’s revelations and the dramatic irony here creates one of the most tense moments in the play. This tension continues to build throughout the remainder of the play as we build up towards the rape scene, the literal violation of which echoes the violence being done here to Blanche’s dreams.