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.
· 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.
However, it is too late
The scene ends with
Male vs female conflict
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Nonetheless, there are reasons to
The way our opinion of
Throughout this scene Stella tries
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
This scene which is set indoors creates
an intimacy which could be used to magnify the effect of
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