A Streetcar Named Desire: Scene Notes – Scene 9
· The scene opens with Blanche alone in the apartment drowning her sorrows with a bottle of liquor as the ‘rapid, feverish polka tune, the Varsouviana,’ is played in her head.
· Mitch arrives unannounced, dressed in his working clothes and unshaven and Blanche rushes to make herself look presentable hoping that there is still a chance to mend their relationship
· Instant tension is created when Mitch ignores the opportunity to kiss Blanche on the lips and this is reinforced by Blanche’s incessant speeches which prevent Mitch from talking because she knows that something is wrong.
· Mitch startles Blanche by bringing up the subject of light and how he has never seen her in the light Blanche or in the daytime.
· They argue and Mitch rips the paper lantern off the light discovering that Blanche is older than he thought her to be.
· Blanche’s checkered past is discussed and we learn that after the death of her young husband, Blanche had nothing to fill the void except intimacies with strangers.
· The truth of her past is revealed including the stories involving the soldiers and a degree of sympathy is evoked for her.
· At the end of this scene, Blanche is reduced to hysteria when Mitch refuses to marry her because she is “not clean enough to bring in the house with his mother”
· Mitch attempts to rape Blanche saying that he has come here after ‘What he has been missing all Summer’ but Blanche easily scares him away by screaming of ‘Fire’
· The scene finally ends with Mitch running away as Blanche sinks down with the ‘distant blue piano’ being heard.
Motifs & Connotations:
Pleasant Dreams vs. Ugly Realities
“I’ll tell you what I want. Magic!...p204” Although we sometimes view Blanche as a deceptive and manipulative character, especially in her relationship with Mitch, here Williams paints her lies in as sympathetic a light as possible. The reference to magic suggests that Blanche has not intended to deceive anyone but instead has simply been trying to make the world a better place. While this could be interpreted as a further attempt at manipulation the impression we are given here is that Blanche is genuine and that, unable to accept the world as it really is, she would rather dress it up in the colours of butterflies wings.
Although lucid in the conversation with Mitch Blanche’s accelerating descent into insanity is implied by her distraction when, on (pg.206) she mumbles ‘[as if to herself]: Crumble and fade…’ Blanche here is portrayed as barely sane because her stories and recollections are constantly switching as various interruptions, such as the Mexican women, trigger different recollection which interrupt the flow of Blanche’s thoughts.
The Avoidance of Light
In previous scenes, we see how Blanche refuses to be seen under a bright light and it is also said that, since the death of Allan, she has lived with nothing in her life stronger than a candle light. On a physical level, Blanche avoids light to prevent others from seeing the reality of her fading beauty. However, the light also represents a past that haunts her as a result of the death of her young husband, and it appears that world appears dull in comparison to the bright ‘spotlight’ of love that shone on her in her youth. In this way her later promiscuity can be seen as simply an attempt to find a spark or light of passion bright enough to light the gloom she was left with after Allan’s death.
In this scene
however, the truth is brought to the surface when Mitch forces her under the
lamp. “He turns the light on and stares
at her…p204” Blanche’s exposure to light causes her pain and suffering
because of her ugly past that she attempts to cover through the coloured
lantern. Ironically, even though the truth is revealed by Mitch as he turns on
the light, we see that the two characters are eventually again plunged in
darkness as Mitch turns off the light once he has seen Blanche’s face. This
suggests that, a little like Blanche, he has seen an ugly reality which in fact
he also does not wish to accept. We can imagine that
A common theme
throughout the play we see a different view of Mitch when under the influence
of alcohol. Mitch has always been depicted as different from the rest of the
men, gentlemanly almost. However, at the end of scene 9, we see him treating
Blanche like the other men, expecting her to sleep with him. “What I have been missing all summer…p207” The
impression, however, is not that Mitch is actually as barbarous as
While the alcoholism of Stanley, Steve and Mitch reveals the coarse and brutal side of life often ending in violence, Blanche’s drinking is an attempt to hide from the truth, in her case this is that she is an old, destitute spinster.
The Varsouviana Polka Music
With Mitch’s appearance, Blanche immediately begins to act the part of the innocent young girl and the polka music stops. But almost immediately she realizes that something is wrong and the music begins again. The ‘Varsouniana’ is a representative of her past that she wishes to escape from but finds herself trapped. At numerous times during this scene the music plays when her past is brought up. The fast and feverish pace of the music also suggests her impending madness.
Death has appeared as a motif infrequently throughout the play but when it does appear it is often the result of misguided desire – indeed to get to Elysian Fields in the first place Blanche has to transfer from the streetcar named Desire to the one called Cemeteries. The appearance of death from the beginning of the play suggests that it is inescapable for Blanche, possibly reflecting the fact that the class and value system she seems to represent is decaying. This idea is established by the loss of Belle Reve and the fact that Death seemed to have set up camp there as she watched the lives of her relatives and the estate itself gradually slip away. Blanche's fears of aging and of lost beauty are perhaps an extension of this and the motif is reinforced in this scene when the Mexican women says that she is ‘selling flowers for the dead’, Blanche reacts in horror because it triggers her memories of the past when she was once young and beautiful, which contrasts with the present. It shows her denial of reality and her paranoia and foreshadows her eventual insanity.
Themes & Connotations:
Female dependence on men
“…intimacies with strangers was all I seemed able to fill my empty heart with…p205” “Well, I needed somebody…”p205” Not only Blanche but women in general have been portrayed as dependent on men in both a financial and sexual sense. There is a sense of desperation in the way Blanche is portrayed at the end of this scene as her suggestion of marriage to a drunken man who is about to rape her reveals that her only escape from the destitute and lonely life that she is living is through marriage to a man. Although she disapproves of Stella and Stanley’s abusive relationship, she is unable to avoid finding herself in a similar situation to Stella’s where she too is dependent on a sex that would exploit her.
Loneliness and longing for love
“Then marry me Mitch!...p207” Whether or not Blanche is in love with Mitch, it is clear that marriage is a way out for her. It is also stated that she had many intimacies with strangers to fill her empty heart. However, this eventually leads to Mitch’s rejection of her when he discovers her past. Blanche’s motives are questionable and it is never quite clear whether she has pursued Mitch out of love or simply out of a desire for protection. In a sense, the images of dim candle light actually suggest that she has never really been able to recover from the death of her young husband and that it is really his love that she is yearning for.
Fantasy’s Inability to Overcome Reality
“I’ll tell you what I want. Magic! Yes, yes magic! I try to give that to people…p204” Even when confronted, Blanche denies doing anything wrong. “Never inside, I didn’t lie in my heart…p205” Blanche has been portrayed as living her life as according to her fantasy, still trapped in her past where she still had Belle Reve and continued living her life as in a higher social class. This is the most sympathetic reading of a character who, more cynically, could be called deceptive and manipulative. However, regardless of the motivation for lies, it is clear that the fantasy world Blanche has tried to create has been destroyed by the harsh realities of the world that she actually finds herself in. The image of a tin can being tied to the tail of a kite in the previous scene encapsulates this idea nicely as Blanche as does the image of Mitch turning on the light to reveal the, literal, ugliness of the reality before him.
In contrast to previous scenes, there is a degree of sympathy created for Blanche here after hearing her story and we seem to see her as a delicate moth-like creature on the edge of disintegration. Williams has attempted to show how Blanche’s over-delicate and over-sensitive nature was the reason she sought escape from her failure with her young husband by turning to alcohol and to intimacies with strangers. We see her in this scene as desperate (in seeking marriage) and at points, delusional (her throat is tightening with hysteria) which intimates that Blanche is on the verge of a breakdown.
We are also finally given an insight into the motivation behind Blanche’s lies as Mitch tears the paper lantern off the light bulb. pg. 203 after which she claims that her lies have only been motivated by the desire to create ‘magic’. She is portrayed sympathetically here as even though she knows it’s sinful’ she is willing to be dammed for it. We see her desperation is stretched to the point that she begs Mitch to marry her to which he responds that she is ‘not clean enough to bring in the house’.
Mitch is introduced, unshaven and dressed in his dirty work clothes when he dropped by unannounced. Although he has been portrayed as softer compared to other men, in this scene, we see a side of him that parallels them. Reeking with alcohol, he confronts her and at the end, attempts to rape her. The pathos generated by the fact that Blanche feels differently about him that the other men she has encountered, “I thank God for you…p205”, heightens the tragedy of the situation as we see Blanche’s last chance for happiness, sanity and safety slip through her hands..
Mitch’s unshaven and
rugged appearance represent his honesty and his confrontation with her
emphasizes his beliefs which represent the social class he is from; honesty and
realism, ideals which he shares with Stanley. However, as with
The setting takes
Relation of Part to Whole:
Prior to this scene
we learn of how