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A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide
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A Streetcar Named Desire By Tennessee Williams
The story opens in Elysian fields, and Blanche has just arrived from her former home. She arrives at Stella's home, and meets Stanley for the first time. At first they seem to be getting along well enough. This, however, will change as time goes on. Blanche tells Stanely of her past, including a man she was once very close to. Unfortunately, this man died. Blanche gets taken out to dinner later on that night while Stan hosts one of his periodic poker games. Stan, upon learning of the loss of Belle Reve, raises his suspicions about Blanche. Spouting such odd arguments as "The Napoleonic Code", a New Orlean law which state, "whatever belongs to the husband belongs to the wife, and vice versa.", Stan believes that Blanche may be holding out a portion of the auction money for Belle Reve. He proceeds to go through Blanche's things, looking for the auction papers, finding many expensive objects in the process. This greatly upsets Stella. Unfortunately, Blanche arrives home before Stanley is finished with his search. However, rather than getting upset, She calmly explains to Stan, while at the same time performing something tantamount to flirtation, that the house was lost, not sold. After her relatives squandered their savings on women and luxuries, there wasn't enough to pay for the necessities. So, parts of the estate were sold, and all that was left was the estate and 20 acres.... until now. All the remaining DuBois have died, and there was nothing Blanche could do. Neither the flirtation nor the explanation quells Stanley, who insists on having the papers inspected closely. Upon reaching for the papers, Stanley finds a few love letters written to Blanche. This discovery, and irreverent treatment of them, makes her VERY upset, for an unknown reason...and so Blanche and Stella go out.
A few hours later, Stanley is hosting a poker game with his friends. Steve and Pablo, the "typical men", proceed to tell jokes and laugh heartily along with Stanley. Meanwhile, Mitch, the "sensitive one", can't keep from worrying about his sick mother. These laments went unrequited by his friends, as they continue the game. Not long after, Stella and Blanche come back, to find the game still in progress. Stanley treats Blanche with a callous air, and the women walk back into the bedroom. Upon going to the bathroom, Blanche meets Mitch. He awkwardly says hello, and leaves. He has, however, talked long enough to rouse Blanche's interest, as she states "He seems.... superior to the others." He meets up with her soon after, and gets to know her better. They share love stories, and Mitch shows her his silver cigarette case, given to him by a dying love. The poker game continues. Stanley, drunk, complains of the noise the women are making. His anger mounts as Blanche taunts him, and soon erupts into full violence as he hits Stella very hard. Subsequently, his anger subsides. Blanche, screaming for both Stella and her unborn baby, is too shocked to stay in the house, and accompanies Stella up to Eunice's. By this time, Stanley calmed down, and instantly regrets his decisions. He makes pleas, both over the phone and by shouting out the window, for Stella to come back to him, but to no avail. Finally, in what becomes a classic literary moment, he screams, with heaven splitting violence, "STE-LAHHH!!!", but she still refuses to come down. This moves Stanley to full tears....Meanwhile, outside, Mitch consoles Blanche, and gets to know her better.
The next morning, Blanche is shocked to find that Stella has gone back to Stanley. Stella speaks very matter of fact, stating that this kind of thing isn't uncommon, and that Stanley was drunk. Blanche cannot accept this, however, and begins concocting a plan to get them both out of this situation. Blanche realizes she can call upon an old college friend, Shep Huntleigh, that she had recently run into, for help. Stella complains that this is too sudden, but Blanche persists in her plans. Not only does she persist, but she proceeds to knock Stanley's entire heritage, calling him a primitive animal with no redeemable qualities whatsoever, all of which Stanley overhears. Feigning ignorance, he walks back into the house. Stella in defiance of her sister, embraces Stanley, much to Blanche's horror. Stanley gives Blanche a knowing smile.
It has started raining, and Blanche is writing her letter to Shep Huntleigh. Stella is getting ready to go out with Stan. She offers to take Blanche along with her, but Blanche refuses, on quite obvious grounds. After her last few meetings with Stanley, she doesn't want to be anywhere near him. While she's alone, a young paper boy comes to collect. Blanche has no money, but she begins flirting with him. This flirtation, unreturned yet persistent, is a insight into Blanche's past, which will be revealed later. After kissing the boy squarely on the lips, she sends him away, just in time to meet Mitch, bringing her some flowers.
After a somewhat unsuccessful attempt at a date, Mitch and Blanche retire to the Kowalski's apartment, where Mitch reveals how much he regrets their incompatibility. They make some attempt at a romantic end to the evening, having a drink by candle light. They talk casually about such things as life, weight, and clothing styles. After dissuading Mitch from kissing her, she asks him about what Stanley has said about her. He refuses to say, and inevitably the conversation turns to personal feelings. Mitch is forced to talk about his dying mother, a very difficult topic for him. He admits how mother worries about his being lonely when she dies, and him not settling down. Blanche admits she knows about what loneliness is like, and finally reveals something of her past. Her only husband, back when she was very young, seemed to have a problem he was trying to fix by marrying her. She had no idea what it was.... until she caught him in bed with another man. Upon realizing he was gay, she tried to ignore it for her sake more than his. But, her emotions got the better of her one night, and she told him how much he disgusted her. He proceeded to shoot himself in the head. Blanche breaks down in Mitch's arms.
While Blanche "soaks in a hot tub," Stanley reveals the information he has found about her to Stella. He has found out the following from a supply man : After Blanche lost Belle Reve she moved to the Hotel Flamingo and became Dame Blanche. She became extremely promiscuous and the hotel eventually threw her out. A nearby army camp referred to her place as "Out of Bounds." She was regarded as being crazy. Blance did not resign from teaching. She lost her job after it was discovered that she was having relations with a seventeen-year-old boy. She was piratically thrown out of Laurel. Stella reveals some information about Blanche that was less recent. Blanche had married very young to a poet who, it was later discovered, was homosexual. Stanley tells Stella that he told Mitch what he had learned about Blanche, and that Mitch is no longer going to marry her. Stanley also makes it clear to her that Blanche will not stay later than Tuesday. Blanche emerges from her bath and instantly knows that something has happened with her sister. Later, Blanche, Stella and Stanley have an awkward dinner. Blanche calls Mitch to find out why he didn't show up. Stanley gives Blanche the ticket back to Laurel. Stanley starts to leave for bowling but Stella stops him and they begin to argue. Stanley explains that the reason he is so upset with Blanche is because before she arrived, he and Stella never had any problems. At the end of the scene, Stella weakens and asks Stanley to take her to the hospital as she thinks she may be going into labor. Mitch visits Blanche. Mitch takes the paper lantern off the lamp so that he can look at Blanche in the plain light. He tells her that she's older than he thought but that he doesn't mind that. The part he's upset about is that she lied to him all summer. Blanche admits to her promiscuous past and explains that after the death of her husband it was the only way she could find comfort. She was glad to find Mitch because he seemed more gentle than the rest of the world. A Mexican Woman passes nearby peddling "Flores para los muertes" (Flowers for thedead). Blanche begins to describe what life was like while Belle Reve was slipping away. She explains how they lived with blame and death and loss. She describes how, to escape from it, she would have intimacies with drunken soldiers. Mitch tries to embrace her and Blanche asks if he will marry her. He says that she isn't clean enough to bring into a house with his mother. She tells him to leave. When he doesn't, she starts yelling "Fire!" and Mitch leaves.
Later, when Stanley arrives home, Blanche is playing dress-up with and old costume dress and a rhinestone tiara. She is talking to imaginary suitors. Stanley tells her that Stella will have her baby in the morning. Blanche tells him that she has received a wire from an old millionaire friend inviting her on a Caribbean Cruise. She also tells him what happened with Mitch, but she adds in a story about Mitch coming back with roses to beg her forgiveness. Stanley sees through both lies. He goes into the bathroom to put on the silk pajamas that he wore on his wedding night. Blanche tries to call the millionaire she claimed sent the wire, but she changes her mind. She then tries to call Western Union to send a telegraph asking for help. Stanley reenters in the pajamas and corners Blanche in the bedroom. She breaks a liquor bottle and threatens him with it, but he overpowers her and takes her to the bed. He rapes her.
Months later, Stella has come to a difficult decision. She realized that she could not believe Blanche's story about the rape and go on living with Stanley. Since she, by this time, had her baby to think about, she committed her sister to a mental institution. Mitch is distraught over what has happened to Blanche. Blanche has slipped entirely into delusion. She believes that she is going away with her millionaire. When the Doctor and Matron arrive to take Blanche there is a brief struggle but she eventually goes along willingly, explaining that she has "always depended on the kindness of strangers." As she leaves, Stella, overridden with guilt, collapses into sobs and Stanley goes to comfort her. The play ends.