Later on in the day, Stella and Blanche are in the bedroom on an August afternoon. Blanche breaks out in laughter at the fabricated nature of the letter she has just finished writing to Shep Huntleigh. This prompts Stella to ask her about the letter’s contents. Blanche suggests that she visit Shep in Dallas, and she claims that she and Stella have been amusing themselves with society parties and visits to luxurious country homes. Stella hates the lies and shows visible frustration at Blanche.
The sound of Steve and Eunice fighting upstairs can be heard. Eunice accuses Steve of infidelity and cries out as he begins to beat her (with this happening with Stanley and Stella only a few scenes ago). After a huge noise, Eunice runs out of her flat, yelling that she is going to the police. Stanley, returning home from bowling, asks Stella what’s all the commotion. Stella says that Eunice has had a fight with Steve, and she asks whether Eunice is with the police. Stanley replies that he has just seen her at the bar around the corner. Stella responds that alcohol is a ‘more practical’ cure than the police for Eunice’s woes. Steve comes downstairs nursing a bruise on his forehead and heads to the bar to find Eunice.
In the Kowalski apartment, Stanley and Blanche have a tense conversation. Blanche subtly insults his lower-class disposition. He insinuates that he has acquired knowledge of Blanche’s past and asks her if she knows a certain man named Shaw. Blanche falters immediately at the mention of Shaw’s name and answers evasively, replying that there are many Shaws in the world. Stanley asks Blanche if she knows a fellow named Shaw.
This Shaw is an acquaintance of Stanley’s, and he claims that he knew a loose woman who used to keep rooms at a hotel called the Flamingo in Laurel. Blanche says she knows of the Flamingo by reputation and would not set foot in it, but the accusation has been made. Shaw travels frequently to Laurel (Blanche’s old location). Stanley notices Blanche’s nerves and faltering and recognises it’s true information, he says he will check with Shaw the next time he sees him. Eunice and Steve stroll back to their apartment, affectionately wrapped in each other’s arms. Stanley then heads off to the bar, telling Stella to meet him there.
Blanche asks Stella what she has heard regarding her reputation. Blanche admits that she misbehaved somewhat after the loss of Belle Reve. She feels that she is too soft and no longer attractive enough for her softness to work. She says has to rely on Chinese lanterns and light colours to make herself ‘shimmer and glow.’ She then admits that she no longer has the youth or beauty to glow in the soft light. Stella fixes Blanche a coke which Blanche tries to put shot of alcohol in. She insists that she won’t overstay her welcome at the Kowalskis, as she feels Stanley will kick her out, she screams when she drops a little coke on her skirt.
Blanche who’s shaking and feeling nervous about her date that evening with Mitch. She explains that she hasn’t been honest with him about her age and that she feels she lacks the forces of attraction her youthful beauty once provided her. Blanche talks about her relationship with Mitch, and how she hasn’t told him her real age and won’t let him do more than give her a goodnight kiss. She wants to earn his respect before going any further. She wants to marry him, for security and to not be alone.
She is convinced that she must maintain her act if Mitch is to love her. She wants him very badly and says she needs him as her ticket away from Elysian Fields. Stella assures her that it will all work out, and leaves. As Stanley comes around the corner, yelling for Stella, Steve, and Eunice. She gives Blanche a kiss and then runs off to join Stanley at the bar. Eunice and Steve run after her.
Blanche sitting alone waiting for Mitch is greeted by a paperboy, who stops by to collect the money for the newspaper and Blanche is immediately interested. He is wary of her advances, Blanche flirts with him, offers him a drink.
The young man is uncomfortable and nervous. Blanche declares that he looks like an Arabian prince, then kisses him on the lips and sends him on his way, saying, ‘I’ve got to be good and keep my hands-off children’. (Showing her past teaching accusations to be true). He immediately runs off. A few moments later Mitch appears with flowers for their date, and Blanche greets him.
Blanche DuBois, a schoolteacher from Laurel, Mississippi, arrives at the New Orleans apartment of her sister, Stella Kowalski. Despite the fact that Blanche seems to have fallen out of close contact with Stella, she intends to stay at Stella’s apartment for an unspecified but likely lengthy period of time, given the large trunk she has with her. Blanche tells Stella that she lost Belle Reve, their ancestral home, following the death of all their remaining relatives. She also mentions that she has been given a leave of absence from her teaching position because of her bad nerves.
Though Blanche does not seem to have enough money to afford a hotel, she is disdainful of the cramped quarters of the Kowalskis’ two-room apartment and of the apartment’s location in a noisy, diverse, working-class neighbourhood. Blanche’s social condescension wins her the instant dislike of Stella’s husband, an auto-parts supply man of Polish descent named Stanley Kowalski. It is clear that Stella was happy to leave behind her the social pretensions of her background in exchange for the sexual gratification she gets from her husband; she even is pregnant with his baby. Stanley immediately distrusts Blanche to the extent that he suspects her of having cheated Stella out of her share of the family inheritance. In the process of defending herself to Stanley, Blanche reveals that Belle Reve was lost due to a foreclosed mortgage, a disclosure that signifies the dire nature of Blanche’s financial circumstances. Blanche’s heavy drinking, which she attempts to conceal from her sister and brother-in-law, is another sign that all is not well with Blanche.
The unhappiness that accompanies the animal magnetism of Stella and Stanley’s marriage reveals itself when Stanley hosts a drunken poker game with his male friends at the apartment. Blanche gets under Stanley’s skin, especially when she starts to win the affections of his close friend Mitch. After Mitch has been absent for a while, speaking with Blanche in the bedroom, Stanley erupts, storms into the bedroom, and throws the radio out of the window. When Stella yells at Stanley and defends Blanche, Stanley beats her. The men pull him off, the poker game breaks up, and Blanche and Stella escape to their upstairs neighbour Eunice’s apartment. A short while later, Stanley is remorseful and cries up to Stella to forgive him. To Blanche’s alarm, Stella returns to Stanley and embraces him passionately. Mitch meets Blanche outside of the Kowalski flat and comforts her in her distress.
The next day, Blanche tries to convince Stella to leave Stanley for a better man whose social status equals Stella’s. Blanche suggests that she and Stella contact a millionaire named Shep Huntleigh for help escaping from New Orleans; when Stella laughs at her, Blanche reveals that she is completely broke. Stanley walks in as Blanche is making fun of him and secretly overhears Blanche and Stella’s conversation. Later, he threatens Blanche with hints that he has heard rumours of her disreputable past. She is visibly dismayed.
While Blanche is alone in the apartment one evening, waiting for Mitch to pick her up for a date, a teenage boy comes by to collect money for the newspaper. Blanche doesn’t have any money for him, but she hits on him and gives him a lustful kiss. Soon after the boy departs, Mitch arrives, and they go on their date. When Blanche returns, she is exhausted and clearly has been uneasy for the entire night about the rumours Stanley mentioned earlier. In a surprisingly sincere heart-to-heart discussion with Mitch, Blanche reveals the greatest tragedy of her past. Years ago, her young husband committed suicide after she discovered and chastised him for his homosexuality. Mitch describes his own loss of a former love, and he tells Blanche that they need each other.
When the next scene begins, about one month has passed. It is the afternoon of Blanche’s birthday. Stella is preparing a dinner for Blanche, Mitch, Stanley, and herself, when Stanley comes in to tell her that he has learned news of Blanche’s sordid past. He says that after losing the DuBois mansion, Blanche moved into a fleabag motel from which she was eventually evicted because of her numerous sexual liaisons. Also, she was fired from her job as a schoolteacher because the principal discovered that she was having an affair with a teenage student. Stella is horrified to learn that Stanley has told Mitch these stories about Blanche.
The birthday dinner comes and goes, but Mitch never arrives. Stanley indicates to Blanche that he is aware of her past. For a birthday present, he gives her a one-way bus ticket back to Laurel. Stanley’s cruelty so disturbs Stella that it appears the Kowalski household is about to break up, but the onset of Stella’s labour prevents the imminent fight.
Several hours later, Blanche, drunk, sits alone in the apartment. Mitch, also drunk, arrives and repeats all he’s learned from Stanley. Eventually Blanche confesses that the stories are true, but she also reveals the need for human affection she felt after her husband’s death. Mitch tells Blanche that he can never marry her, saying she isn’t fit to live in the same house as his mother. Having learned that Blanche is not the chaste lady she pretended to be, Mitch tries to have sex with Blanche, but she forces him to leave by yelling “Fire!” to attract the attention of passers-by outside.
Later, Stanley returns from the hospital to find Blanche even more drunk. She tells him that she will soon be leaving New Orleans with her former suitor Shep Huntleigh, who is now a millionaire. Stanley knows that Blanche’s story is entirely in her imagination, but he is so happy about his baby that he proposes they each celebrate their good fortune. Blanche spurns Stanley, and things grow contentious. When she tries to step past him, he refuses to move out of her way. Blanche becomes terrified to the point that she smashes a bottle on the table and threatens to smash Stanley in the face. Stanley grabs her arm and says that it’s time for the “date” they’ve had set up since Blanche’s arrival. Blanche resists, but Stanley uses his physical strength to overcome her, and he carries her to bed. The pulsing music indicates that Stanley rapes Blanche.
The next scene takes place weeks later, as Stella and her neighbour Eunice pack Blanche’s bags. Blanche is in the bath, and Stanley plays poker with his buddies in the front room. A doctor will arrive soon to take Blanche to an insane asylum, but Blanche believes she is leaving to join her millionaire. Stella confesses to Eunice that she simply cannot allow herself to believe Blanche’s assertion that Stanley raped her. When Blanche emerges from the bathroom, her deluded talk makes it clear that she has lost her grip on reality.
The doctor arrives with a nurse, and Blanche initially panics and struggles against them when they try to take her away. Stanley and his friends fight to subdue Blanche, while Eunice holds Stella back to keep her from interfering. Mitch begins to cry. Finally, the doctor approaches Blanche in a gentle manner and convinces her to leave with him. She allows him to lead her away and does not look back or say goodbye as she goes. Stella sobs with her child in her arms, and Stanley comforts her with loving words and caresses.
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