Later the same evening, Blanche sits tensely in the bedroom. The Varsouviana, the polka music that was playing when Blanche’s husband killed himself, can be heard. Williams’s stage directions state that the music we hear is in Blanche’s head, and that she drinks to escape it. (The music stops after the shot has been fired)
Mitch, unshaven and wearing work clothes appears. The doorbell startles Blanche. She asks who it is, and when he replies, the polka music stops. She frantically scurries about, applying powder to her face and stashing the liquor in a closet before letting Mitch in with a cheerful reprimand for having missed her birthday celebration. She expects a kiss, but Mitch walks right past her into the apartment. Blanche is trying to keep a positive mindset as she’s happy to see Mitch, despite being very nervous.
Mitch, a bit drunk, stares and then asks Blanche to turn off the fan, which she does. He sits down on the bed and lights a cigarette. She offers him a drink, but Mitch says he doesn’t want Stanley’s liquor. Blanche retorts that she’s bought her own liquor, then changes the subject to Mitch’s mother’s health. Mitch is suspicious of Blanche’s interest in his mother.
As Blanche retreats into herself, the polka music again begins in her head, and she speaks of it agitatedly, identifying it as the same tune that was playing when her husband, Allan, killed himself. She then explains that the usual sound of a gunshot, which makes the music stop. Mitch has no idea what Blanche is talking about and has little patience.
As Blanche rambles on about the birthday evening Mitch missed, she pretends to discover the whiskey bottle in the closet. She even asks what Southern Comfort is. Mitch says the bottle must be Stan’s, and he rudely rests his foot on Blanche’s bed. Blanche asks Mitch to take his foot off the bed and goes on about the liquor, pretending to taste it for the first time. Mitch again declines a drink and says that Stanley claims Blanche has guzzled his liquor all summer on the sly.
Blanche becomes fed up and asks what is on Mitch’s mind. Mitch continues to avoid this and asks why the room is always so dark. He comments that he has never seen Blanche in full light or in the afternoon. She has always made excuses on Sunday afternoons and has only gone out with him after six to dimly lit places. Blanche says that he’s never had a good look at her. Mitch tears the paper lantern off the lightbulb. She begs him not to turn the light on, but he says that he wants to be ‘realistic. ‘Mitch switches the light on, and Blanche lets out a cry and covers her face. He turns the light off.
Mitch turns out the light and says, bitterly, that he doesn’t mind her being older than he thought, but he cannot stand the way Blanche lied to him all summer, pretending to be old-fashioned and morally upright. Blanche tries to deny this, but Mitch says that he has heard stories about her from three different people.
Stanley, Shaw, and a merchant from Laurel named Kiefaber with whom Mitch spoke on the phone. Each man presented the same facts about Blanche’s shady past. Blanche argues that all three men are liars, and that Kiefaber concocted stories about her as revenge for her spurning his affection.
Finally, Blanche breaks down and admits the truth. She says that she panicked after Allan’s death and looked to strangers for human companionship to fill her loneliness. She did not know what she was doing, she claims. She eventually ended up in trouble with a seventeen-year-old student from Laurel, was sacked. Blanche, she was wrong to hope, because her past inevitably caught up with her. After a long pause, Mitch can say only that Blanche lied to him, ‘inside and out.’
A blind Mexican woman comes around the corner selling bunches of tacky tin flowers to use at funerals. In Spanish, she says, ‘Flowers. Flowers for the dead.’ Hearing the vendor’s voice, Blanche opens the door, and she is terrified when the woman offers her funeral flowers. She slams the door and runs back into the apartment as the vendor continues down the street. The Varsouviana polka tune resumes.
Every so often, the Mexican woman’s call can be heard. In her tortured soliloquy, Blanche discusses regrets, and then legacies. She speaks about pillowcases stained with blood and seems to be recalling a conversation she had with her mother about not having enough money to pay a servant. Blanche then begins to speak about death, saying that it once seemed so far from her ,whereas now it feels not far away.
She says that ‘the opposite [of death] is desire.’ And she begins to reminisce about camp of soldiers that used to be near Belle Reve. On Saturday nights the drunken soldiers would stumble onto Blanche’s lawn and call for her while her deaf mother slept. Occasionally, Blanche went outside to meet them.
As the polka music fades. Mitch feels sorry for Blanche and tries to embrace her. He says that he wants what he waited for all summer. Blanche surprisingly says he must marry her first, but Mitch replies that Blanche isn’t fit to live in the same house as his mother. Blanche crying and heartbroken orders him to leave .When he does not move, she threatens to scream ‘Fire!’ He still does not leave, so she screams out the window. Mitch hurries out, and Blanche falls to her knees, devastated. Piano music can be heard in the distance.
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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