A Streetcar Named Desire By Tennessee Williams Summary and Analysis Scene 5

Summary

Blanche has been visiting now for three months. She has just finished composing a letter to Shep Huntleigh pretending that she has been on a round of teas and cocktail parties. Stanley comes in and is apparently irritated. He is antagonistic toward Blanche. When he goes about slamming drawers, she asks him what astrological sign he was born under. We find out that Stanley was born under the sign of Capricorn (the Goat) and Blanche was born under Virgo (the Virgin). Stanley laughs contemptuously when he hears this and then abruptly asks her about a man named Shaw who had known Blanche in a Hotel Flamingo. Blanche asserts that the Flamingo is not the sort of place where she would be seen. Stanley says that he will have this man check it out and "clear up any mistake." At this point Blanche is about ready to faint. Stanley leaves to go bowling after refusing to kiss Stella in front of Blanche.

Immediately, Blanche wonders if Stella has heard some unkind gossip about her. Blanche explains that in the last few years after she began to lose Belle Reve she was too soft and was not strong enough, and there were some stories spread around about her. Stella brings her a coke and tells her to quit talking morbidly. Blanche promises to leave before Stanley pitches her out, but by now she is shaking so badly that the coke foams and spills on her dress. She screams piercingly and Stella wonders why. Blanche explains that she is nervous because Mitch is coming for her at seven. She tells Stella that she has created an illusion with Mitch that she is all prim and proper. She has also lied about her age because she wants Mitch to want her. Stella asks if Blanche is interested in Mitch. She tells Stella that she wants to rest and that she does want Mitch. Stanley calls for Stella and as she is leaving, she assures Blanche that her wish for Mitch will come true, but that Blanche should not drink any more.

In a few minutes, a young man comes to the door. He is collecting for the paper. He is about to leave when Blanche tells him that she has no money, but she calls him back and asks for a light. Then she asks him about the rain and what he did when it rained. He told her that he went in the drug store and had a cherry soda. He tries to leave again but Blanche stops him, telling him how handsome he looks and then she walks over and kisses him softly on the lips. She then sends him away, saying that she must keep her hands off children. A few minutes later Mitch appears with a bunch of roses.

Analysis

Note that as soon as Blanche says that she was born under the sign of the virgin, Stanley chooses this moment to ask her about the man named Shaw. Blanche becomes visibly agitated during the cross-examination. At the end, when Stanley leaves, she is trembling and in need of a drink. This, then, is Blanche's past life beginning to close in upon her. This is also the beginning of Stanley's plan to destroy Blanche, and she feels herself being trapped. Thus in this encounter between Blanche and Stanley, Blanche is seeing her own valued world disintegrate under the force of Stanley's attack.

This scene also illustrates Williams' fondness for the use of symbols. The astrological signs, the spilled coke on Blanche's white dress, and the cherry soda that the young man mentions are all used as slightly suggestive symbols.

At this point in the drama, the scene with the young boy might seem puzzlingly out of place. It is not until later that we learn Blanche had once married a young boy and had been terribly cruel to him when he most needed her. Therefore, her sexual promiscuity returns to her guilt feelings over her failure to help her young husband. She seeks to relive the past and longs for a young lover to replace the young husband who shot himself. In other words, since she once denied help to her young husband, she now tries to compensate by giving herself to almost anyone.

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