Summary and Analysis
Later that evening, Blanche is alone in the apartment. The doorbell startles her. It is Mitch, who is still dressed in his working clothes and who is unshaven. Blanche pretends surprise but says she is glad to see him because he has stopped the polka music that was spinning in her head. She looks for a drink to offer him, but he doesn't want any of Stanley's whiskey. Blanche knows that something is wrong, but she says she will not "cross-examine" the witness. Mitch keeps trying to say something, but Blanche continues babbling. When Blanche offers him some liquor, he tells her that Stanley told him that she had been lapping it up all summer. He then says it is dark and wonders why Blanche has never gone out with him in the daytime. Mitch wants to turn on the lights, but Blanche pleads with him not to. She doesn't want light and truth; she wants magic and illusion. But Mitch jerks the lantern off the light and forces Blanche under it. He notices that she is older than he had supposed, but he could have accepted that if she had been straight.
He tells Blanche about the stories he has heard and how he checked them out and three people swore to them. When Mitch mentions the Flamingo, Blanche drops her pose and tells how after the death of her young husband, there was nothing to fill the void except intimacies with strangers. She went from one stranger to another until she had an affair with a seventeen-year-old boy. She was desperate when she came to New Orleans. Then she met Mitch, who told her that he needed someone and she needed someone. Mitch accuses her of lying to him. She says that she never lied in her heart. At this time, a street vendor passes by selling flowers for the dead. When Blanche hears the vendor, she thinks of all the deaths she has had to suffer, and that the opposite of death is desire. She even tells Mitch about her escapades with the Army camp which was near her house. Suddenly, Mitch puts his arms around her and demands what he has been missing all summer. She requests marriage. Mitch tells her she is not good enough. Blanche orders him to leave or she will start screaming. As he remains staring, she runs to the window and begins to scream Fire, wildly. Mitch stumbles out.
Note the opening description of Blanche. She is in her old dilapidated clothes — her last remnants of a past life. The "Varsouviana" music — the tune which played when her husband shot himself — is heard as background music and Blanche is drinking to escape it all.
The appearance of Mitch, unshaven and dressed in his dirty work clothes emphasizes again that he is Blanche's last chance — that he is a rough and rather uncouth character.
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. During the first part of this scene, Blanche talks so much that Mitch doesn't have a chance to make his accusations against her. Her incessant line of chatter functions to cover up her fears and to postpone hearing what she fears to hear.
Mitch's first confrontation comes when he forces Blanche under the light. This act has multiple significance. First, on the realistic level, Blanche has deceived Mitch about her age and the light reveals Blanche's deception. The revelation of this deception leads to the other deceptions. Second, Blanche has constantly avoided the light ever since her young husband shot himself. She has had nothing stronger than a candle light since his death. Thus, Blanche has passed her life in semi-darkness and to be forced into the light makes her violate her inner nature. Third, being forced into the light here symbolizes the revelation of the truth about Blanche's past life. She has tried to conceal her life of dissipation and when Mitch forces her under the light, it is the same as making her realize and confess her past life. And fourth, Blanche's whole theory of living involves magic and illusion. She doesn't want realism. Instead, she prefers the magic of illusion. And rather than the truth, she lives for "what ought to be." Thus forcing Blanche into the light makes her see things in their ugly realism — that is, it makes her see how her life actually was instead of how it ought to have been.
Blanche's confession of her past life is almost too much. It has that Tennessee Williams quality of sensationalism. It is almost unbelievable, and, as some critics would maintain, unnecessary for her to have such a lurid and degenerate past. Her confession doesn't seem to fit with this delicate moth-like creature on the edge of disintegration. But the opposite argument must be seen. 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.
When Mitch accuses Blanche of lying to him, she maintains that she never lied "inside. I didn't lie in my heart." Blanche means that she has used some deception to trap Mitch, but a certain amount of illusion is a woman's charm, but as she said to Stanley in Scene 2: "when a thing is important, I tell the truth." And she did tell the truth to Mitch when she told him that she loved and needed him and that they needed each other.
Mitch, having learned of Blanche's past, then feels that she should sleep with him. In his disappointment with the truth about Blanche, he doesn't realize that she could give herself to a stranger but not freely to someone whom she knew as well as she knows Mitch and certainly not under such crude circumstances. Therefore, at the end of the scene, Blanche is at her lowest ebb of existence now that Stanley has given her a bus ticket back to Laurel and Mitch has deserted her.