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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
It's two a.m., and Blanche and Mitch are returning from an evening out. The streets are empty. Even the streetcars have stopped. However, Blanche asks Mitch whether "Desire" is still running. She's teasing him, inquiring about the state of his desire-presumably for her. You may understand Blanche's subtle joke, but Mitch doesn't.
"Desire" carried Blanche to Elysian Fields. The other streetcar was "Cemetery." Such names may allude remotely to the excessive desire and string of deaths that led to the loss of Belle Reve. In another sense, Blanche desires to find beauty in life. If she loses the desire, she might as well be dead. By the end of the play, other explanations may become apparent.
Blanche and Mitch sit on the steps outside the building. Would he be a suitable mate for Blanche? Probably not, but Blanche can't be particular at this point in life. Mitch is a man, and that's what she wants. Now you see Blanche deftly baiting a trap. Mitch is easy prey for her. But she has to make him believe that he's caught her, not vice versa.
Blanche seems to enjoy toying with Mitch. At one point overconfidence almost gives her away. She laughs cynically at Mitch's sincerely meant, but prosaic, declaration, "I have never known anyone like you."
Inside the apartment, Blanche lights a candle instead of turning on the light. Whimsically, she suggests they pretend to be Parisian artists. In French, Blanche says, "I am the Lady of the Camellias, and you are Armand."
Blanche, speaking in French, surely knows that Mitch has no idea what she's talking about. The Lady of the Camellias is a courtesan in a 19th-Century novel by Alexandre Dumas fils. Her lover Armand reforms her, but before long she dies of consumption. Giuseppe Verdi's famous opera La Traviata is based on the story.
Also in French, Blanche asks, "Will you sleep with me tonight?" Poor Mitch! He doesn't understand that Blanche is making a fool of him. But is she being unkind to him? Or is she just having a bit of innocent fun?
Blanche feigns interest as he describes gym workouts and the firmness of his stomach muscles. Mocking him, Blanche says that his bodyweight is "awe-inspiring." You might feel sorry for Mitch. After all, he's not at fault for being something of a buffoon. Although he's a grown man, he's still under his mother's wing. When Mitch reveals that his mother asked to know Blanche's age, you can be sure that marriage is on his mind.
Before she accepts a proposal, Blanche needs to be sure that Mitch knows nothing about Shaw and about her soiled reputation. If Stanley were to tell him... well, you can see why she ominously calls Stanley her "executioner."
Possibly to win Mitch's sympathy, Blanche relates the story of her marriage. It's a tragic tale of love, homosexuality, and violence. It's hard not to feel moved by it. All of a sudden you understand Blanche far better than before. She's tortured by guilt about her husband's death.
The story brings Mitch close to tears. Realizing that Blanche is as lonely as he, Mitch takes her in his arms and kisses her. Blanche sobs in relief. She's worked hard to land Mitch, and in triumph, declares "Sometimes-there's God-so quickly!"